2016 Report: Passion for College Football Remains Strong with Impressive Ratings and Attendance
Continued rise of digital streaming, network viewership and solid attendance numbers signal extreme passion for the sport across the country.
IRVING, Texas (April 19, 2017) - The National Football Foundation (NFF) & College Hall of Fame highlighted today numerous powerful facts from the 2016 college football season that emphasize the strong popularity of college football among millions of fans across the country.
"The already intense interest in college football continues to grow," said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. "Embracing ever changing technology, the leaders of our sport have done a spectacular job in ensuring that the fan experience not only keeps pace but sets the standard in innovation. We are grateful to the conferences, bowl games and the media for their creativity and commitment in delivering a first-class product that allows fans to experience the game in every imaginable way."
The top highlights include:
Digital Era Continues to Grow:
The 2016 college football season continued the increasing trend of fans watching games through means other than traditional outlets. ESPN college football games were streamed on 15,128,000 unique devices during the 2016 college football regular season, setting a new ESPN college football regular season record and surpassing last year's record by more than 17 percent. ESPN streamed its four most-watched regular season games ever this season and eight of the 10 most ever, and the network saw its five most-streamed college football regular season weeks ever this season. FOX Sports GO also saw increased streaming numbers, including significant online audiences for the Big Ten and Pac-12 championships.
The College Football Playoff (CFP) National Championship set ESPN records for a college football game in streaming average audience, unique viewers and total minutes watched, with the stream's 2,413,000 unique viewers marking ESPN's third best across all sports, trailing only two USA World Cup games. Streaming audiences for the three CFP games (championship and two semifinals) and the entire New Year's Six were the highest in the three years of the CFP model.
Major Networks See Steady Growth in Viewership:
For the eighth consecutive year the SEC on CBS was the highest-rated regular season college football package on any network, boasting a 3.4 average rating.
ABC's Saturday Night Football was the most-watched college football franchise on any network this season, delivering an average total live audience** of 6.087 million viewers and a 3.5 rating, seeing increases in its TV and streaming audiences.
The 117th Army-Navy Game on CBS was the highest-rated and most-watched game between the rivals since 1999 and 1992, respectively.
More than 179 million fans (weeks 1-13) watched more than 100 billion minutes of college football games on ESPN's Nielsen-rated television networks, an increase from the 2015 season. ESPN's networks had their best opening weekend ever, reaching more than 81 million fans from Sept. 1-5. Michigan at Ohio State on ABC was the most-watched game of the season on any network, generating a total live audience** of 17.12 million viewers and setting both television and streaming records in the process.
FOX Sports recorded its most-watched college football season ever in 2016 with an average audience of 1.32 million viewers on the FOX broadcast network and FS1. FS1 saw a huge jump in 2016, with a 23 percent viewership increase over 2015.
NCAA Programs Attract More Than 49 Million Fans:
The 668 NCAA football programs (FBS, FCS, DII and DIII) drew 49,315,857 fans at home games, neutral-site games and postseason games in 2016, an increase of 257,891 total fans over the 2015 season. The numbers symbolize a phenomenal increase of 158 percent from the 19,134,159 fans that the NCAA reported when they first started collecting attendance figures in 1948*. The American Athletic Conference and the Sun Belt set records for single-season total attendance. Division II attracted a single-season record 3,217,080 total fans in 2016.
The 41 bowl games this season (including the CFP National Championship) attracted 1,710,424 spectators to the stands (41,718 per contest), and 16 bowl games had crowds in excess of 45,000. In all, 20 bowl games reported larger crowds in 2016.
The game has benefited enormously from the commitment of every major media sports outlet, including the ABC, American Sports Network,beIN Sports, Big Ten Network, BYUtv, CBS, CBS Sports Network, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPN3, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, FOX Sports, FOX Sports 1, FOX Sports 2, FOX College Sports, FOX Sports Net, Longhorn Network, NBC, NBC Sports Network, Pac-12 Networks, Root Sports, SEC Network and multiple regional and local outlets. Throughout the regular and bowl seasons, these outlets continue to capitalize on college football's ever-increasing popularity to produce an increasingly dynamic product that engages fans on new levels.
