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The Insane Price of ESPN's College Football Ratings Triumph

Head coach Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes celebrate with the trophy after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide in the All State Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2015 in New Orleans.
Head coach Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes celebrate with the trophy after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide in the All State Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2015 in New Orleans.Photographer: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

ESPN had a very happy new year, breaking its own record for the largest audience in cable-TV history twice on Jan. 1, thanks to college football’s new playoff system.

Both semifinal games—Oregon’s victory over Florida State and Ohio State’s defeat of Alabama—drew more than 28 million viewers, topping the previous record of 27.3 million held by the BCS Championship game between Oregon and Auburn in 2011. ESPN now claims the top 18 largest audiences in cable history and will likely break its own record again on Jan. 12, when Oregon and Ohio State play in the first College Football Playoff National Championship.