League logos

Dawgs, Frogs Summit College Football Mountain

College Football Playoff Games Collectively Draw 46.8M Viewers

Anlayses of

No items found.
College Football
Social Media
January 25, 2023
January 25, 2023
 min read

When the college football season kicked off last fall, the goal inside every locker room across the country was to be playing on January 9 at SoFi Stadium with a national championship on the line. By then, the grind of spring practices and fall camps was in the rearview mirror and it was time to begin a journey that would require near-perfection to achieve collective dreams. But for most players and teams, such aspirations were unrealistic. Coming into any season, true contenders are typically well-known commodities with high expectations and a wealth of experience in marquee matchups. Such was the case for the University of Georgia, whose Bulldogs were still riding the high of a national championship eight months earlier – their first in more than four decades. Big Ten powers Michigan and Ohio State – each of which had made a CFP appearance in the previous two years – also entered the season with top-10 rankings. As many expected, UGA, Michigan, and Ohio State all completed tremendous regular seasons, with only one loss among them, en route to the 2022 College Football Playoff. But the fourth entrant into the field was off the radar as the season began. TCU did not receive a single vote in the Associated Press preseason poll and was picked to finish seventh out of 10 Big XII teams by the media. Nevertheless, the Horned Frogs turned their postseason dreams into reality by completing an unblemished regular season and earning a No. 3 national ranking by the selection committee in early December. The stage was set for drama and excitement across the national semifinals and CFP Championship. We used MVP’s omnichannel platform to examine viewership totals from each game, year-over-year comparisons, DMA breakdowns among the competing schools’ markets, and various social metrics from all four teams’ owned accounts throughout the playoffs. We determined interest was widespread from the opening kickoff in Glendale, Arizona, on New Year’s Eve through the final whistle in Southern California nine days later, as the trio of CFP contests collectively drew 46.8 million household viewers.

CFP Semifinals Enjoy YoY Audience Spike

The College Football Playoff as a whole experienced negligible audience growth this year – a mere 199,123 additional viewers across three games – but the semifinal matchups had considerably higher viewership than in 2021. While the bowl games and locations were different, they were all played on New Year’s Eve and broadcast by ESPN, affording MVP the opportunity to make reasonable comparisons among them. Our broadcast platform revealed this season’s contests drew 2.51 million more combined viewers. Airing at 4 p.m. ET, the 2022 Vrbo Fiesta Bowl contested by undefeated Michigan and TCU was watched in 14.27 million households – an 11% jump compared to last season’s early game, the Goodyear Cotton Bowl between Alabama and Cincinnati. Additionally, viewership for the late semifinal pitting Georgia against Ohio State in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl jumped to 15.08 million, outpacing the 2021 Capital One Orange Bowl – in which Georgia defeated Michigan – by 7.8%.

The thrilling semifinal matchups ultimately led to upset-minded TCU facing Georgia with an opportunity to dethrone the defending champion in Los Angeles. Like it did for the 2022 National Championship, ESPN broadcast the game across its family of networks in different formats as a MegaCast. Its flagship station carried the main telecast, while ESPN2 offered a broadcast from the field hosted by Pat McAfee, ESPNU delivered a Command Center presentation with various camera angles and statistics shown, and ESPNews showcased a SkyCast with views from above the playing field. Across the four channels, the only difference between 2022 and 2023 was ESPN2’s coverage. Last season, the network carried a Film Room broadcast with Texas A&M Head Coach Jimbo Fisher. Unfortunately for viewers, the 2023 title game was far less compelling than the 2022 championship, with Georgia earning a resounding 65-7 victory. Perhaps as a result, viewership dipped year-over-year overall. Total viewership numbered 17.45 million households earlier this month, an 11.7% decline. The difference was even more dramatic on ESPN’s main telecast, where 15.15 million total household viewers represented a 15.7% drop. However, one bright spot for the Worldwide Leader in Sports was its “Field Pass with the Pat McAfee Show” presentation. Viewership on ESPN2 totaled 1.63 million, a 68.9% jump from the 962,885 who watched Jimbo Fisher’s film room during Georgia’s victory over Alabama in 2022.

