The nation, it seems, can agree that Saturday night college football is well worth watching.
The early numbers for Notre Dame’s double-overtime upset win over top-ranked Clemson showed terrific TV ratings—9.44 million viewers across NBC TV and NBC Sports Digital—according to Fast National Data released by Nielsen and digital data from Adobe Analytics.
Those numbers did not include the period during which President-elect Joe Biden spoke and the game was moved to USA Network (7:35-8:27 and 8:57-11:47 p.m. ET). Also, they do not include out-of-home viewership stats to be released Tuesday that will drive that number even higher.
Clemson-Notre Dame crushed every 2020 Finals game from the NBA, which saw a big drop-off for this year’s Finals, declining to about 7.5 million per game, compared with 15.1 million in 2019.
According to Sports Media Watch, the Finals experienced a 49% drop in TV numbers compared with 2019. The 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs dropped 38% compared to last year. The final round of golf’s U.S. Open was down 55% from 2019. And the Preakness on NBC was down 56% from 2019.
Saturday night’s ratings peaked with 14.2 million viewers from 11:30-11:45 p.m. ET, likely boosted by a new group of viewers expecting to see NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” which was delayed until the game ended.
Georgia-Alabama last month (9.61 million) stands as this season’s highest-rated college game on any network. Since March’s pandemic shutdown, not including the NFL, the game is trailing only Game 7 of Major League Baseball’s NLCS and the final two games of the World Series.
Fans love college football but the NFL is still king. Opposite Game 5 of the World Series, Sunday Night Football game (Seahawks-Cardinals) blew out baseball by 49% in ratings (7.9 to 5.3) and 42% in viewership (14.31 million to 10.06 million).