More Than 25 Million Watch College Football Title Game on ESPN

This year's five BCS Bowl games on the network averaged 9% more viewers than the 2013 slate

BCS National Championship Game
Harry How/Getty Images

UPDATE: According to updated Nielsen estimates, Monday’s down-to-the-wire BCS Championship averaged 25.57 million viewers on ESPN — the third largest audience in cable history. The network says that if you include the simultaneous game coverage airing on ESPN2 and ESPNews, the total rises to 26.06 million.

Last year’s game between Notre Dame and Alabama drew 26.38 million and the 2011 matchup of Oregon and Auburn drew 27.3 million.

Overall, this month’s five BCS bowl games averaged 16.55 million viewers, up 9% from last year’s 15.13 million.

Florida State’s late-game heroics to beat Auburn in college football’s BCS Championship game delivered strong ratings Monday night for ESPN, even if it did come in below last year.

In Nielsen’s metered-market overnights, FSU’s 34-31 victory averaged a 15.3 household rating — down 3% from last year’s 15.7 for Notre Dame vs. Alabama. It was up, though, by 11% vs. the 2012 BCS Championship between LSU and Alabama (13.8), which like Monday’s game featured two teams from the same geographic region.

Last year’s game ended up doing a 9.2 rating in adults 18-49 and 26.4 million viewers overall for ESPN, so this year’s game figures to come in a bit below these.

Despite the slight declines for the final game, this year’s average overall ESPN rating for the five BCS Bowls was up 10% vs. last year (9.9 vs. 9.0). The first four games saw the underdogs prevail, and Auburn almost made it five-for-five.

Monday’s game, as you might expect, was especially strong in the South. Birmingham led all markets with a huge 55.8 local rating, and was followed by Jacksonville (31.1), Knoxville (26.6), Atlanta (25.8) and Orlando (24.9).