If you have been watching ESPN for any length of time during December, you may have seen promos for “New Year’s Six,” the Peach, Fiesta, Orange, Cotton, Rose and Sugar Bowls that make up the College Football Playoff rotation. This year, the Rose and Sugar Bowls were the semifinal games in the playoffs. And because the College Football Playoff has scheduled the six games on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, the games gain more importance than the Belk, Independence, Las Vegas, New Orleans or Music City Bowls.

With top teams playing in the “New Year’s Six” including the four teams making up the semifinals, ESPN saw some very good numbers for the games.

On New Year’s Eve, the Peach, Fiesta and Orange Bowls combined to average a 4.3 rating and 7.1 million viewers, the highest-rated and most-viewed NYE bowl tripleheader on an ESPN network since 1990. In addition, the viewership is up 53% from last year’s tripleheader and ratings were up 54%. Individually, all fared well.

  • The Peach Bowl with TCU blowing out Mississippi, averaged 5,013,000 viewers and a 3.4 rating.
  • The Fiesta Bowl which had Boise State beating Arizona easily, saw an average of 7,406,000 viewers and a 4.6 rating.
  • And the Orange Bowl pitting Georgia Tech and Mississippi State, garnered 8,935,000 viewers with a 5.0 rating making that the most-viewed New Year’s Eve game on ESPN in its history.

Birmingham which has been the top-rated market for college football once again finished first for all three NYE bowls averaging a 23.0 rating for the Orange, 16.3 for the Fiesta and 14.5 for the Peach.

On New Year’s Day, with interest very high in the Rose and Sugar Bowls, both games making up the first-ever College Football Playoff semifinals, ESPN saw very consistent overnight numbers with the Rose Bowl averaging a 15.5 rating and the Sugar with a 15.3. Both are the highest-rated New Year’s Day games in ESPN’s history. Last year’s Rose received an 11.2 overnight while the Sugar had a 7.2, significant increases for both games. We’ll see how both fare next year when the semifinals are the Orange and Cotton Bowls on New Year’s Eve.

And Birmingham was the top-rated market for both games, getting a 39.6 for the Rose and 50.2 for the Sugar which had Alabama playing in the contest.

The other bowl played on New Year’s Day which is part of the CFP rotation, the Cotton received a 5.3 overnight on ESPN.

Overall, ESPN’s strategy for these six games worked out well. In hoping to institute a new tradition, grouping the bowls in the CFP rotation around New Year’s worked out and will probably gain viewers in the process.

UPDATE: Final viewership numbers are in and the first CFP semifinals didn’t just score big, they made history. The 2015 Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl are now the two most watched programs in the history of cable television with OSU-Bama just barely beating out FSU-Oregon. Both games surpass the previous record set by the 2011 BCS National Championship Game of 27.3 million viewers.


About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the four Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.

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