Georgia-Alabama College Football Playoff National Championship: More than 28.4 Million Viewers, Second Most-Watched Cable Presentation Ever and Up 13% Year-Over-Year

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Georgia-Alabama College Football Playoff National Championship: More than 28.4 Million Viewers, Second Most-Watched Cable Presentation Ever and Up 13% Year-Over-Year

  • Game Peaks at More than 30.7 Million Viewers
  • 2017-18 College Football Playoff: Three-Game Average More than 26.2 Million, Up 21%
  • College Football Playoff Era: Cable’s Four Most-Watched Telecasts Ever, Seven of Top 10

ESPN’s presentation of College Football Playoff National Championship between Georgia and Alabama (8 p.m. ET, Jan 8) averaged 28,443,000 viewers on its Nielsen-rated networks (ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU as part of its MegaCast production), up 13% from last season’s down-to-the-wire College Football Playoff National Championship on the same three Nielsen-rated networks. This season’s College Football Playoff National Championship, the first ever to go to overtime, was also up 9% from ESPN’s MegaCast presentation (ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU) of the second CFP National Championship (January 11, 2016). For Georgia-Alabama, the ESPN-only telecast averaged 27,383,000 million viewers.

Georgia-Alabama Viewership is Second Best in Cable History; College Football Playoff Era Now Owns Cable’s Most-Watched Telecasts
The massive audience for Alabama’s come-from-behind, last play victory is the second biggest for any cable presentation in history. Now, the College Football Playoff Era has delivered ESPN the four biggest audiences in cable history and seven of the top 10.

“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. “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 Dominates Cable’s Most-Watched Telecast List
Overall, ESPN has now televised all 10 of the most-watched cable telecasts and 18 of the top 20.

Rank Viewership Date Matchup Network(s)
1 33,917,000 1/12/2015 CFP National Championship (Oregon/Ohio State) ESPN*
2 28,443,000 1/8/2018 CFP National Championship (Georgia vs. Alabama) ESPN*
3 28,271,000 1/1/2015 CFP Semifinal Sugar Bowl (Ohio State vs. Alabama) ESPN
4 28,164,000 1/1/2015 CFP Semifinal Rose Bowl (Florida State vs. Oregon) ESPN
5 27,316,000 1/10/2011 BCS National Championship (Oregon vs. Auburn) ESPN
6 26,826,000 1/1/2018 CFP Semifinal Rose Bowl (Georgia vs. Oklahoma) ESPN*
7 26,380,000 1/7/2013 BCS National Championship (Notre Dame vs. Alabama) ESPN
8 26,125,000 1/11/2016 CFP National Championship (Alabama vs. Clemson) ESPN*
9 26,061,000 1/6/2014 BCS National Championship (Florida State vs. Auburn) ESPN
10 25,266,000 1/9/2017 CFP National Championship
(Alabama vs. Clemson)

*Denotes MegaCast presentation
List excludes sustaining broadcasts


Additional Georgia-Alabama CFP National Championship Highlights:

  • Audience Peaks at More than 30 Million: The audience peaked at 30,759,000 viewers late in the first half (9:30 – 10 p.m.) and more than 28.4 million viewers were watching as Alabama scored its game-winning, national championship-winning touchdown


  • Alabama, Georgia Fans Watch in Droves: Birmingham was the No. 1 rated market, with an astounding 57.6 overnight. Atlanta also had a record-breaking audience. All market information was distributed this morning and can be found here.

Three-Game College Football Playoff Up 21% from Last Season
ESPN’s entire presentation of the three game College Football Playoff  averaged an 26,266,000 viewers, up an impressive 21% 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.

This Season’s New Year’s Six + CFP National Championship to Become Most-Watched in Current Era
Factoring in the entire New Year’s Six, the seven games (New Year’s Six + CFP National Championship) averaged over 17 million viewers, which will be the best ever in the four years of the new system when final numbers are in. The seven-game average was up 10% from last year’s same seven games and 25% from the 2015 season’s slate.

ESPN Concludes College Football Post Season Up 11%
ESPN’s industry-leading postseason schedule, consisting of 35 games plus the CFP National Championship, averaged 5,682,000 viewers, up 11% 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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