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First College Football Playoff National Championship Game Draws Record Ratings

Navigate Research - Friday, January 16, 2015
Written by Jeff Nelson 

The first edition of the College Football Playoff National Championship Game was, by all accounts, a major success. That is especially true for ESPN, which saw the best rating of any television programming in the company’s entire history. 

Yes, that’s right. It was the most watched program in ESPN’s history and came in with an overnight rating of 18.5. With that kind of number, ESPN is now even more well-positioned to sell advertisements for next year’s game because it has hard evidence to demonstrate the true value of the broadcast in the market place. 


According to Nielsen, the game peaked between 9:30-9:45 EST on ESPN with a 20.5 metered market rating. That rating and the overall rating of 18.5 was a compilation of ESPN’s megacast strategy, broadcasting on 12 different media platforms: ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNNews, ESPN Classic, ESPN Deportes and ESPN Goal Line; ESPN Radio and ESPN Deportes Radio broadcasts; five variations on ESPN3; and coverage around the world via ESPN International distribution. 

As Nielsen points out, this amount of viewers is nearly twice the amount of viewers for last year’s most watched cable show, AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” 

 • 33.4 million viewers – highest rating in history of both ESPN and Cable TV 
 • 21% increase from last year’s BCS National Championship game 
 • NFL Comparison: The three 2015 NFC Playoff games on FOX are averaging 39.3 million viewers. 
• 2006 National Championship had 35.6 million viewers. Although that’s more than Monday’s game, in 2006 the game aired on ABC, which is a broadcast channel not a cable channel, ESPN, which broadcasted this year’s game. 

 • Nielsen's list of the 10 metered markets with the highest ratings: 
1. Columbus (51.2) 2. Dayton (43.8) 3. Cleveland (41.3) 4. Portland, Ore. (37.6) 5. Birmingham (36.1) 
6. Cincinnati (26.5) 7. Jacksonville (25.7) 8. Knoxville (25.5) 9. Greenville (24.1) 10. Atlanta (23.0)