ESPN Finds Record Cable Audiences for College Football Semifinals
Nielsen is reporting that the two games of the inaugural College Football Playoff Semifinals on ESPN on Jan. 1, delivered the largest two audiences in cable television history. The Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual at 5 p.m. ET – Oregon defeating previously unbeaten Florida State 59-20, the largest margin of victory in the Rose Bowl Game since 1948 – averaged 28,164,000 viewers (P2+), based on a 14.8 rating, according to Nielsen while The Allstate Sugar Bowl at 9 p.m. – Ohio State 42-35 over top-seeded Alabama – averaged 28,271,000 viewers, based on a 15.2 rating.
“These record-setting numbers illustrate the enormous fan interest in college football and the wide-ranging appeal of the new College Football Playoff format,” said John Wildhack, ESPN executive vice president, programming and production. “We are excited to build upon this success when we showcase the first-ever College Football Playoff National Championship on ESPN on January 12.”
Both games generated significant increases over the ESPN bowl games in the respective January 1 time slots a year ago: a 51 percent increase in viewership for the Rose Bowl Game (vs. 18,636,000) and 150 percent increase for the Sugar Bowl (vs. 11,304,000). The ratings rose 45 percent (from 10.2) and 130 percent (from 6.6), respectively.
ESPN programming now holds the largest 18 audiences in cable television history, and 36 of the top 40.
WatchESPN was also a big hit as an average of 864,000 unique viewers viewed 42.4 million minutes of coverage and an average minute audience of 187,000 per game – up 185 percent, 124 percent and 119 percent, respectively, compared to the last year’s games in the time slots. Alabama-Ohio State was the best Sugar Bowl ever across all metrics – 912,000 unique viewers (up 164 percent compared to last year’s Sugar Bowl), 58.7 million minutes viewed (up 173 percent) and an average minute audience of 256,000 (up 181 percent). The Sugar Bowl now stands as the best college football game ever on WatchESPN based on unique viewers and minutes viewed.
Despite technical issues during the first half of Oregon-Florida State, WatchESPN recorded its best Rose Bowl ever based on unique viewers (816,000, up 212 percent) and second best ever in minutes viewed (26.2 million, up 59 percent) and average minute audience (116,000, up 47 percent).
The New Year’s Six – the six bowl games, three on New Year’s Eve and three on New Year’s Day, that are part of the new College Football Playoff – posted an increase of 78 percent in viewership compared to the same six time slots last year. The six averaged 14,682,000 viewers, up from 8,267,000. In addition to the two semifinals, New Year’s Day’s Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic (12:30 p.m.) on ESPN increased viewership for the time slot 67 percent, from 5,435,000 to 9,086,000. The rating rose 63 percent, from 3.2 to 5.2.
The average New Year’s Six game live on WatchESPN attracted 505,000 unique viewers, 26.2 million minutes viewed and an average minute audience of 118,000 – up 229 percent, 214 percent and 198 percent, respectively, compared to the same dates last year. Compared to the four non-championship BCS games last year, the average New Year’s Six game was up 85 percent in unique viewers, 55 percent in minutes viewed and 57 percent in average minute audience.