Television viewership for the College Football Playoff on ESPN dropped from last season, dragged down by lopsided games and not being played on New Year’s Day.
ESPN said Sunday that Alabama’s 45-34 victory against Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl on Saturday night drew a 10.4 overnight rating and 19 million viewers, peaking at 11.8 and 20.7 million early in the first quarter when the Crimson Tide jumped out to a 14-point lead. Alabama eventually led 28-0.
The network says Clemson’s 30-3 victory against Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl earlier Saturday drew a 10.3 rating and 16.8 million viewers, peaking at 11.2 and 18.1 million when the Tigers scored with 2 second left in the first half to make it 23-3.
Last season, when the semifinals were played on New Year’s Day and Georgia and Oklahoma went to overtime in the Rose Bowl, the games averaged a 13.9 rating and 24 million viewers.
The best television ratings for the College Football Playoff came in the first year, when Florida State and Oregon played in the Rose Bowl and Alabama and Ohio State played in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 2015, and both games were competitive into the second half. ESPN drew record audiences of more than 28 million viewers and an average rating of about 15.
This year’s semifinals topped only the second year of the playoffs, when the semifinals were held in the Cotton and Orange bowls on Dec. 31, 2015, a Thursday. Compared with that season, the first game of the semifinal doubleheader was up 5 percent and the second game was up 4 percent.
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