College Football Playoff’s epic semis pull best ratings in five years: Sports on TV

Before we get into the topic of television ratings, these are games played by real people for entertainment, and what happened to Buffalo Bills safety Dummer Hamlin on Monday put football at deadly risk. It is important to note that it is a clear reminder.

When life is literally in balance, everything feels small and insignificant. After her fingers crossed, Hamlin eventually leaves the hospital to live a full, healthy and long life.

There’s no easy way to move from there, and it shouldn’t be easy, but we’re still here to contextualize sports TV viewership, even if it feels empty today. A colleague of mine has full coverage of the Hamlin situation here.

We’ll start with two College Football Playoff semifinals on the ESPN network on Saturday. And it’s no surprise that the two thrillers entertained large audiences. Especially since he rarely has two nailed his CFP semi-finals in the same season.

Georgia’s 42-41 win over Ohio State in the Peach Bowl in prime time was secured for the first time after a late Buckeyes field goal and averaged 22.1 million viewers.

That’s the highest CFP semifinal audience average since Georgia’s 54-48 double-overtime upset victory over Oklahoma in the 2018 Rose Bowl, according to early audience data.

While a great game, Saturday’s thriller faced insurmountable competition from its oldest possible rival, Father Time. It peaked at just under 24 million between 4:45 and 10:00 pm.

Clearly, the broadcast lost a bit of viewership to New Year’s Eve coverage on other networks, with the famous ball dropping in New York City’s Times Square and celebrations of its 2023 arrival taking place elsewhere. It was at my house too.) And some viewers probably fell asleep before midnight (almost did me!).

Since the 2014-15 season’s playoffs began, the CFP semifinal games have run from December 28 to January 1, so losing attention to CNN’s hosts in the middle of the night is nothing new.

Still, it was the fourth-best CFP semi-final out of 18 CFP semi-finals played under the current playoff system, according to SMW, and ESPN named it the most-watched prime-time CFP semi-final since 2014-15. be.

Earlier in the CFP Semifinals, Michigan’s upset in TCU’s 51-45 Fiesta Bowl ignited a new wave of Jim Harbaugh vs. NFL Talk – which averaged 21.4 million viewers. This is the highest viewership for an early CFP semi-final since the 2018 Rose Bowl game.

Game viewers averaged 26.4 million viewers per ESPN, peaking between 7:45pm and 8:00pm on the final day.

Non-playoff New Year’s Six Bowls has total viewership for two of the four games.

Tennessee’s 31-14 victory over Clemson in the Orange Bowl on December 30 averaged 8.6 million viewers for the bowl’s highest non-CFP broadcast since 2017, according to SMW. Alabama’s 45-20 victory over Kansas averaged 9 million viewers. for a noon kick-off on New Year’s Eve. That’s about 800,000 viewers down from last year’s January 1 Sugar Bowl, when Baylor defeated Ole Miss in prime time.


Deitsch: ESPN showed humanity on a scary night for Damar Hamlin and the NFL

We don’t have audience data yet for Monday’s Cotton Bowl (Tulane 46, USC 45) or Rose Bowl (Pennsylvania 35, Utah 21). Please check back later this week.

As regular readers of this column will know, comparing live sports broadcasts from 2020 onwards to events prior to that, as outdoor viewership numbers were not included prior to summer 2020, It’s apples and oranges. This is important. The asterisk is because OOH viewing (viewing in bars, restaurants, viewing parties, etc.) can add millions of viewers.

While these games serve many purposes for many people, it’s also important to remember that they were made for the TV shows that enrich ESPN and act as a promotional platform for advertisers. You don’t get the fun side without the business side (yet that pretty much excludes players with the workforce that makes these bowls possible).

It’s not a cheap game either. ESPN is currently reportedly paying $470 million a year to air the finals of the college football playoffs, plus a separate fee for the TV rights to the Rose, Orange, Cotton and Sugar Bowl. total annual rights costs in excess of $600 million.

By 2024, the CFP field is expected to expand to a dozen teams, reach $2 billion in combined broadcast rights, and extend beyond ESPN.

What makes these spectacles possible is the enormous viewership and the network’s ability to sell profitable commercial airtime during games. Live sports are becoming even more important and valuable to the media ecosystem, especially as television usage declines and people disconnect cables.

The late Fred Ward, who played Project Mercury astronaut Gus Grissom in the 1983 film The Right Stuff, quipped about the space program:

The CFP title match between TCU and Georgia is scheduled for Monday at 7:30 PM and will air on ESPN and ESPN Deportes from SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles.

Last season’s CFP title game averaged 22.6 million viewers on the ESPN network. This was his second lowest average since the current system began. The only low viewership for the Alabama-Ohio game after the 2020 season was 18.7 million.

In January 2020, before COVID-19 became more than a news story from abroad, the witty viewers between LSU and Clemson averaged 25.5 million.

The broadcast of the past two national championship games has suffered the worst of the pandemic and the misfortunes that have come in the wake of declining television usage and declining cable subscriber numbers, but nonetheless other on-air It dominated everything and won a major advertiser base. That’s what ultimately matters to ESPN and his partners in the business.

What will this year bring? don’t understand. TCU and Georgia aren’t viewership powerhouses like the Crimson Tide or the Buckeyes, but in TV’s Wild West, I wouldn’t be shocked if they had more viewers than the last two seasons. I wouldn’t be surprised if it had the worst ratings in the CFP era.

We’ll find out in a few days.

Other recent notable viewing items include:

  • According to Fox Sports, Clayton’s win over DePaul on Christmas Day averaged 2.99 million viewers, making it the most-watched college basketball game in the network’s history.
  • According to the NFL, the 11 games on Christmas Eve (Fox, CBS, NFL Network) averaged 17.6 million viewers, and the three games on Christmas (Fox, CBS/Nickelodeon, NBC) averaged 22.2 million viewers. was. Both holiday weekend averages topped his season average of 16.5 million overall (the regular season record is his 17.1 million set in 2015).
  • The NFL’s first Christmas Day tripleheader pitted the league against the heavyweights of holiday live sports, the NBA. His five basketball games, which began at noon and ended at midnight Eastern time, were simulcast on ABC and ESPN and averaged 4.31 million viewers on ABC and ESPN combined. That’s just a fraction of the NFL for the day, but the comparison is a bit silly because NFL clubs have a 17-game schedule while NBA teams play an 82-game season. and the overall viewership will decrease.

All viewing data is from Nielsen and Adobe Analytics, as well as other metrics via TV networks, Nielsen, Sports Media Watch, ShowBuzz Daily,, and leagues. Always Eastern unless otherwise noted.



Staples: Saturday was the best day in playoff history.It took me too long to get here

(Photo of Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett: Rich von Biberstein / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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