The College Football Playoff continues to be a financial success, but the ratings from Monday night’s national championship game hit a new low for the College Football Playoff as it closed the books on the fifth year of the playoff format. According to overnight numbers shared by ESPN on Tuesday, Clemson’s 44-16 victory over Alabama in Santa Clara drew a 14.6 overnight rating across all of ESPN’s platforms.
As expected, the ratings tailed off as the game went to the fourth quarter and it was becoming pretty clear Clemson had the game and the championship under their control. With no reason to stay tuned, casual fans began checking out in the fourth quarter. As noted by the Associated Press, Nielson reported a total viewership across ESPN’s platforms of 25.2 million, which does not include any additional numbers from streaming options. updated figures provided by ESPN claim a total of 25.3 million viewers across the entire offering from the network’s expanded megacast presentation.
The inaugural College Football Playoff national championship game between Ohio State and Oregon drew a Nielsen rating of 18.9 with 33.4 million viewers in 2015. The 2016 championship game between Alabama and Clemson scored a 15.8 Nielsen rating. The rematch the following season drew a 15.3 with 26,266,000 viewers. Last year’s national championship game between Alabama and Georgia saw an increase with a 16.7 Nielsen rating.
Was there real fatigue about another Alabama vs. Clemson matchup? It would seem that could be justified in the ratings, but the fact the game was not particularly close the longer the game went on was the biggest culprit for a downward trend with the national championship game this weekend. It also hurts having two teams from the same general region play in the game because college football tends to be more of a regional interest than the NFL. And, not to be dismissive of Clemson, the Tigers are not quite the national brand that will lure in casual viewers despite their success in recent years.
But let’s just blame this on ESPN’s decision to not have a coaches room broadcast feed this year (they instead gave us a broadcast feed featuring their Monday Night Football team, which nobody ever would have thought to ask for). ESPN will hopefully learn a lesson and bring it back for the championship game next year, but it is worth noting the Monday Night Football film room feed did contribute to an estimated 100,000 viewers for the national championship presentation.