Regular Season Attendance Highlights
The overall attendance for NCAA football games across all divisions (FBS, FCS, Division II, Division III) drew 49,315,857 fans at home games, neutral-site games and postseason games in 2016, an increase of 257,891 total fans more than the 2015 season.
The Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) drew 38,073,667 spectators for an average of 43,612 fans per game. The Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) pulled in 5,473,956 fans, followed by Division II with a single-season record of 3,217,080 and Division III with 2,415,429.
The SEC led all FBS conferences in average attendance for the 19th consecutive year with 77,507 fans per home game, with 7,518,208 total fans attending SEC games in 2016.
The top-five conferences for average attendance included the SEC (77,507), Big Ten (66,151), Big 12 (57,531) Pac-12 (50,073) and ACC (49,734).
The American Athletic Conference (2,434,050) and the Sun Belt Conference (1,137,573) set conference records for single-season total attendance.
Michigan led the FBS with an average attendance of 110,468 fans per home game in 2016. Six other programs also averaged more than 100,000: Ohio State (107,278), Texas A&M (101,917), Alabama (101,821), LSU (101,231), Tennessee (100,968) and Penn State (100,257). Texas (97,881), Georgia (92,746) and Nebraska (90,200) rounded out the top ten.
Other universities with more than 80,000 fans per home game included Florida (87,846), Auburn (86,937), Oklahoma (86,857), Clemson (80,970) and Notre Dame (80,795).
Michigan has led the nation in individual average game attendance for all but one year since 1974 when in 2014 both Ohio State and Texas A&M notched higher totals.
Seventeen teams had average attendances at or over capacity, including Appalachian State (113 percent), Oklahoma (106), Ohio State (105), Kansas State (104), Nebraska (104), Michigan (103), Baylor (102), Utah (102), Ole Miss (101), Oregon (101), Alabama (100), Georgia (100), Michigan State (100), North Carolina State (100), Notre Dame (100), Old Dominion (100) and TCU (100).
At the FBS level, 76 percent of the top 25 attendance leaders experienced increases or remained the same.
Thirteen teams experienced an average attendance increase of at least 15 percent in 2016, including Eastern Michigan (up 261 percent), Georgia State (46), North Texas (46), South Florida (41), UMass (30), San Diego State (28), Miami [Fla.] (23), Western Michigan (23), Appalachian State (22), Colorado (18), Wyoming (18), UCF (16) and Houston (15).
Alabama led all teams with 1,365,657 fans attending 15 games in 2016 (including all home games, away games, neutral site games and the postseason). Twelve other teams also eclipsed more than one million spectators during the season: Michigan (1,260,897), Tennessee (1,248,060), Ohio State (1,220,416), Texas A&M (1,175,229), Penn State (1,167,449), LSU (1,098,072), Auburn (1,070,171), Clemson (1,058,626), Nebraska (1,047,833), Florida (1,037,498), Georgia (1,030,318) and Wisconsin (1,009,017).
Old Dominion sold-out of season tickets for the eighth-straight season. After reinstating football in 2009, Old Dominion is the only Division I program to sell out every home game it has ever played, attracting 120,708 fans to its six home games in 2016.
With 58,572 fans per home game, Miami (Fla.) saw a 23 percent increase in average attendance for its best average since 2004.
Montana again claimed the FCS attendance title, drawing 152,261 fans for an average of 25,377 per home game. James Madison (19,844), Florida A&M (19,710), Jackson State (19,660) and North Dakota State (18,556) rounded out the top five in average attendance.
