Even though last night’s game was a hard-fought battle that remained in the balance until well into the fourth quarter, the ratings for cable TV powerhouse ESPN dropped 15% for the College Football Playoff National Championship Game this year. The game garnered a 15.8 overnight rating on television with a combined rating of 16.0 with television viewers and those streaming online added together.
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The ratings drop wasn’t nearly as precipitous as ESPN’s for the College Football Playoff semifinal games held on New Year’s Eve. The overnight ratings for those broadcasts were down more than 36% from the prior year.
ESPN reported record-high numbers for a non-World Cup contest on its WatchESPNapp. The network reported more than 1.9 million unique viewers via the app, 500,000 more unique viewers compared to last year’s title game between Oregon and Ohio State.
ESPN and sponsors are pushing the College Football Playoff to abandon New Year’s Eve semifinal games. Currently, the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., and the Peach Bowl in Atlanta are scheduled for Dec. 31.
Another factor that could possibly have worked against the title game was that it occurred a full 12 days after the semifinal, right after an exciting NFL Wild Card Weekend that may have stolen some of the thunder of the ultimate college football event. With highly-rated NFL games on Saturday and Sunday, viewers may have just been overdosed on football, and no longer pumped about the potential of an epic title game after such a long wait.
On the other hand, the streaming numbers can be seen as a win for that aspect of the business. If it continues to grow, ESPN and its family of networks may not need to worry as much about the television ratings in the future.