A lot of people watched the College Football Playoff semifinals on ESPN Thursday — but not nearly as many as watched them last season.
The Clemson-Oklahoma matchup in the Orange Bowl drew a 9.7 rating in the overnight metered markets. The prime-time Cotton Bowl telecast (Alabama-Michigan State) fared a little better with a 9.9.
Both games are down significantly from last season’s inagurual playoff semis, which averaged a 15.3 and a 15.5.
A number of factors could have contributed to the drop: it being the second year of the playoff rather than the first; the games airing on New Year’s Eve rather than the traditional college football bonanza of New Year’s Day; and the fact that both games were one-sided (Clemson won 37-17, and Alabama shut out Michigan State 38-0).
ESPN notes that both games drew more than a million viewers on WatchESPN. Both posted huge gains over the comparable games last season, suggesting that football may have been a second-screen option to New Year’s Eve programming (which was fairly steady) in a number of homes.