The numbers are in and it’s about the worst news ESPN could have gotten.
After a huge freshman year and a sophomore slump, the third edition of the College Football Playoff split the difference in the metered markets.
Coverage of the College Football Playoff semifinals delivered an 11.0 overnight on ESPN and ESPN2 Saturday, up 11% from last year (9.9), but still well below the 15+ the games averaged two years ago. ESPN alone averaged a 10.4, up 6%.
In particular, the Alabama/Washington Peach Bowl had a combined 11.5 overnight rating on ESPN and ESPN2 — up 17% from last year’s Clemson/Oklahoma Orange Bowl (9.8) but down 26% from the Oregon/Florida State Rose Bowl two years ago, which aired on ESPN alone (15.5). ESPN’s solo telecast had a 10.9 overnight (+12%).
Last year’s Houston/Florida State Peach Bowl, which was not a playoff game, had a 4.0 overnight.
In the nightcap, the Clemson/Ohio State Fiesta Bowl had a 10.5 overnight on ESPN and ESPN2 — up 5% from last year’s Alabama/Michigan State Cotton Bowl (10.0) but down 31% from Ohio State/Alabama in the Sugar Bowl two years ago, which aired on ESPN alone (15.3). ESPN’s solo coverage had a 10.0, up a tick from last year.
Last year’s Ohio State/Notre Dame Fiesta Bowl, also not part of the playoff, had a 6.2 overnight.
Up some, but not up to where things started, in other words. Had the New Year’s Eve numbers tanked completely for a second straight year, Mickey could have gone with the full court press on abandoning the day for the semis. Instead, Bill Hancock gets to provide the narrative that the fans are coming around to college football’s newest tradition. It’ll give the CFP folks at least a couple more seasons before they have to respond to any push from their broadcast partner.
I bet there are a lot of smiling faces at Bristol this week. Not.