Ratings Roundup: ESPN’s CFP Championship Viewership Down 23%; Three of Four NFL Wild Card Games Up

ESPN's CFP National Championship was down 19% in household rating and 23% in viewers from last year's title game, while three of the four NFL Wild Card Games were up from last year

ESPN’s College Football Playoff National Championship telecast averaged a 14.7 household rating and 25.67 million viewers, down 19% in household rating and 23% in viewers from last year’s title game. Despite a close game between Alabama and Clemson, the telecast trailed last year’s Ohio State-Oregon matchup, which averaged a household rating of 18.2 and 33.4 million viewers.

CFP-Championship-2Although the game trailed last year’s numbers, ESPN’s telecast was still the most-watched cable program since that game and was the sixth best in the history of cable. As a result, ESPN has now aired the eight most-watched programs in the history of cable television (six national title games and CFP semifinals) and 17 of the top 20 programs.

ESPN’s Megacast presentation of the CFP National Championship averaged 26,182,000 viewers, with ESPN2 (Film Room) and ESPNU (Homer Telecast) each averaging more than 225,000 viewers throughout the game. ESPN Deportes added more than 55,000 viewers. On ESPN3 — which offered seven exclusive digital feeds — the Spidercam production was the most popular among fans, based on all major metrics.

Digitally, Alabama-Clemson – presented on multiple streams on WatchESPN through the ESPN Megacast – ranked as the best game ever on WatchESPN across all major metrics, excluding the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The streaming numbers are as follows: 585,000 avg. minute impressions (compared to 475,000 in 2015), 1.93 unique viewers (1.4 million in 2015), and 140.4 million total minutes (106.3 million in 2015). The two CFP National Championship games represent WatchESPN’s two most-streamed games ever on WatchESPN across all major metrics, excluding the 2014 FIFA World Cup.  The game experienced a 23% increase in average minute impressions, 38% in unique viewers, and 32% in total minutes compared to the inaugural CFP National Championship.

NFL Wildcard Weekend
Three of the four Wild Card playoff games televised on ESPN/ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox were up from last year’s numbers with each game’s average viewership coming in at more than 25 million. Here is a breakdown of all four games:

Sunday’s FOX NFL’s NFC Wild Card playoff broadcast between the Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins (Packers won 35-18) posted a 21.8/37 household rating/share, with 38.8 million viewers, and is the highest-rated and most-watched telecast of any kind since Super Bowl XLIX. According to initial projections, the game ranks as the highest-rated and most-watched playoff game of the weekend, as well as the highest-rated telecast among Adults 18-49 since last year’s Super Bowl. Green Bay-Washington is the fourth most-watched NFC Wild Card game on FOX dating back to the 1994-95 season (22 games). Howevever, the game trails last year’s NFC Wild card Game on FOX (20-17 Dallas Cowboys win over Detroit Lions), which averaged 23.6/40 and 42.3 million viewers. Milwaukee notched a 55.1/75, while Washington earned a 38.6/61.

The game was live streamed by more than 132,000 unique visitors on FOX Sports GO, making it the most-watched authenticated NFL game and the 6th most-watched authenticated event in FOX Sports GO’s history…

The Seattle Seahawks’ 10-9 down-to-the-wire victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Sunday’s NFL Wild Card game on NBC averaged 35.3 million viewers to rank as the most-watched early Sunday Wild Card on record (numbers date back to 1988), according to Nielsen Fast Nationals. Viewership for the Seahawks’ victory is up 25% from last year’s early Sunday Wild Card game (28.3 million for Bengals-Colts on CBS), and tops by 27% the last early Sunday NFC Wild Card game (27.7 million for Falcons-Giants, Jan. 8, 2012 on FOX). Viewership for Seahawks-Vikings, which was the third-coldest NFL game on record with a kickoff temperature of minus-six degrees, peaked at 43.9 million viewers for the game’s exciting finish from 3:45-4 p.m. ET. The Seahawks-Vikings NFC Wild Card telecast (1:06-4:06 p.m. ET) earned a 21.0 rating/42 share, to rank as the highest-rated early Sunday Wild Card game in 21 years (22.0/48 for Patriots-Browns on NBC, 1/1/95). The 21.0/42 for Seahawks-Vikings is up 24% from last year’s early Sunday Wild Card (17.0/35 for Bengals-Colts). Minneapolis was the top market with a 50.5/82 rating/share while Seattle notched a 50.4/87.