Grand Valley State (Mich.) captured the Division II attendance title for the third year in a row, attracting 100,388 fans for an average of 12,549 per game. Tuskegee (Ala.) with 10,130; Miles (Ala.) with 9,624; Pittsburg State (Kan.) with 9,612; and Fort Valley State (Ga.) with 8,850 rounded out the top five in average attendance.
Saint John's (Minn.) led Division III in attendance for the 15th time in the last 16 seasons, attracting 46,719 fans for an average of 7,787 per game. Rounding out the top five in average attendance were Wisconsin-Whitewater with 5,718; Wabash (Ind.) with 5,512; Wesleyan (Conn.) with 5,280; and Hampden-Sydney (Va.) with 5,125.
The Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) earned its 38th FCS attendance title in 39 years, averaging 14,132 fans for a total of 678,355. The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) again netted the Division II attendance title, averaging 7,689 fans per game. The Minnesota Intercollegiate Conference claimed its 11th attendance title in 12 years with 3,193 fans per game.
Regular Season Ratings Highlights
For the eighth consecutive year the SEC on CBS was the highest-rated regular season college football package on any network. CBS Sports' national coverage of SEC football averaged a national household rating/share of 3.4/8, topping all other networks.
ABC's Saturday Night Football claimed the distinction as the most-watched college football franchise on any network this season, delivering an average total live audience** of 6,087,000 viewers and a 3.5 rating. Saturday Night Football's TV audience (5,996,000 viewers) increased 10 percent from last season and the streaming average audience is up 81 percent (91,000 viewers).
FOX Sports recorded its most-watched college football season ever in 2016 with an average audience of 1,320,000 viewers on the FOX broadcast network and FS1, representing a combined viewership increase of 11 percent over the 2015 season.
More than 179,000,000 fans (weeks 1-13) watched more than 100 billion minutes of college football games on ESPN's Nielsen-rated television networks (ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, and ESPN Deportes), an increase in fans watching college football games on ESPN's TV networks from the 2015 regular season.
ESPN college football games were streamed on 15,128,000 unique devices during the 2016 college football regular season, setting a new ESPN college football regular season record and surpassing last year's then-record setting year by more than 17 percent.
Across all games and timeslots, ABC generated a total live audience** of 5,175,000 viewers per game (44 games), up 4 percent per game from last season (42 games). The streaming average minute audience for games televised on ABC grew by 53 percent this season.
Michigan at Ohio State on ABC (Nov. 26) was the most-watched game of the season on any network, generating an impressive total live audience** of 17,120,000 viewers, setting both television and streaming records in the process.
ABC's TV audience (16,841,000 viewers) is the highest for a regular season college football noon ET kickoff across all networks on record and ABC's second most-viewed game out of 793 game windows, dating back to 1991.
ESPN's stream had an average minute audience of 279,000 viewers with a total of 1,273,000 unique viewers watching 69,661,000 minutes, ESPN's most-streamed regular season college football game ever in all three metrics.
Rounding out the top five most-watched games on television of the 2016 college football season were Alabama-Florida on CBS (11,093,000 viewers on Dec. 3); Notre Dame-Texas on ABC (10,945,000 viewers on Sept. 4); Alabama-LSU on CBS (10,385,000 viewers on Nov. 5); and Louisville-Clemson on ABC (9,286,000 viewers on Oct. 1).
ESPN's networks had its best opening weekend ever, reaching more than 81,000,000 fans from Sept. 1-5, which included airing the most-watched kickoff weekend game across all networks dating back to at least 1991.
ESPN's streaming average minute audience was up 31 percent per game compared to last season for games on ESPN's Nielsen-rated networks (ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, and ESPN Deportes). Across all networks, ESPN streaming average minute audience was up 24 percent, unique devices up 19 percent and minutes up 24 percent, per game.
ESPN streamed its four most-watched regular season games ever this season and eight of the 10 most ever, led by Michigan-Ohio State (279,000 average minute audience on Nov. 26); Ole Miss-Florida State (231,000 on Sept. 5); Louisville-Clemson (200,000 on Oct. 1); and Notre Dame-Texas (194,000 on Sept. 4).
