UPDATE: In Nielsen nationals released late Friday, the Rose Bowl between Oregon and Florida State averaged 28.164 million viewers and the Sugar Bowl between Ohio State and Alabama drew 28.271 million — the two most-watched telecasts in cable television history.

Last year’s championship game between Auburn and Florida State drew 25.6 million viewers, and this year’s game on Jan. 12 between Ohio State and Oregon is expected to surpass the 30-million viewer mark.


Total-viewer estimates won’t be available until later today, but ESPN’s coverage of the the first-ever College Football Playoff semifinal games dominated a Thursday ratings race that featured some low-rated originals on NBC and ABC but all repeats on the other broadcasters.

In Nielsen’s metered-market overnights, the Rose Bowl contest between Oregon and Florida State averaged a 15.5 household rating from 5 to 8:45 p.m. ET — the top-rated Sugar Bowl since a 2000 contest for the national championship between Virginia Tech and Florida State, which netted a 17.5 on ABC. The Sugar Bowl between Ohio State and Alabama earned roughly a 15.3 household rating from 9 p.m. to 12:45 a.m. ET.

Both games also generated significant increases over the ESPN bowl games in the respective Jan. 1 timeslots of a year ago: a 38% increase in the 5 p.m. ET window (vs. 11.2) and a 125% increase over the primetime matchup (vs. 7.2).

By way of comparison, the 15-plus overnight rating for ESPN on Thursday is the best for any primetime football game this season since the NFL season opener between Green Bay and Seattle on NBC (16.8). ESPN’s season high for “Monday Night Football” this fall was a 12.1 for Washington-Dallas in October.

The top local markets for the semifinals were Birmingham (39.6) and Columbus (43.7), rooting for Alabama and Ohio State, respectively. Rounding out the top five were Dayton (38.7), Cleveland (32.5) and Portland (30.8).

ESPN will televise the College Football Playoff championship game between Oregon and Ohio State on Jan. 12. Last year’s championship between Florida State and Auburn, the last under the Bowl Championship Series format, averaged 25.6 million viewers on the cabler.

Looking at the entertainment programming on Thursday, NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” (0.9 rating/3 share in adults 18-49, 3.5 million viewers overall) managed to tie its most recent episode. First-year half-hours “Bad Judge” (0.5/1 in 18-49, 2.1 million viewers overall) and “A to Z” (0.4/1 in 18-49, 1.3 million viewers overall) followed with tiny numbers, and an encore “Parenthood” finished off the night (0.4/1 in 18-49, 1.4 million viewers overall).

ABC served up another low-rated installment of “The Taste” (0.7/2 in 18-49, 2.7 million viewers overall), which was followed by an encore of “How to Get Away with Murder” (0.5/1 in 18-49, 2.1 million viewers overall). “Murder,” which hasn’t aired an original since its fall finale in November, returns to firstruns with its winter premiere on Jan. 29.

CBS claimed the night’s top two Big Four programs with repeats of “The Big Bang Theory” (1.7/5 in 18-49, 8.1 million viewers overall) and “Mom” (1.2/3 in 18-49, 0.9 million viewers overall). They were followed by encores of “Two and a Half Men” (0.9/3 in 18-49, 5.0 million viewers overall), “The McCarthys” (0.7/2 in 18-49, 3.9 million viewers overall) and “Elementary” (0.6/2 in 18-49, 4.1 million viewers overall).

Fox aired repeats of “Bones” at both 8 (0.6/2 in 18-49, 2.8 million viewers overall) and 9 (0.6/2 in 18-49, 2.8 million viewers overall), and CW went with a “iHeart Radio Festival” special (0.3/1 in 18-49, 1.1 million viewers overall).

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: CBS, 1.0/3; ABC, NBC and Fox, 0.6/2; CW, 0.3/1.

In total viewers: CBS, 5.3 million; Fox, 2.8 million; ABC, 2.7 million; NBC, 2.2 million; CW, 1.1 million.