NEW YORK (AP) — With a feast of football, ESPN outpaced all of the broadcasters to be the most-watched network on television during holiday week.
The showcase was ESPN’s college football championship semi-finals, which together averaged 19.3 million viewers and outpaced last year’s games by 6%, the Nielsen company said. Credit goes primarily to the Clemson-Ohio State pairing, which matched two undefeated teams in a pulsating game not decided until the final minute.
Those games, plus a Monday night NFL contest between Minnesota and Green Bay, helped ESPN beat NBC to be the most popular network.
After all these years, NBC’s showing of the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” on Christmas Eve is still a draw. Nielsen said 3.6 million people watched as Santa’s trip neared.
Among the broadcast networks, NBC averaged 5.6 million viewers in prime time. CBS had 3.8 million, ABC had 3 million, Fox had 2.6 million, Univision had 1.31 million, ION Television reached 1.27 million, Telemundo had 760,000 and the CW had 590,000.
ESPN’s average of 6.31 million in prime time outpaced everyone. Fox News Channel was second among cable networks, with an average of 1.72 million, Hallmark’s slate of holiday shows reached 1.54 million, TBS had 1.03 million and TLC had 982,000.
ABC’s “World News Tonight” averaged 8.1 million to top the network evening newcasts. NBC’s “Nightly News” had 7.3 million and the “CBS Evening News” had 5 million.
For the week of Dec. 23-29, the top 20 programs, networks and viewerships were:
1. NFL Football: San Francisco at Seattle, NBC, 22.85 million.
2. College Football Championship Semifinal: Clemson vs. Ohio State, ESPN, 20.39 million.
3. “College Football Studio Show,” ESPN, 17.3 million.