Including the record-setting opening week, ESPN saw its five most-streamed college football regular season weeks ever this season.
FS1 saw a huge jump in 2016, with a 23 percent viewership increase over 2015. The Red River Showdown, an exciting 45-40 win for Oklahoma over Texas on Oct. 8, led this season's schedule, drawing 2,788,000 viewers to make it the second most-watched college football game in FS1 history.
On the FOX broadcast network, Ohio State's win over Oklahoma on Sept. 17, attracted 5,804,000 viewers to make it the network's third most-watched regular-season college football telecast ever.
On championship weekend, the Pac-12 Championship Game between Washington and Colorado on Dec. 2 delivered 5,671,000 viewers on FOX, a 120 percent increase over the 2015 game. It is the second most-watched Pac-12 Championship Game in history.
On FOX Sports GO, the Big Ten Championship Game (Penn State-Wisconsin) attracted 171,803 unique streamers and 11,556,470 minutes streamed, while the Pac-12 Championship (Washington-Colorado) drew 132,462 unique streamers and 8,892,591 minutes streamed, and Bedlam (Oklahoma-Oklahoma State) brought in 100,182 unique streamers and 6,606,981 minutes streamed.
CBS' coverage of the 117th Army-Navy Game earned a 5.0 final rating and 7.9 million viewers, making it the highest rated and most-watched game between the rivals since 1999 and 1992, respectively. The broadcast marked the sixth straight year that the game's ratings have hit at least a 10-year high, and it was the final college football game called by 2011 NFF Outstanding Contribution to Amateur Football Award recipient, Verne Lundquist.
For the 15th consecutive year, Birmingham, Ala., was the No. 1 local market for games that aired on ESPN. Combining the rating for games on ESPN and ABC, Birmingham remains the No. 1 local market with Columbus, Ohio, at No. 2.
Postseason Attendance Highlights
The 41 bowl games (including the CFP National Championship) this season attracted 1,710,424 spectators to the stands (41,718 per contest).
The FCS attracted 192,034 fans to its 23 playoff games for an average of 8,349 per game. The Division II tournament drew 100,869 fans for an average of 3,736 over 27 games. The Division III playoffs attracted 52,754 for an average of 1,702 over 31 games.
The Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual ranked as the highest-attended bowl game for the second year in a row, with 95,128 fans watching Southern California's 52-49 shootout win over Penn State.
Six other bowl games attracted more than 67,000 fans: CFP Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (75,996); CFP National Championship (74,512); CFP Semifinal at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl (71,279); Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl (68,496); AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl (68,412); and Capital One Orange Bowl (67,432).
The CFP Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl between Alabama and Washington attracted 75,996 fans, setting a Peach Bowl and Georgia Dome record.
The PlayStation Fiesta Bowl (71,279 - CFP Semifinal) and the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl (68,496) each had their highest attendance since 2010.
The Belk Bowl (46,902), Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (24,975) and Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl (40,542) all attracted their largest crowds since 2012.
The R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (35,061), Russell Athletic Bowl (48,625) and Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl (39,117) had their largest attendance figures since 2013. The Heart of Dallas Bowl's attendance was a 93 percent increase from last year while the New Orleans Bowl's attendance was the fourth largest crowd in its history.
The Capital One Orange Bowl between Michigan and Florida State attracted a sellout crowd of 67,432 fans.
The AutoNation Cure Bowl and NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl both saw increases in attendance in their second year of existence. The Cure Bowl attracted 27,213 fans to the game between Central Florida and Arkansas State, a 47 percent increase from its inaugural game last season. The Arizona Bowl between Air Force and South Alabama had 33,868 fans in attendance, a 66 percent increase from its inaugural edition.
In all, 20 of the 41 bowl games (49 percent) reported higher crowd totals than last season.
