ESPN yields biggest cable TV audience ever with College Football Playoff semis

While its multichannel brethren struggle with eroded audience ratings amid a flurry of OTT competition, the consolidated live sports programming power of Disney's ESPN is yielding far more positive results.

The latest example was the Jan. 2 coverage of the NCAA's first ever College Football Playoff semi-finals, with the two games producing the biggest cable TV audiences of all time.

The afternoon Rose Bowl contest featuring Oregon's 59-20 demolition of Florida State set a new record by averaging 28.2 million viewers. That mark was broken only hours later, when Ohio State's 42-35 Sugar Bowl upset of Alabama averaged 28.3 million viewers.

ESPN has the opportunity to set yet another record on Jan. 12, when Oregon and Ohio State meet in the College Football Playoff title game.

Disney is paying the NCAA more than $5.6 billion over the next 12 years for exclusive coverage of the entire college football postseason, which also includes myriad minor bowl games.

Disney is simultaneously benefiting from its multibillion-dollar agreement with the NFL. On Saturday, ESPN's coverage of the NFC Wild Card game featuring Carolina's 27-16 defeat of Arizona generated an average of 21.67 million viewers, making it the eighth highest rated cable programming event ever.

For more:
- read this Deadline Hollywood story
- read this Multichannel News story

Related links:
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PwC: Number of young-adult pay-TV subscribers dropped 6% in one year
Nielsen: Broadband homes without pay-TV up 155% since Oct. 2013
Nielsen to begin measuring Netflix and Amazon viewership
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