NBC Sports Live Extra’s presentation of Seahawks-Vikings totaled 20.0 million live streaming minutes, ranking as Live Extra’s most streamed NFL postseason game on record (excluding Super Bowls) and up 115% from last year’s NBC Saturday primetime Wild Card game (9.3 million live minutes for Ravens-Steelers)…

…The NFL Wild Card Saturday primetime game (Pittsburgh Steelers 18-16 win over Cincinnati Bengals) game on CBS was the most-watched AFC Wild Card Game on any network in four years. The game drew a 17.5 final rating and 31.2 million viewers on CBS, up 11% in ratings and 12% in viewership from Ravens/Steelers last year (15.8, 27.9M) but down 8% and 9%, respectively, from Saints/Eagles in 2014 (19.1, 34.4M), both of which aired on NBC. The Steelers’ last-second win scored the largest AFC Wild Card audience since 2012, when a much-hyped Steelers/Broncos matchup delivered 42.4 million in the late Sunday window. Viewership peaked at 36.3 million from 11:30 PM ET to the conclusion. (SportsMediaWatch)…

…The Saturday afternoon NFL Wild Card game on ESPN and ABC (Kansas City Chiefs’ 30-0 victory over the Houston Texans) averaged a 14.7 household US rating and 25,171,000 viewers (P2+), according to Nielsen fast nationals. The rating peaked among households from 5:30-6 p.m. ET with a 16.0 rating and among viewers from 6:30-7 p.m. with 27,841,000. Chiefs-Texans is the third most-watched Saturday afternoon NFL Wild Card game among total viewers in 17 years. The combined rating on both ESPN and ABC represents increases of 15 percent in household US rating and 13 percent in viewership, respectively, versus a year ago when ESPN televised the first NFL Playoff game in its 35-year history. The 2015 Cardinals-Panthers Wild Card game aired on ESPN and local over-the-air stations, averaging a 12.8 household US rating and 22,199,000 viewers (P2+). Saturday’s Wild Card was the first NFL game on ABC in 10 years – since Super Bowl XL in February 2006.

In Kansas City, the game delivered a combined 52.1 rating in the market. In Houston, the game delivered a combined 32.6 rating. The remaining top 10 metered markets included: Denver (24.0), Buffalo (22.6), Norfolk (22.0), Milwaukee (20.3), Cincinnati (20.1), Richmond-Petersburg (19.2), New Orleans and Albuquerque-Santa Fe (19.1), Indianapolis (18.5) and Philadelphia (18.4).

Chiefs-Texans on WatchESPN attracted an additional 138,000 average minute impressions to the TV audience. It also had 381,000 unique viewers watching 28,000,000 live minutes…

Odds and Ends
With trophy in hand, Jordan Spieth’s win at the PGA TOUR’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions helped carry Golf Channel to its best overnight ratings in a decade. The final round grabbed a .70 overnight score for the tournament, the network’s best ever. That is more than double last year (0.3) and and up 35% from the overnight for any previous telecast of this event on Golf Channel.

In addition, Round 3 on Saturday delivered an overnight rating of .73 to NBC Sports Group overall to mark the highest overnight score for any of the first three rounds at the tournament since 2006. Golf Channel’s coverage of Round 3 generated a .52 overnight score. Previously, the tournament saw first round overage grow 27% on Golf Channel with a .33, and a 25% rise on Friday with a .40. (Cynopsis Sports)…

…The visiting Cleveland Cavaliers 110-107 win over the Dallas Mavericks matchup on Jan. 12 generated big ratings for teams’ RSNs.

FOX Sports Southwest’s telecast of the Cavaliers and Mavericks scored a season-high 3.1 rating in the Dallas-Fort Worth market. It was the highest-rated Mavericks telecast on FOX Sports Southwest since the March 16, 2015 game against Oklahoma City posted a 3.6 rating. The game was seen in an average of 82,000 TV homes in DFW. Through seven games played in 2016, the Mavericks are averaging a 1.9 rating, an 18 percent gain over the rating for the first two-plus months of the season. (Star-Telegram)

The Cavs’ win also generated a 12.67 rating and was watched by more than 190,000 households on Fox Sports Ohio. The rating is the best of the season and the second-best ever for the team on the network, trailing only a 14.09 rating for a Cavs-76ers matchup on April 15, 2009. During the final hour of Tuesday’s game, as many as 280,000 households were watching — good for a 16.6 rating. The contest averaged a 15 rating and 230,000 households in the last hour of the broadcast. The 2015-16 Cavs are on pace to set a ratings record for Fox Sports Ohio. The season norm of 9.42, which is a 30% year-over-year increase, is way ahead of the 2008-09 Cavs. That 66-win team produced an average rating of 8.67. (Crain’s Cleveland)

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