College Football Playoff thrillers draw largest non-New Year’s Day viewership

JJ McCarthy Fiesta Bowl Football
Posted at 3:55 PM, Jan 02, 2023

The most competitive pair of semifinals in the nine-year history of the College Football Playoff drew the largest non-New Year’s Day viewership for those games on ESPN, the network said Monday.

Dramatic and entertaining victories by TCU over Michigan in the Fiesta Bowl and Georgia over Ohio State in Peach Bowl on Saturday drew an average of 21.7 million viewers for ESPN.

The seven-point combined margin in the games was the smallest since the CFP began in the 2014 season. Only three previous CFP semifinal games were decided by fewer than 10 points.

ESPN said it was the third-most watched CFP semifinals, only surpassed by the first one played on Jan. 1, 2015, and the semifinals played on New Year’s Day 2018.

The Peach Bowl, the nightcap of the CFP doubleheader, averaged 22.1 millions viewers, making it the the most-watched final four game not played on New Year’s Day and the fourth-most among 18 semifinal games.

Ohio State’s decisive field goal attempt in the final seconds happened almost simultaneously to the clock striking midnight on the New Year in the Eastern time zone. The kick sailed wide and the defending national champion Bulldogs advanced to championship game on Jan. 9 in Inglewood, California, to face No. 3 TCU.

The Fiesta Bowl drew an average of 21.4 million viewers and peaked at 26.4 million.