Monday night’s match-up between Georgia and Alabama was a game for the ages, as evidenced by the more than 28.4 million viewers who tuned in for ESPN’s presentation of the College Football Playoff National Championship, making the January 8 broadcast the second most-watched cable presentation of all time. Reaching 30.7 million viewers at its peak, the presentation averaged 28,443,000 viewers on ESPN’s Nielsen-rated networks (ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU as part of its MegaCast production). This marks a 13-percent increase from the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship on the same three Nielsen-rated networks.
ESPN’s entire presentation of the three-game College Football Playoff showed an impressive gain over last year, with an average of 26,266,000 viewers—21 percent higher than 2017’s three-game presentation. In addition to the championship game, the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game was up 39 percent from last year, and the College Football Playoff Semifinal Allstate Sugar Bowl had a 10 percent gain over 2017.
“The record-breaking audiences, over the course of multiple years, clearly reinforce how the College Football Playoff has quickly established itself as an elite event on the sports calendar,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN executive vice president, programming and scheduling, on Tuesday, January 9. “Last night’s thrilling finish coupled with ESPN’s innovative MegaCast presentation showcased the incredible strength of college football and the deep connection live sports have with fans.”
ESPN has now televised all 10 of the most-watched cable telecasts of all time, and 18 of the top 20. The January 8 game—which was the first College Football Playoff National Championship to go into overtime—capped a very successful College Football Playoff and bowl season for ESPN. The seven games that comprised the New Year’s Six and the College Football Playoff National Championship averaged more than 17 million viewers and will be the best ever in the current era.
The network concludes its industry-leading 36-game college football post-season having averaged 5,682,000 viewers per game, up 11 percent from last year’s similar slate.