With this year marking the introduction of a playoff format to the college football postseason, ESPN has announced that the first games of the inaugural College Football Playoff Semifinals were the two most-watched broadcasts in cable television history.
According to ESPN’s own reports, The Rose Bowl Game between Oregon and Florida State on New Year’s Day averaged more than 28 million viewers according to Nielsen’s 14.8 rating. The Allstate Sugar Bowl game between Ohio State and Alabama was broadcast just four hours later at 9 p.m. and peaked even higher with a Nielsen rating of 15.2 and an estimated average audience of 28,271,000.
In the first matchup, Oregon crushed Florida State 59 to 20 while Ohio State surprised fans with a 42 to 35 win over top-seed Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Both games were part of a group of bowl games called The New Year’s Six, three of which were played on New Year’s Eve and the other half of which were broadcast the following day.
The network expects to build on the already-huge numbers with the recent return of NFL playoff football to cable television this past weekend and the upcoming broadcast of the first College Football Playoff National Championship ever on January 12.
“These record-setting numbers illustrate the enormous fan interest in college football and the wide-ranging appeal of the new College Football Playoff format,” John Wildhack, an ESPN executive vice president said of the new benchmarks.
The latest records pile onto ESPN’s history of record-setting audiences and the network “now holds the largest 18 audiences in cable television history, and 36 of the top 40.”