UPDATE: In updated national estimates from Nielsen, Monday’s college football championship game averaged 33.4 million viewers — a cable record. ESPN also has No. 2 and No. 3 on the list with its Jan. 1 semifinal games between Alabama and Ohio State (28.27 million) and Oregon vs. Florida State (28.16 million).


The first ever College Football Playoff was a rousing ratings success for ESPN, whose coverage of the national championship game on Monday between Ohio State and Oregon set a cable record in the overnights.

Nielsen estimates that the Buckeyes’ 42-20 victory over the Ducks averaged an 18.5 overnight household rating, a 21% jump above last year’s BCS National Championship on ESPN between Auburn and Florida State (15.3). It’s also a sizable 20% improvement over this year’s two semifinal games held on Jan. 1 (Alabama-Ohio State and Oregon-Florida State), which averaged a 15.4 in the overnights on ESPN and ended up averaging more than 28 million viewers in the nationals.

The previous cable high in the overnights was a 16.1 on ESPN for the 2011 BCS National Championship (Auburn-Oregon), which averaged 27.3 million total viewers in the nationals.

By comparison, ESPN’s first-ever NFL playoff game, an afternoon game on Jan. 3 between Arizona and Carolina, netted a 13.1 overnight. And the network’s season high for “Monday Night Football” in the fall was an October game between Washington and Dallas (12.1).

College football still can’t touch the biggest NFL playoff ratings, though, as Monday’s 18.5 was well below the 25.4 that CBS generated on Sunday for its late-afternoon contest between Indianapolis and Denver in the second round of the playoffs.

In social media, roughly 7 million people had more than 21 million Facebook interactions (posts, comments and likes) related to the game. While Ohio was the state responsible for the most interactions, Oregon merely ranked fifth.

Elsewhere Monday, it remained a close contest between the night’s two-hour reality series, with ABC’s “The Bachelor” (1.7/5 in 18-49, 6.4 million viewers overall) tying NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice” (1.7/5 in 18-49, 5.8 million viewers overall), with the former pulling ahead in adults 18-34, key female demos and total viewers and the latter prevailing in adults 25-54 and key male demos. “Bachelor” was down 0.5 week-to-week, while “Apprentice” limited its declines to 0.3.

The 10 p.m. drama battle between the networks was no contest, however, with ABC’s “Castle” (1.4/4 in 18-49, 6.8 million viewers overall) easily besting NBC’s “State of Affairs” (0.8/2 in 18-49, 3.6 million viewers overall), with the former matching its low and the latter hitting its low. A special repeat of CBS’ “Scorpion” (1.1/3 in 18-49, 5.3 million viewers overall) also beat the Peacock rookie.

CBS opened the night with a repeat “The Big Bang Theory” (1.9/6 in 18-49, 10.0 million viewers overall), followed by an original “Mike & Molly” (2.1/6 in 18-49, 9.2 million viewers overall), which was within a tick of its week-ago score despite the extra competition from college football. The half-hours were followed by a repeat of “NCIS: Los Angeles” at a special time (1.2/3 in 18-49, 6.7 million viewers overall).

Fox aired a special repeat of new drama “Empire” (0.8/2 in 18-49, 2.8 million viewers overall) and an encore of Monday regular “Sleepy Hollow” (0.5/1 in 18-49, 1.8 million viewers overall), while CW reaired the first two episodes of “Jane the Virgin” (0.3/1 inj 18-49, 1.1 million viewers overall for each hour).

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: ABC, 1.6/4; CBS and NBC, 1.4/4; Univision, 1.2/3; Fox and Telemundo, 0.7/2; CW, 0.3/1.

In total viewers: CBS, 7.2 million; ABC, 6.5 million; NBC, 5.1 million; Univision, 3.0 million; Fox, 2.3 million; Telemundo, 1.7 million; CW, 1.1 million.