January 10, 2017

SKEDBALL: College Football Playoff Championship Ratings

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Written by: Mitch Metcalf
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Although the College Football Playoff semifinal games were up this year over last year (one game up +23% and the other up a more modest +3%), last night’s Championship game was down slightly from last year’s already disappointing final in most demographics.  The 25.2 million viewers 2+ audience last night breaks down to 24.4 million viewers 2+ in an average minute on ESPN and 803K in an average minute on ESPN2 for the game’s “Megacast” featuring alternate “homer” announcers.  Live streaming of the game (not included in the chart below) is probably in the half a million to a million viewer range per minute, given past statements by ESPN.


Although last night’s final was a great game, it was exceeding long: 4 hours 17 minutes for Clemson to defeat Alabama 35-31 (without an overtime period).  This compares to last year’s 3 hour 22 minute telecast (Alabama 45 Clemson 20) and a downright speedy 3 hour 5 minute telecast two years ago (Ohio State 42 Oregon 20).  As last night’s game pushed past 12:30 am ET, fewer viewers were available with each passing minute, causing nearly double-digit declines in the available audience in the game’s time period versus prior years.


Next year, the schedule favors the CFP, with the semifinal games returning to New Year’s Day at the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl, when many more viewers are available.  Perhaps next year’s finalists will represent more than one region of the country, which would broaden interest in the game.  And if next year’s final could end before midnight, ESPN and NCAA have a shot at pushing the audience levels back toward the stellar first year results.


About the Author

Mitch Metcalf
MITCH METCALF has been tracking every US film release of over 500 screens (over 2300 movies and counting) since the storied weekend of May 20, 1994, when Maverick and Beverly Hills Cop 3 inspired countless aficionados to devote their lives to the art of cinema. Prior to that, he studied Politics and Economics at Princeton in order to prepare for his dream of working in television. He has been Head of West Coast Research at ABC, then moved to NBC in 2000 and became Head of Scheduling for 11 years.