during the College Football Playoff National Championship Game at AT&T Stadium on January 12, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.

Ohio State’s 42-20 victory over Oregon to claim the first college football national championship of the playoff era looks to have scored a massive rating for ESPN.

Preliminary numbers are out this morning and Bristol is likely popping champagne bottles like they won a title themselves with a huge 18.5 overnight rating, the highest ever on ESPN.  It represents a surprisingly large 21% increase over last year’s fantastic Auburn-Florida State contest in the last BCS national championship game.  The total Megacast experience averaged an 18.9 rating across the ESPN family of networks, up 20% from last year.

Locally, the Top 10 markets broke down like this, dominated by Ohio and the college football loving southern region of the country:

1) Columbus 51.2
2) Dayton 43.8
3) Cleveland 41.3
4) Portland 37.6
5) Birmingham 36.1
6) Cincinnati 26.5
7) Jacksonville 25.7
8) Knoxville 25.5
9) Greenville 24.1
10) Atlanta 23.0

To put the overall 18.5 number in perspective, the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day drew a 15.5 and 15.3 overnight rating respectively and they were the #1 and #2 cable television programs of all-time.  It also beats the 16.1 overnight rating for the 2011 BCS National Championship Game, which was the previous record holder for ESPN.  With Ohio State’s victory in the national championship game, it looks like ESPN is well on their way to their third record setting performance in the last 12 days.  We’ll update when final viewership numbers come in.

UPDATE: Final viewership numbers are in and it is indeed a new record for ESPN and cable television history: 33.4 million viewers, crushing the previous record of 28.3 million viewers set during the Sugar Bowl.  Adding in the Megacast feeds, ESPN reached 34.1 million viewers in total for the national championship game.


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