It's second largest cable audience, behind 2011 championship game

College football’s Bowl Championship Series title game between Alabama and Notre Dame drew a big 26.38 million viewers Monday night on ESPN — the second largest aud on record for cable, according to Nielsen.

Monday’s game likely would have rated much higher, but it became apparent early on that it would produce a lopsided result. Alabama took a quick 14-0 lead and carried a 28-0 advantage into halftime, likely losing many viewers. Nielsen said viewership peaked Monday in the 9:30 p.m. ET half-hour, very early for a contest that started at 8:30.

Two years ago, the BCS title game between Auburn and Oregon averaged a 27.32 million, with viewership gaining as the nail-biter game progressed.

The top local-market Monday score came from Birmingham, with a 55.1 rating. Also in the top five were southern cities New Orleans, Knoxville, Nashville and Atlanta.

ESPN ended up averaging 15.19 million viewers for its five BCS games this month, up 7% over last year (14.08 million).

Opposite the big college football championship game on ESPN, NBC’s new drama “Deception” opened to respectable numbers Monday as the Peacock edged out ABC on the night. CBS, which typically draws more men than ABC or NBC on Mondays, went with repeats opposite the much-anticipated pigskin showdown.

In a battle of similar lineups on the night, NBC beat out ABC from 8 to 10 p.m. with the premiere of “The Biggest Loser” (2.4/6 in 18-49, 6.39 million viewers overall) over the debut of “The Bachelor” (2.3/6 in 18-49, 6.92 million viewers overall) and at 10 p.m. with the series premiere of “Deception” (2.0/5 in 18-49, 5.66 million viewers overall), which edged out in demos vet “Castle” (1.9/5 in 18-49, 8.66 million viewers overall).

Both ABC programs won in total viewers, and “Castle” edged ahead of “Deception” in 25-54 (2.5/6 to 2.4/6).

While not a great premiere, “Deception” retained most of its lead-in and held tough opposite the established ABC drama. Next week could provide a better indication of the NBC show’s strength when CBS returns to firstrun with “Hawaii Five-0.”

As for the reality showdown, “The Bachelor” was down a tick from its year-ago premiere while “The Biggest Loser” matched its year-ago regular-slot premiere (on a Tuesday) and was down from its special Sunday premiere of two nights ago (3.0/8).

At CBS, “Hawaii Five-0″ (1.1/3 in 18-49, 5.03 million viewers overall) capped a night of repeats, starting with “How I Met Your Mother” (1.5/4 in 18-49, 5.15 million viewers overall), back-to-back episodes of “2 Broke Girls” (1.5/4 in 18-49, 5.07 million viewers overall at 8:30 and 1.8/4 in 18-49, 6.07 million viewers overall in its regular 9 p.m. slot) and “Mike & Molly” (1.6/4 in 18-49, 5.86 million viewers overall).

Fox aired a repeat “Bones” (0.9/2 in 18-49, 4.26 million viewers overall) and the season finale of rookie drama “The Mob Doctor” (0.9/2 in 18-49, 3.27 million viewers overall). Fox debuts drama “The Following” in the 9 o’clock hour on Jan. 21.

CW went with special encores of dramas “Hart of Dixie” (0.1/1 in 18-49, 795,000 million viewers overall) and “Beauty and the Beast” (0.2/1 in 18-49, 675,000 million viewers overall). The net’s new Monday drama “The Carrie Diaries” bows next week.

18-49 averages for the night (ESPN unavailable): NBC, 2.3/6; ABC, 2.2/5; Univision, 1.5/4; CBS, 1.4/4; Fox, 0.9/2; CW, 0.3/1.

In total viewers: ABC, 7.49 million; NBC, 6.14 million; CBS, 5.37 million; Fox, 3.77 million; Univision, 3.7 million; CW, 735,000.

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