Sixteen bowl games had crowds in excess of 45,000: Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual (95,128); CFP Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (75,996); CFP National Championship (74,512); CFP Semifinal at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl (71,279); Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl (68,496); AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl (68,412); Capital One Orange Bowl (67,432); Valero Alamo Bowl (59,815); Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic (59,615); Allstate Sugar Bowl (54,077); Outback Bowl (51,119); AutoZone Liberty Bowl (51,087); National Funding Holiday Bowl (48,704); Russell Athletic Bowl (48,625); Belk Bowl (46,902); and Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl (46,063).
Eight bowl games increased attendance by more than 4,500 fans above last season. Leading the way were the Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl, which increased from 20,229 to 39,117 fans (up by 18,888), and the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, which increased from 50,478 to 68,496 fans (up by 18,018).
The 2016 Marathon MAC Championship Game at Ford Field in Detroit between Western Michigan and Ohio drew a crowd of 45,615 fans, the most ever in the 20-year history of the game. The previous largest audience the MAC championship game was 28,085 in 1998, when Marshall hosted Toledo on its campus.
Postseason Ratings Highlights
The College Football Playoff (CFP) National Championship between Clemson and Alabama on Jan. 9 delivered a total live audience** across the multi-network MegaCast (TV feeds and streaming) of 26,029,000 viewers, making it the most-watched event carried on a cable network since the 2016 CFP National Championship between the same two teams.
On just ESPN, the CFP National Championship drew 24,391,000 viewers, making it the eighth most-watched cable telecast of all time. The game had a combined 14.2 final rating and 25.3 million viewers across ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU.
The CFP National Championship boasted a streaming average audience of 710,000 viewers with 2,413,000 unique viewers watching 182,575,000 minutes - setting new highs in all three categories for a college football game. The streaming audience was up 21 percent, 25 percent and 30 percent, respectively, in average minute audience, unique viewers and total minutes watched from last season's national championship.
The CFP National Championship stream's 2,413,000 unique viewers are ESPN's third best across all sports, trailing only two USA World Cup games.
The three CFP games (two semifinals and the national championship) had a streaming audience of 535,000 average viewers, with 1,655,000 unique viewers watching 120,090,000 minutes. The three-game streaming audience is up 39 percent, 25 percent, and 38 percent, respectively, in average minute audience, unique viewers and total minutes watched. The streaming average is the best in the three years of the CFP, surpassing the first year by 100 percent, 65 percent and 98 percent, respectively.
The three CFP games (two semifinals and the national championship) averaged a 12.7 overnight rating, up 8 percent from last season's three games.
The CFP three-game (two semifinals and the national championship) total live audience** average was 22,230,000 viewers, up 9 percent from last season's same three game total live audience average (20,331,000 viewers).
Factoring in the entire New Year's Six, the seven games (New Year's Six and the national championship) averaged a 9.0 overnight rating, up 8 percent from last season.
Factoring in the entire New Year's Six, the seven games (New Year's Six and the national championship) had streaming audience of 355,000 average viewers, with 1,155,000 unique viewers watching 79,095,000 minutes. The streaming audience is up 49 percent, 30 percent and 48 percent, respectively, in average audience minute audience, unique viewers and total minutes watched. The streaming average is the best in the three years of the new system, surpassing the first year by 132 percent, 96 percent and 130 percent, respectively.
Factoring in the entire New Year's Six, the seven games (New Year's Six and the national championship) averaged a total live audience** of 16,044,000 viewers, up 15 percent from last season's seven game total live audience average (14,004,000 viewers).
The CFP Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl between Washington and Alabama, which aired on Dec. 31 on ESPN and ESPN2, delivered an 11.5 overnight rating. Streaming added an additional average minute audience of 470,000 viewers with 1,378,000 unique viewers watching a total of 96,860,000 minutes. The overnight rating was up 17 percent from last season's CFP Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl between Clemson and Oklahoma, which also aired on both ESPN and ESPN2 in the afternoon on Dec. 31. The streaming audience was up 57 percent, 16 percent and 40% percent, respectively, in average minute audience, unique viewers and total minutes watched from last year's Tigers-Sooners game.
