College Football Semifinals Are Most-Watched Cable Shows

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The inaugural College Football Playoff semifinals, shown on New Year’s Day on ESPN, were the most-watched shows in cable television history.

Oregon’s 59-20 rout of defending-champion Florida State in the Rose Bowl two days ago averaged 28.2 million viewers, ESPN said yesterday in a release, and Ohio State’s 42-35 upset of No. 1 Alabama immediately afterward at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans averaged 28.3 million.

“These record-setting numbers illustrate the enormous fan interest in college football and the wide-ranging appeal of the new College Football Playoff format,” ESPN Executive Vice President of Programming and Production John Wildhack said in the release.

ESPN didn’t say what cable telecast held the previous record. The network says it has broadcast the 18 most-watched shows in cable television history and 36 of the top 40.

Oregon and Ohio State will play for the national title on Jan. 12 in Arlington, Texas, a game that also will be on ESPN. Oregon is a seven-point favorite.

ESPN signed a 12-year contract in November 2012 to televise the playoffs and selected other games for an average $470 million annually, or $5.6 billion for the duration of the contract.