Want to stay updated with the latest in sponsorship measurement trends?

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Dallas-Fort Worth Dominates DMA Rankings

Underdog stories captivate most audiences, but when the underdog calls one of the five largest media markets in the U.S. home, viewership in the area swells. Unsurprisingly, Dallas-Fort Worth had the highest audience totals among hometown DMAs for any CFP participant over the past two seasons. Household viewers tuning in for the 2022 Vrbo Fiesta Bowl from Dallas-Fort Worth numbered 793,967 – at least 58.9% more than any other school’s market achieved during respective semifinal appearances included in our study. Atlanta occupied the second and third spots in semifinal DMA rankings, with 499,552 watching the 2022 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and 495,998 watching the 2021 Capital One Orange Bowl. TCU’s market in the Lone Star State also had the largest audience overall for either of the last two championship games, with 1.18 million watching across ESPN’s four main broadcasts. Notably, Atlanta audiences declined year-over-year by 5.2% to 678,761.

MVP also monitored trends among home markets from one semifinal to the next. We noticed a remarkable difference between the DMAs of the first semifinal’s winner compared to its loser. ESPN lost only 0.8% of viewers in the Birmingham market encompassing Tuscaloosa after Alabama advanced to the 2022 National Championship as fans demonstrated interest in who the Crimson Tide’s eventual opponent would be. Similarly, after TCU defeated Michigan this season, the Dallas-Fort Worth audience dropped by only 0.3% for the late game. Conversely, audience totals in Cincinnati last season and Detroit – Michigan’s home DMA – this season declined by 19.2% and 7.3%, respectively, after the Bearcats and Wolverines lost their semifinal games. Furthermore, Detroit experienced a slight decline overall from year-to-year despite Michigan competing in both playoffs. Household viewership in the Motor City fell 4.7% from 444,478 for last year’s Capital One Orange Bowl to 423,438 for the 2022 Vrbo Fiesta Bowl.

Georgia Fans Repeat Strong Social Support

For the second consecutive year, the team that raised the CFP trophy also wore the social crown. We explored various social media metrics for the competing teams’ owned social channels from the Sunday when the field was announced through a day following National Championship Monday. And once again, Georgia led all entities in social engagements, impressions, and post value. Moreover, the Bulldogs improved on their performance from only a year ago. During the 2022-2023 cycle, they earned 6.36 million engagements while creating 120.5 million impressions, representing 16.1% and 10.5% boosts, respectively. The figures helped generate $2.69M worth of post value from 699 total posts. Immediately following UGA in the post value rankings was Michigan, which increased its total by 3.28x year-over-year to $2.61M. A playoff cycle removed from finishing third in all major social metrics – behind UGA and Alabama in 2021-2022 – Michigan elevated its standing to second in engagements, impressions, post value, and engagement rate despite falling short of the title game. TCU ranked fourth in the major social accounting statistics but performed admirably online relative to its following. With only 545,411 total followers, TCU trailed each of its counterparts in the category by at least 1.88 million – and Michigan by 2.51 million. Nevertheless, TCU was responsible for 17.5% of all social post value from the four teams this season as a result of earning the top overall engagement rate – 2.74%.

Confetti Continues to Rain for UGA

In a year filled with parity and upsets, Georgia proved its 2022 national championship was no fluke, dispatching all comers this season to earn a second consecutive title. The team and its fan base displayed unparalleled passion and pride by winning on the field and dominating our social media rankings throughout the College Football Playoff. And while TCU came up short on the season’s final night, supporters in the Dallas-Fort Worth market showed their school spirit by outpacing every other DMA in viewership rankings during the Horned Frogs’ magical run. MVP’s media measurement expertise proved both fan bases to be worthy finalists. We will continue to monitor the college football landscape as the 2023 season approaches, but stay connected with us for further college sports insights from the hardwood on the immediate horizon.

Contact Us

What to Expect

Let's have a call to understand your measurement goals.

Take a look at our product and methodology with a demo.

Align our products and services to your needs in a tailored package.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

You May Also Like