More than 37 Million Fans Tuned into ESPN’s Studio Programming from New Orleans; College Football Playoff National Championship Audience Increases Continue with New Nielsen Data Available

College FootballRatings

More than 37 Million Fans Tuned into ESPN’s Studio Programming from New Orleans; College Football Playoff National Championship Audience Increases Continue with New Nielsen Data Available


  • More CFP National Championship Game Data:
    • ESPN’s MegaCast Household Rating Up 4% Year-Over-Year
    • More than 46 Million Fans Watched a Portion of LSU-Clemson, Up from Last Year
    • Share Increased Double Digits   
    • New Orleans Delivered Massive 48.9 Local Rating, Highest Local Market
  • ESPN and ESPN2 Pregame Shows Up At Least 20% for No. 1 LSU vs. No. 3 Clemson
  • Digital Shows and Platforms Experience Multiple Success Stories including Up 400% for Pregame
  • Final Episode of CFP All-Access Series Now Available on ESPN+

ESPN’s studio presence in New Orleans (January 10-13) reached 37,050,000 fans leading into the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T (Jan. 13, 8 p.m. ET), with multiple shows seeing year-over-year audience increases including ESPN’s Championship Drive (6-7:30 p.m.), which aired just prior to kickoff between No. 1 LSU and No. 3 Clemson.

Nielsen’s initial audience reporting for the CFP National Championship already showed an increase in average audience from last season, with an audience of 25,588,000. Now, with more data available, ESPN is seeing further year-over-year growth in ratings, reach and share.

The increased fan interest follows an extensive, four-day presence in New Orleans, featuring more than 40 hours of coverage, with nearly all shows originating from Jax Brewery before shifting to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome leading into the sport’s grand finale. The studio programming served as a catalyst for all of ESPN’s content, which included digital shows and social media campaigns all experiencing increases in user engagement.

Please note: Reach indicates the number of fans who watched a portion of the coverage on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, which began Friday January 10 and continued to 7:30 p.m. on ESPN and 8 p.m. on ESPN2. The reach number doesn’t include ACC Network and SEC Network, nor does it include ESPN pregame show (7:30-8 p.m.) and additional Tuesday programming on ESPN, which would all add to the already extensive number of more than 37 million.

Additional Nielsen Data Shows More Increases for ESPN’s CFP National Championship Presentation
As reported earlier this week, ESPN’s MegaCast drew an initial average audience of 25,588,000 viewers for the CFP National Championship, a 1% increase from the same presentation last season. While full streaming and out-of-home viewing is still not available, in the past 48 hours, additional Nielsen data results in more increases for ESPN:

  • Ratings Up: ESPN’s MegaCast production delivered a 14.3 rating, up 4% from last year’s game. Solely on ESPN, the game generated a 13.9 rating, up 5%.
  • Reach Up: Nearly 47 million fans (46,906,000) watched a portion of LSU-Clemson, 883,000 more fans than last year’s Clemson-Alabama contest (46,023,000 fans)
  • Share Up: Of the fans that were watching television, more of them were watching the CFP National Championship this year than last. ESPN’s share rose 12% among total viewers, 13% among Adults 18-49, and 15% among Adults 25-54 from last year.
  • New Orleans Rates Best: New Orleans was the highest-rated local market with a 48.9 rating. Birmingham, Ala., was second best and Greenville, S.C., was third. Complete Top 10 is below.
  • All Eyes on Joe: Cincinnati, which holds the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, had a 26% increase in the market’s rating from last year’s game.

The Complete Top 10 Local Markets

Rank Rating Market
1 48.9 New Orleans
2 42.7 Birmingham
3 33.9 Greenville
4 26.5 Knoxville
5 26.4 Columbus, OH
6 24.3 Atlanta
7 23.1 Charlotte
8 23.1 Austin
9 23.0 Nashville
10. 21.0 Oklahoma City


ESPN’s Pregame Shows Increase Audiences

  • Championship Drive (6-7:30 p.m.) averaged 2,086,000 viewers, up 20% from last year’s similar presentation.
  • Field Pass (7-8 p.m.) averaged 383,000 viewers for the one-hour free-flowing pregame show, up 26% from last year’s 90-minute similar presentation.

ESPN’s college football pregame success added to a weekend in which the network’s NFL pregame show set a multi-year high. With both shows originating from New Orleans, NFL Countdown delivered its most-viewed Divisional Playoff Weekend since 2014.

FCS Football Championship, ESPN CFB150 Documentary Among Additional Programming Highlights
In the midst of a bevy of shows from New Orleans on ESPN, ABC also aired the FCS Football Championship and Football is US: The College Player – an ESPN Films documentary which helped conclude ESPN’s CFB150 original content programming:

  • The 2020 FCS Football Championship between No. 2 James Madison and No. 1 North Dakota State had an average audience of 2,686,000, the best audience on record for an FCS Championship.
  • ESPN CFB150’s closing documentary Football is US: The College Playerhad a debut viewership of 1,380,000 viewers.

Digital Growth Continues: Countdown to Kickoff Reach Jumps Significantly; ESPN App Sees Uptick in Usage on Championship Monday

  • ESPN’s digital show – Countdown to Kickoff – reached 6.5 million viewers across the ESPN App, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. The audience engagement is up 400% from last year, which was available only on Twitter. On that platform alone, the audience was up 146%.
  • Across all of Championship Monday, inclusive of all sports and information, the ESPN App was up 23% in unique visitors and 40% in minutes. ESPN’s website also saw an increase in traffic, up 5%.
  • ESPN’s presence on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter saw fan engagements increase by 40% on Championship Monday compared to last year.

Inside the College Football Playoff on ESPN+ Gives All Access Look at LSU and Clemson in New Orleans
The final episode of Inside the College Football Playoff, a four part, all-access series, is available today on ESPN+. In this final episode, follow LSU and Clemson as they participate in pregame festivities leading up to the national championship.

Coverage of the game concludes the series, which debuted on December 24 and followed all four College Football Playoff teams into the Semifinals.

The second episode of Inside the College Football Playoff second episode showcased an in-depth look at the two semifinals and the third episode focused on LSU and Clemson prior to arriving in New Orleans. All four episodes are available on-demand via ESPN+.  Sport & Story and Jim Jorden Productions produced the series.

The all-access series completes a 2019-20 college football season on ESPN+, which saw a number of highlights, including a 132% increase in total viewing.


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.
Back to top button