ESPN’s CFP National Championship Nets Largest Audience in Cable History

ESPN’s Monday night telecast of the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship averaged 33,395,00 viewers and an 18.2 US household rating, delivering both the largest audience and highest rating in cable television history.

Ohio State’s 42-20 victory over Oregon at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas surpassed both College Football Playoff Semifinals from Jan. 1 — the Allstate Sugar Bowl (28,271,000 viewers) and The Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual (28,164,000 viewers) — establishing the new most-watched cable program. In all, the first three games of the new College Football Playoff format (the beginning of ESPN’s 12-year agreement) are now the Top 3 most-viewed programs in cable history. Together, the CFB Playoff Semifinals and National Championship combined to average 29,812,000 viewers and a 16.0 US household rating.  Additionally, ESPN has now televised the Top 20 programs in cable history.

The College Football Playoff National Championship generated a 31% increase in viewership and a 26% increase in rating over the 2014 BCS National Championship (Auburn vs. Florida State, 25,572,000 viewers and 14.4 rating). Additionally, the Buckeyes’ victory resulted in a 22% increase in audience and 19% gain in rating over the 2011 BCS Championship featuring Oregon vs. Auburn (27,316,000 viewers and 15.3 rating), which had ranked as the most-watched and highest-rated program in cable history before the new College Football Playoff debuted.

In the primary home markets of the two schools, the telecast delivered a 51.2 in Columbus, the No. 1 overall market, and a 37.6 in Portland, fourth overall. The top 10 metered markets (in addition to those of the competing teams) are the following: Columbus, Dayton (43.8), Cleveland (41.3), Portland, Birmingham (36.1), Cincinnati (26.5), Jacksonville (25.7), Knoxville (25.5), Greenville (24.1) and Atlanta (23.0).

In all, the National Championship set overnight post-season college football records in 22 metered markets: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Dayton, Denver, Ft. Myers, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Norfolk, Philadelphia, Portland, Raleigh-Durham, Richmond, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

WatchESPN Streams to Record Audience
The simulcast of ESPN’s main telecast of the College Football Playoff National Championship on WatchESPN attracted 1,161,000 unique viewers, 82,000,000 minutes viewed and average minute audience of 366,000. The usage represents an increase of 110% (553,000 unique viewers), 144% (33,600,000 minutes viewed), and 128% (160,000 average audience), respectively, over the 2014 BCS National Championship.

The CFP National Championship now stands as the best college football game ever on WatchESPN based on unique viewers, minutes viewed, and an average minute audience surpassing this year’s Sugar Bowl (912,000 unique viewers, 58.7 million minutes viewed, and an average minute audience of 256,000).  It also ranks as the best non-World Cup event ever on WatchESPN.

“The inaugural College Football Playoff was a resounding success by all measures,” ESPN President John Skipper said in a statement. “Fans responded in record numbers across television and digital platforms. It’s been a great first year and we look forward to the opportunity to build upon the excitement as we continue our long-term commitment to this tremendous event.”

College Football Playoff Megacast
Beyond the traditional telecast, ESPN offered more than 12 ways to watch last night’s championship game through the “CFP Megacast.” Collectively, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN Deportes and ESPNEWS, along with ESPN, combined to average 34,148,000 viewers and an 18.6 US household rating. This year’s “Megacast” increased viewership and ratings by 30% and 26%, respectively, over the 2014 BCS National Championship Megacast – the first multi-network telecast of this kind, which attracted 26,205,000 viewers and a 14.8 rating. (Note: Television ratings for ESPN Classic, and ESPN Goal Line, which were part of the CFP Megacast, are not available.)

The “CFP Megacast” on WatchESPN, which included five unique variations on ESPN3 in addition to the networks’ simulcasts – combined to attract 1,406,000 unique viewers, 106,300,000 minutes viewed and average minute audience of 475,000. The usage represents an increase of 82% (773,000 unique viewers), 101% (52,900,000 minutes viewed) and 88%, (252,000 average audience), respectively, over the 2014 BCS National Championship Megacast.

ESPN Audio
An estimated 62,900 listeners tuned in on average to the National Championship game on the ESPN Audio Streaming Network, a projected increase of 86% from last year’s BCS National Championship.

ESPN Big January
ESPN was the most-watched cable network in primetime in 2014. The network followed up that milestone with its most-viewed week ever (Monday, Dec. 29, 2014 – Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015). ESPN has now televised the Top 3, and four of the Top 9, most-watched programs in cable history over the past 11 days, while claiming every telecast in cable’s all-time Top 20 (chart below).

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