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not after having Clemson and Alabama in the championship game the past two years

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Ratings From time same NCAA

NCAA playoff ratings way up from same time a year ago

With the semifinals back New Year’s Day, ESPN viewership for the College Football Playoff was the highest it has been since the first season of the postseason system four years ago

Rose Bowl Football

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Georgia running back Sony Michel runs for a touchdown during overtime in the Rose Bowl on Monday. Georgia beat Oklahoma, 54-48.

APTOPIX Sugar Bowl Football-1

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By RALPH D. RUSSO  Associated Press

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

With the semifinals back New Year’s Day, viewership for the College Football Playoff on ESPN was the highest it has been since the first season of the postseason system in 2015.

The double overtime Rose Bowl thriller between Georgia and Oklahoma drew a 14.8 overnight Nielsen rating and average viewership of 27 million, up 39 percent over last season’s early semifinal. Georgia beat Oklahoma 54-48 and ESPN said the television rating reached a high of 17.3 in overtime.

The Sugar Bowl between Alabama and Clemson got a 12.5 rating and average viewership of 21.1 million, up 10 percent from last season’s second semifinal.

The last two seasons the semifinals were played on Dec. 31. The CFP drew record viewership for ESPN in its first season when games were played on Jan. 1, 2015.

Overall, ESPN had its best average viewership for the New Year’s Six in the four-year history of the College Football Playoff format. The results were aided by the calendar, the changes made to the format in 2016 that moved games away from New Year’s Eve and some big-brand teams in the non-semifinal matchups.

ESPN executive vice president for programming and scheduling Burke Magnus said simply having the semifinals back on Jan. 1 had network officials optimistic about the size of the audience.

“We knew that going into this year, the tweaks that had been made over the last couple years and then getting back to the first year of the cycle again, with the semis on Jan. 1, was going to be a very favorable circumstance,” Magnus said.

Continuing that ratings success could be difficult for ESPN with an all-Southeastern Conference championship game Jan. 8 matching Alabama and Georgia in Atlanta. The all-SEC championship after the 2011 season between Alabama and LSU was the lowest-rated title game in the Bowl Championship Series’ 16-year history.

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