Michigan-Alabama Rose Bowl draws massive rating, CFP semis most-watched in six years

On3 imageby:Andrew Graham01/02/24

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Michigan beats Alabama in a CLASSIC Rose Bowl

Be it iconic uniforms, the storied history, the classic location, the perfect weather, the compelling football, the characters or the massive stakes, the Rose Bowl semifinal matchup of the College Football Playoff between Alabama and Michigan had all the makings of a ratings behemoth. And the granddaddy of the all delivered a massive ratings number.

The Rose Bowl audience peaked at 32.8 million viewers, according to ESPN, the highest of any CFP semifinal. The final rating figure came in at 27.2 million viewers, making it the most-viewed semifinal game since the first year of the CFP.

Beyond that, it was the most-viewed non-NFL sporting event in five years and ranked as a Top 10 cable telecast all-time, per ESPN.

While it didn’t pull nearly as big of a number, the Sugar Bowl matchup between Texas and Washington in the late semifinal was one of the most-watched non-NFL sporting events in the last year and one of the top-rated Sugar Bowls since 2004. All told, 18.4 million viewers tuned in with a peak of 24.5 million.

The Sugar Bowl viewership was also likely dinged by the late start time — scheduled at 8:45 p.m. EST and delayed due to the Rose Bowl going into overtime — as the game didn’t conclude until well after midnight on the East Coast.

And on the whole, the CFP semifinals were the most-watched in six years, per ESPN, with 22.6 million viewers tuning in.

All the rating figures cited by ESPN came via Nielsen Fast Nationals ratings.

ESPN issued an apology after a NSFW snafu during the Sugar Bowl broadcast

Airing any live footage of Bourbon Street in New Orleans after dark is a risk, and it’s one ESPN chose to take during the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day. A transition shot from the commercial break back to the action in the second half of the game on Monday night resulted in the airing of a woman briefly flashing her breasts before the camera panned away.

Despite the game going into the late hours on Monday, the vast audience of college football fans at home quickly picked up on the network’s FCC misstep. ESPN released a statement of apology on Tuesday via the Associated Press.

“We regret that this happened and apologize that the video aired in the telecast,” ESPN’s Bill Hofheimer said in a statement to the AP.

Even though there are often children out on Bourbon Street, especially during major events, it’s not uncommon for body parts to get flashed in exchange for the colorful Mardi Gras beads. It is rare for those moments to become viral social media fodder, however.

Few who witnessed Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime “wardrobe malfunction” will ever forget it. That particular boob exposure led to a $550,000 fine for CBS from the FCC, which was later voided by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

On3’s Nikki Chavanelle contributed to this report