Epic College Football Playoff National Championship Delivers Massive 16.7 Overnight, Up 9% Year-Over-Year

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Epic College Football Playoff National Championship Delivers Massive 16.7 Overnight, Up 9% Year-Over-Year

  • Three-Game College Football Playoff Drives Ratings: Up 18% Year-Over-Year
  • Record-Setting: Best New Year’s Six + CFP National Championship Ever
  • CFP National Championship Game:
    • Birmingham Leads the Way: 57.6 Local Rating, Up from Last Year’s CFP National Championship
    • Atlanta Sets New High: 8 Rating, Highest for an ESPN College Football Game in the Market

ESPN’s presentation of the epic College Football Playoff National Championship between Georgia and Alabama (Jan. 8 at 8 p.m.) delivered a massive 16.7 overnight on its Nielsen-rated networks (ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU) as part of its MegaCast production, up 9% from last season’s thrilling College Football Playoff National Championship on the same three Nielsen-rated networks.  The ESPN-only presentation delivered a monster 16.0 overnight for the Crimson Tide’s overtime victory, up 8% from the ESPN-only presentation last season, a game which featured a dramatic, last minute touchdown to win the game.

This season’s College Football Playoff National Championship, the first ever to go to overtime, was also up 5% from ESPN’s MegaCast presentation (ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU) of the second CFP National Championship (January 11, 2016).

College Football Playoff National Championships Provide ESPN with its Highest-Ratings on Record
Combined with the inaugural season, the College Football Playoff National Championship now represent the two-highest rated events on record for ESPN’s networks.

Among all college football bowl games, the College Football Playoff era has provided ESPN with three of its top 5 highest-rated games and seven of the top 10:

Rank Rating Date Matchup Network Game
1 18.8 Jan 12, 2015 Ohio State vs. Oregon ESPN CFP National Championship
2 16.7 Jan. 8, 2018 Georgia vs. Alabama ESPN CFP National Championship
3 16.1 Jan 10, 2011 Auburn vs. Oregon ESPN BCS National Championship
4 16.0 Jan 11, 2016 Alabama vs. Clemson ESPN CFP National Championship
5 15.7 Jan 7, 2013 Notre Dame vs. Alabama ESPN BCS National Championship
6 15.5 Jan 1, 2015 Florida State vs. Oregon ESPN CFP Semifinal
7 15.3 Jan 6, 2014 Florida State vs. Auburn ESPN BCS National Championship
15.3 Jan 1, 2015 Ohio State vs. Alabama ESPN CFP Semifinal
15.3 Jan 9, 2017 Clemson vs. Alabama ESPN CFP National Championship
10 14.8 Jan 1, 2018 Oklahoma vs. Georgia ESPN CFP Semifinal

Please note: All Nielsen-rated MegaCast feeds reflected where appropriate

Additional Georgia-Alabama College Football Playoff National Championship Highlights

  • Birmingham Leads the Way, Atlanta Sets New Record: With an impressive 57.6 local rating, Birmingham was the No. 1 rated local market, up from last season’s national championship. Atlanta earned its highest rating ever for a college football game on ESPN, earning a 47.8 rating. The complete top 15:
Rank Local Overnight Market
1 57.6 Birmingham
2 47.8 Atlanta
3 31.9 Greenville
4 29.0 Jacksonville
5 28.3 Nashville
6 28.0 Knoxville
7 27.5 New Orleans
8 23.5 Austin
9 23.2 Columbus
10 22.8 Memphis
11 22.0 Tampa
12 21.4 Fort Myers
13 20.8 Norfolk
14 20.6 Louisville
15 19.8 Richmond

All local markets are ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU Combined

  • Overtime Audience Soars: The game earned a 17.1 overnight as the Bulldogs-Crimson Tide played overtime (midnight – 12:15 a.m.). The peak audience was an 18.4, which occurred late in the first half (9:45 p.m. – 10 p.m. ET)

Three-Game College Football Playoff Up 18% from Last Season
ESPN’s entire presentation of the three game College Football Playoff  averaged an 14.9 overnight, up an impressive 18% from last year’s three-game presentation. In addition to the championship game, each of the two CFP Semifinals were also up year-over-year individually as well, as documented last week.

ESPN Delivers Highest-Rated New Year’s Six + CFP National Championship in Current Era
Factoring in the entire New Year’s Six, the seven games (New Year’s Six + CFP National Championship) averaged an 9.8 overnight, the best ever in the four years of the new system. The seven-game average was up 5% from last year’s same seven games.

ESPN Concludes College Football Post Season Up 10%
ESPN’s industry leading postseason schedule, consisting of 35 games plus the CFP National Championship, averaged a 3.4 overnight, up 10% from last year’s similar slate.

ESPN’s MegaCast Presentation offered the 20 different productions for the game; however, only Nielsen rated networks (ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU) are represented in the overnight for all years. ESPNEWS, ESPN Classic, and SEC Network are not rated and thus not accounted for in this release. Additionally, ESPN3 streaming numbers are also not accounted for here.

Streaming Clarification: Nielsen reported numbers for all ESPN and ESPN2 telecast reflect TV viewing + Streaming audiences on OTT devices (such as Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, gaming consoles and smart TVs). The above number does not reflect streaming audiences from ESPNU or any ESPN3 presentations. All comparisons are Nielsen reported numbers to Nielsen reported numbers. This new system has been used since Sept. 26.


Media contact: Derek Volner at 860-384-9986; [email protected] and @DerekVolner

Derek Volner

I currently lead ESPN’s NFL Communications, including Monday Night Football, NFL Draft and studio programming. Previously, I did the same for ESPN’s vast college football portfolio. I have been with ESPN since 2013.
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