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ESPN dominated New Year’s Day’s ratings with its two College Football Playoff semifinal telecasts. The two games pulled in an audience virtually identical with the previous season’s semis.
The two games — Alabama’s 31-14 victory over Notre Dame and Ohio State’s 49-28 win over Clemson — averaged 18.8 million viewers on ESPN and ESPN2. That’s off a scant 1 percent from the 19 million average for the two CFP semifinals on Dec. 28, 2019.
The Sugar Bowl featured Clemson and Ohio State in primetime for the second straight season, and it was down some from their 2019 meeting. It drew 18.93 million viewers across ESPN and ESPN2, down 9 percent from the 20.88 million who watched the 2019 game.
Alabama’s win over Notre Dame in the relocated Rose Bowl (played in Arlington, Texas), however, averaged 18.66 million viewers and improved by about 10 percent over last season’s afternoon game (16.91 million for LSU and Oklahoma). Both contests Friday also aired on ESPNews and ESPNU as part of the cabler’s “MegaCast” presentation, but numbers for the smaller channels weren’t available.
Friday’s games averaged a 4.78 rating among adults 18-49, down 4 percent from the 5.0 average for last season’s semifinals.
Alabama and Ohio State will play in the national championship game on Jan. 11. Over the six years the playoff structure has been in place, the championship has averaged about 27.6 million viewers.
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