Football fans are not anywhere close to cutting their cable cords.
The biggest audiences in cable TV history tuned in to ESPN’s new college football playoffs on New Year’s day, suggesting that while many consumers may want to drop their cable subscriptions, sports broadcasts are the most powerful force keeping them tied to providers like Comcast and Verizon.
For the Rose Bowl Game, 28.2 million viewers watched Oregon defeat Florida State 59-20, according to Nielsen. The All State Sugar Bowl brought in 28.3 million viewers as Ohio State took over top-seeded Alabama 42-35.
Those number are bigger than ever. The Rose Bowl audience grew 45 percent and the Sugar Bowl saw a 130 percent increase in viewers compared to last year. ESPN said it expects record-breaking audiences for the Oregon-Ohio State college football playoffs on Monday, January 12.
Then on Saturday, the NFL Wild Card game between the Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals ranked eighth in overall viewers in cable history. The game brought in 21.7 million viewers.
The huge audience numbers come as consumers are increasingly cutting their cable subscriptions for online services. HBO, Showtime and other cable networks have announced plans to offer stand-alone streaming services to chase after cord cutters and younger audiences who are leery of paying for bundles of channels.
But even those trends have bounced off ESPN, which has signed on long-term exclusive deals with the NBA, NFL and other leagues that the company hopes will keep audiences coming.
“These record-setting numbers illustrate the enormous fan interest in college football and the wide-ranging appeal of the new College Football Playoff format,” said John Wildhack, ESPN executive vice president of programming and production. “We are excited to build upon this success.”