Ohio State vs. Clemson Draws 21.2 Million Viewers, Most-Watched Non-New Year’s Day College Football Playoff Semifinal and Up 9% Year-Over-Year

College Football

Ohio State vs. Clemson Draws 21.2 Million Viewers, Most-Watched Non-New Year’s Day College Football Playoff Semifinal and Up 9% Year-Over-Year

  • LSU-Oklahoma CFP Semifinal Generates More than 17.2 Million Viewers, Also Up Year-Over-Year
  • CFP Semifinals Average 19.3 Million Viewers, Up 6% Year-Over-Year
  • ESPN’s CFP Telecasts Account for Three Most-Watched Cable Productions of 2019; ESPN has Top Nine

ESPN’s MegaCast presentation of the College Football Playoff reached new heights, as Ohio State vs. Clemson (December 28, at 8 p.m. ET) in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl drew 21.2 million viewers, resulting in the most-watched CFP Semifinal not played on New Year’s Day (eight games) and up 9% from last year’s similarly scheduled CFP game. LSU and Oklahoma (December 28, at 4 p.m. ET), generated more than 17.2 million viewers in the CFP Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, also an increase from last year’s similarly scheduled CFP Semifinal.

Combined, the College Football Playoff Semifinals averaged 19.3 million viewers, generating 6% growth year-over-year, and are set to be the most-watched pair of CFP Semifinals for the four seasons the games were played outside of New Year’s Day.

In addition to audience increases from last season, yesterday’s CFP Semifinals join last season’s CFP National Championship (January 7, 2019) as cable’s three most-watched telecasts of calendar year 2019.

Buckeyes-Tigers Audience Sets New Fiesta Bowl, CFP Semifinal Audience Record
The Buckeyes-Tigers showdown delivered a MegaCast audience of 21,151,000 viewers, surpassing last season’s Alabama-Oklahoma CFP Semifinal (Dec. 29, 2018, 8 p.m.) as the most-watched non-New Year’s Day CFP Semifinal. The audience for the Tigers’ victory is also up 10% from when the Fiesta Bowl previously hosted a CFP Semifinal (Dec. 31, 2015), which also featured Clemson and Ohio State on a Saturday evening.

LSU-Oklahoma Audience Peaks in First Half as Tigers Set Largest Halftime Lead in CFP History
The Tigers-Sooners matchup finished with a MegaCast audience of 17,214,000 viewers, up from last year’s similarly-schedule Clemson-Notre Dame CFP Semifinal (Dec. 29, 2018, 4 p.m.). The audience for the LSU victory peaked at 18.9 million viewers in the first half (5:15-5:30 p.m.), as the Tigers jumped out to a 28-7 lead with more than 12 minutes remaining in the first half. LSU would extend the lead to 35 points (49-14) going into halftime, setting a new record for largest halftime lead in CFP history.

CFP Semifinals Up 13% from Last Time Peach and Fiesta Hosted; Set to be Most-Watched Non-New Year’s Day Semifinals on Record
The College Football Playoff Semifinals averaged 19,285,000 viewers across both games, which, in addition to being up year-over year and up 13% from last time the Peach Bowl and Fiesta Bowl hosted the CFP Semifinals (2015 season), will soon be the most-watched non-New Year’s Day Semifinals once full audiences are in.

ESPN Dominates Most-Watched Cable List of 2019
With the three CFP games leading the way, ESPN now has the nine most-watched cable presentations of the year, which includes last season’s Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual, the CFP National Championship pre-game show, and four Monday Night Football telecasts. Extended further, ESPN has 12 of the 13 most-watched cable presentations.

ESPN Begins New Year’s Six Up Year-Over Year
Through the first three games of the New Year’s Six (CFP Semifinals + Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic), ESPN averaged 14,845,000 viewers, also up from last year’s similar scheduling format (tripleheader, including both CFP Semifinals). The Cotton Bowl between Memphis and Penn State (Dec. 28, noon) delivered 6,220,000 viewers, up 14% from the only other time the Cotton Bowl featured a Group of Five team in the New Year’s Six era (Jan. 2, 2017).

ESPN’s Digital Pregame Show Reaches Millions
ESPN’s digital College Football Show (3-4 p.m.) reached 2,490,000 viewers Saturday across the ESPN App, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The audience was an increase of 497% from last year when it streamed only on Twitter. On that social media platform alone, the audience increased 158%.

Please Note: College Football Playoff Semifinals were played on New Year’s Day for the 2014 and 2017 season. The Semifinals were not on New Year’s Day for the 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019 seasons.

Viewership includes all Nielsen-rated MegaCast feeds: ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPNEWS. Not included are ACC Network, SEC Network, ESPN Deportes and digital programming.  


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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