alabama-georgia-espn ratings-college football championship ratings

Heading into Monday’s College Football Playoff National Championship, expectations for ESPN’s ratings were low. Analysts figured that a matchup of two SEC schools that stand less than 300 miles from each other would have limited appeal outside the southeast, driving down the game’s viewership.

Then Alabama and Georgia delivered a tense overtime classic, and America happily tuned in. According to ESPN, the game drew a 16.7 overnight rating across ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, up 9 percent from last year’s title game, in which Clemson defeated Alabama in a similarly tight thriller, and up 5 percent from the January 2016 championship (also between Clemson and Alabama). The game ranks as ESPN’s second highest rated event on record, behind only the 2015 Ohio State-Oregon title match.

Skepticism over prospective Alabama-Georgia ratings owed largely to underwhelming viewership on the last all-SEC title game, the January 2012 Alabama-LSU matchup in the BCS National Championship, but it’s beginning to seem as if the College Football Playoff is a different animal. Per ESPN, three of the four highest rated bowl games in network history have been CFP National Championships, and seven of the top 10 have been either CFP title games or semifinals. Four years in, the playoff format seems to be driving ratings.

And although recent championship games, including Monday’s, benefit slightly from ESPN’s MegaCast production, which spreads feeds across several networks, the vast majority of viewers still watch on the primary feed. For Monday night’s game, the main ESPN network drew a 16.0 overnight, which would rank among ESPN highest rated games even disregarding ESPN2 and ESPNU viewers.

The takeaway here is pretty simple. As ESPN executive Burke Magnus put it on Twitter, “People watch good games… period.”


About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports,, and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.

  • ItsBlackjack115

    Streisand Effect in action. See what happens when too many people say on social media that they won’t watch it?

    • QED – quod erat demonstrandum


      I presume tongue in cheek because I don’t know of many Neilsen connected viewers who tune into shows or games to teach people lessons.

  • Walt_Gekko

    Not surprised. Alabama and Georgia are both big national draws and this has become a big event in its own right. Also, it was forgotten that while Alabama and Georgia are both in the SEC, they are in different divisions and did not meet in the regular season.

    I actually watched considerable portions of the mega cast as well as the primary coverage. Seeing all the different views of the game was great.

    If this ever moves to ABC, you could put the Homers (that aired on ESPN2) and the “voices” (that aired on ESPNU together and separately on various feeds over the web) on the DT-2 and DT-3 Channels of local ABC stations.

    • Adam Domo

      georgia is a draw?

      • Walt_Gekko

        Georgia is still a brand name from the days of Herschel Walker.

  • QED – quod erat demonstrandum

    Wait, I thought cord cutting was the cause of the NFL drop and these two SEC teams would cause apathy on the part of Midwest viewers?

    Bunch of Malarkey.

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  • noonan18

    So if someone was watching all these different tv channels at once, does it count as one viewer or multiple viewers? For example, if someone had a tv, computer and phone watching 3 different channels, is that counted as 3 people or just 1. Seems alot of people were multitasking these channels during the game. Could account for the high number of viewers.

  • sportsfan365

    Perhaps this has more to do with the dreck that was available as an alternative on Monday Night:

    ABC – The Bachelor
    CBS – Young Sheldon
    NBC – Better Late Than Never
    FOX – The Gifted