Alabama’s 52-24 rout of Ohio State in the College Football National Championship game drew 18.7 million viewers for ESPN’s family of networks on Monday.
That puts it on pace to be the least-viewed championship game in college football’s era of staging an end-of-season matchup to determine the national champion.
That number incorporates the viewers across ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU and is down 27% from last year’s title matchup, a slightly closer blowout between LSU and Clemson. Final numbers will include streaming and ESPNews viewership, and may well inch up the tally above 19 million viewers. But it’s not likely to be enough to top the 21.4 million that watched the 2005 Orange Bowl, in which USC bludgeoned Oklahoma 55-19, which was the prior low.
With the low viewer turnout, college football becomes the latest sport to see a massive TV drop amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which wreaked havoc on the schedule all season long. To wit, Alabama played almost twice as many games as Ohio State. Both the NBA and MLB also suffered record low turnouts on television for their championship rounds.
Monday’s game, which marked the fifth time in the last six years that Alabama has reached the title game, was practically over by halftime, with the Crimson Tide leading 35-17.
The College Football Playoff has been in existence since 2014, with its predecessor, the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) responsible for determining the national champion for the prior 16 years.