ESPN’s Monday night telecast of the College Football Playoff National Championship game averaged a 14.7 overnight household rating and 25.6 million viewers, down 19% in households and 23% in viewers from last year's title game between Ohio State and Oregon.
The overnight ratings, based on fewer markets, were projected at a household rating of 15.8. Last year's game averaged a household rating of 18.2 and 33.4 million viewers. So about 7.8 million viewers less watched this year's championship game vs. last year's.
Birmingham, the major home market of the University of Alabama, which won the game 45-40, was the top local market in viewing, earning a 59.2 overnight rating. While Greenville, S.C., the primary home market of Clemson University, was the second highest local market, producing a 39.0 overnight rating. Other local markets that produced significant overnight ratings were all in the Southeast, where both schools are located, and include: Atlanta (30.1), Charlotte (22.8), Nashville (29.1), Raleigh-Durham (20.2) and Norfolk (18.4). No market outside of the South recorded viewership in the Top 10.
ESPN says the championship game broadcast was the third best overnight rating for any game the network has telecast. Among the six national championship games ESPN has carried, last night's game also ranked third behind last year’s CFP National Championship and the 2010 BCS National Championship game.
The total audience is the sixth best in the history of cable, however, the new ratings numbers suggest that ESPN is again going to owe a sizable number of makegoods to advertisers for ratings shortfalls. The network was charging $1.3 million per 30-second commercial, up from the $1 million advertisers paid for spots in the 2015 title game. That's a 30% increase. While it is not likely ESPN raised its ratings guarantees by 30% from last year, in order to get $300,000 more per unit, it had to raise them a significant percentage.
As B&C first reported last week, several advertisers received makegood units in Monday's game to make up for ratings deficiencies in the two New Year's Eve CFP semi-final playoff games. ESPN still owes some makegood units from those two games, according to buyers, who say some marketers may get units in ESPN's primetime NBA telecasts on ABC which begin later this month.
Heading into the game, media buyers who bought units for their clients were concerned that both teams were located in the same Southeast region of the country. And those concerns turned out to be valid. The two largest audiences were in the team's home major markets of Birmingham, Alabama, and Greenville, S.C. And viewing interest was greatest in some of the other major markets in the southeast.
ESPN still owes ad makegoods for ratings shortfalls from its two New Year's Eve CFP semi-final playoff games, although some of those were satisfied by issuing makegoods in last Saturday's NFL wild card game on the network, as well as in last night's title game.
Please note this story was updated to reflect national numbers.