Saturday December 9, 2023

Record Viewership Woes

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
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College football isn’t immune to viewership woes plaguing major professional leagues. 

Alabama dominated Ohio State 52-24 Monday night in the College Football Playoff National Championship, which had the lowest viewership for any title game since the start of the BCS era 23 years ago

The matchup averaged about 18.7 million live viewers across the “MegaCast” on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, down 27% from last year’s title game. That’s also fewer viewers than the 18.8 million average for the two New Year’s Day semifinal matchups.

While the final numbers will include streaming and ESPNews viewership, the official tally is expected to barely pass 19 million viewers, which is still 2 million fewer than than the 2005 Orange Bowl, the previous least-viewed championship. 

Viewership for multiple major sports events was down over the last year.

  • NFL regular season: -8% 
  • MLB World Series: -30%
  • The Kentucky Derby: -43%
  • NBA Finals: -49%
  • Final round of The Masters -58%
  • Stanley Cup Finals: -61%

Experts are divided on why fewer fans are watching sports, but agree that the overlapping post-restart schedules contributed. 

On Monday, fatigue may have been the issue. The CFP title game was not only up against a new episode of “The Bachelor” — which drew 4.74 million viewers — but it was the seventh nationally televised football game in 72 hours.

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