The 2018 Rose Bowl was an instant classic, and the ratings are coming up roses for ESPN. The Worldwide Leader said today that Monday’s College Football Playoff semifinal in Pasadena was the fifth-most watched cable program of all time, huddling with 26.8 million viewers in the ESPN/ESPN 2 simulcast, according to Nielsen.
Georgia’s thrilling double-overtime win over Oklahoma — the first OT game in the Rose Bowl’s 104-year history — posted a 39% audience boost over the 2017 game, ESPN said. It also noted that 21.1 million tuned to see Alabama roll defending champ Clemson in the Allstate Sugar Bowl — the other CFP semifinal — which was up 10% over last year’s game. The two semifinals averaged a combined 24.6 million viewers, up 27% year-over-year.
All told, the “New Year’s Six” bowl games — including Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, Capital One Orange Bowl — are poised to be the most-watched ever. Each of those games also hit record individual viewership levels.
ESPN notes that since September 26, Nielsen reported numbers for all ESPN telecasts reflect TV viewing plus streaming audiences on OTT devices.