Ratings Roundup: BCS National Championship Posts Cable’s Highest Overnight

ESPN’s telecast of the BCS National Championship – a last-second 22-19 Auburn victory over Oregon – posted a 16.1 overnight metered market rating, according to Nielsen, the highest in the history of cable television (records go back to 2001). The previous high was 14.4 for an ESPN Monday Night Football game – New England at New Orleans on November 30, 2009.  The 16.1 overnight rating is higher than two of the previous six BCS title games (2008 – 15.6, 2005 – 14.6), and spurred ESPN to win the night among all networks, broadcast or cable.

The game drew huge audiences in the teams’ markets – Birmingham, Ala. (67.0) and Portland, Ore. (37.5).  Rounding out the top five were Nashville (28.8), New Orleans (28.6), and Knoxville (27.7).

On ESPN3.com, the game was watched by more than 619,000 unique viewers, making it the most unique viewers ever for a college football game on ESPN3.com and it ranks fourth all-time in unique viewers behind three 2010 FIFA World Cup contests (source: Adobe).  The previous college football record was last week’s Allstate Sugar Bowl (248,000 viewers), a total that was more than doubled with the Auburn-Oregon matchup.

NBC Posts Most-Watched Wild Card Saturday Ever
NBC Sports scored the most-watched Wild Card Saturday doubleheader ever. The Jets-Colts primetime game was the most-watched Wild Card Saturday primetime game ever and most-watched Wild Card Saturday game in 16 years, and the Saints-Seahawks afternoon game was the most-watched Wild Card Saturday Game 1 ever, according to official national data released today by The Nielsen Company.

The night also delivered the best primetime viewership for any network since The Academy Awards, March 7, 2010 on ABC, and attracted the biggest Saturday primetime viewership on any network in nearly 17 years, since CBS’s tabloid-fueled Lillehammer Olympics coverage. It was NBC’s biggest primetime Saturday audience on record (since the advent of Nielsen People Meters in 1987).

The two-game average viewership of 30.6 million is the best ever for an NFL Wild Card Saturday doubleheader, surpassing last year’s average of 28.6 million by 7% (NFL Saturday Wild Card games began in January, 1991). The average household rating of 17.7/31 is up seven percent from last year’s two-game average of 16.6/30 (Jets-Bengals and Eagles-Cowboys) and up 20 percent from the two-game average in Jan. 2009 (14.7/26 for Falcons-Cardinals and Colts-Chargers).

The Jets-Colts game drew 33.4 million viewers, the most-watched ever for a primetime Wild Card Saturday game and the most for any Wild Card Saturday game since the 1994 season (Chiefs-Dolphins, 33.6 million on Dec. 31, 1994). The Saints-Seahawks game drew 28.4 million viewers, the most ever for a Wild Card Saturday Game 1. For the full primetime night, NBC averaged 33.0 million viewers, NBC’s most-watched Saturday night on record and the most-watched Saturday night on any network since the Lillehammer Olympics (Feb. 26, 1994 on CBS, 38.1 million).