HOLLYWOOD — The U. of Oklahoma’s upset victory over Florida State in college football’s championship game Wednesday night on ABC delivered the sport’s largest audience in three years.
According to Nielsen, the Orange Bowl telecast averaged 27.24 million viewers from 8:18 to 11:39 p.m. — a slight gain over last year’s championship contest in the Sugar Bowl (26.98 million) — making it the most-watched college football game since the 1998 Rose Bowl between Michigan and Washington (28.99m), which was perceived by many to be the championship game that year.
In homes, this year’s Orange Bowl rating (17.8) is the highest for any college football bowl game since the 1997 Sugar Bowl (17.9).
The Sooners’ 13-2 victory over the defending champion Seminoles on Wednesday nabbed a whopping 63.1 rating and 80 share in football-crazed Oklahoma City, while Florida’s top scores came from Jacksonville (29.6/41) and Orlando (28.9/42).
Coverage of the game gave ABC its largest Wednesday primetime audience since March 3, 1999 — the night Barbara Walters interviewed Monica Lewinsky. It’s the net’s biggest gathering on any night since last March’s Academy Awards (38.3 million).
The results capped a strong three nights of bowl action for ABC, which has exclusive rights to college football’s biggest games. Each night delivered ratings growth for the net from the comparable game a year ago.
Monday night’s primetime Fiesta Bowl contest (Oregon State-Notre Dame) averaged 17.47 million viewers, a 3% improvement over last year’s comparable game (Orange Bowl). It fared even better in demos, including an 11% improvement among adults 18-49 (7.0/17).
For the night, ABC drew its largest audience on a Monday since Nov. 22, 1999 (“Monday Night Football”).
On Tuesday, the Sugar Bowl between Miami and Florida averaged 19.78 million viewers and a 7.8/20 in adults 18-49, gains of 37% and 30% respectively vs. last year’s comparable Jan. 2 game (Nebraska-Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl).
This year’s college football championship averaged 32% more viewers than the college basketball title game in March on CBS (20.6 million), but that’s still a far cry from the 88.5 million that ABC averaged last January with the Super Bowl (pro football’s championship).