The CFP Semifinal at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl between Ohio State and Clemson, which aired Dec. 31 on ESPN and ESPN2, delivered a 10.5 overnight rating. Streaming added an additional average minute audience of 410,000 viewers with 1,174,000 unique viewers watching a total of 86,075,000 minutes. The overnight rating was up 5 percent from last season's CFP Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic between Michigan State and Alabama, which also aired on ESPN and ESPN2 in primetime on Dec. 31. The streaming audience was up 29 percent, 12 percent and 32 percent, respectively, in average minute audience, unique viewers and total minutes watched from last year's Spartans-Crimson Tide game.
Solely on ESPN, both CFP Semifinals also saw overnight increases. The Huskies-Crimson Tide overnight earned a 10.9 overnight, up 12 percent from last year's first semifinal (9.7) and the Buckeyes-Tigers earned a 10.0 overnight on ESPN, up from last year's Spartans-Crimson Tide game (9.9).
Together, the CFP Semifinals averaged an 11.0 overnight (ESPN and ESPN2), up 11 percent from last year's semifinals on the same two networks. On ESPN alone, the doubleheader averaged a 10.4 overnight, up 6 percent from last year's doubleheader (9.8). The streaming average minute audience for the two games averaged 440,000 viewers, up 41 percent from last year (313,000 viewers).
The Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual between USC and Penn State on Jan. 2 delivered a total live audience** of 16,040,000 viewers, making it the most-watched non-CFP semifinal New Year's Six game ever. The last-minute USC victory saw a viewership increase of 17 percent from last year's Rose Bowl Game between Stanford and Iowa. The game netted a TV rating of 8.6.
During the Rose Bowl Game, Philadelphia (16.7) set a new market record for the game, while in Pittsburgh (17.0) and Los Angeles (14.9) it was the second highest-rated bowl game ever on ESPN.
The Allstate Sugar Bowl between Auburn and Oklahoma, played Jan. 2 on ESPN, generated a total live audience** of 9,713,000 viewers, up 7 percent from last year's Sugar Bowl between Oklahoma State and Mississippi. The game netted a TV rating of 5.6.
The Outback Bowl between Florida and Iowa drew a 3.6 rating and 6,104,000 viewers to ABC, which are increases of 111 percent and 116 percent, respectively, over last year's Outback Bowl between Tennessee and Northwestern (1.7 rating, 2,821,000 viewers).
The Belk Bowl on ESPN between Virginia Tech and Arkansas scored a 2.9 rating with 4,963,000 viewers, increases of 32 percent and 42 percent, respectively, compared to last year's Belk Bowl between Mississippi State and North Carolina State (2.2 rating, 3,501,000 viewers).
The Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl between Louisiana Tech and Navy on ESPN achieved a 1.5 rating with 2,341,000 viewers, the second-largest audience for the bowl game since 2007.
The Quick Lane Bowl between Boston College and Maryland drew 3,019,000 viewers to ESPN while earning a 1.9 rating. Those figures are up 103 percent and 111 percent, respectively, over last year's Quick Lane Bowl between Minnesota and Central Michigan (1,486,000 viewers, 0.9 rating).
The Dollar General Bowl between Troy and Ohio on ESPN drew a 1.5 rating and 2,512,000 viewers, making it the most-watched edition of the bowl since the 2010-11 season. The game was previously known as the GoDaddy Bowl.
The final edition of the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl between BYU and Wyoming on ESPN had a 1.5 rating and 2,380,000 viewers. Those figures are increases of 67 percent and 72 percent, respectively, from last year's Poinsettia Bowl between Boise State and Northern Illinois (0.9 rating, 1,382,000 viewers).
The Las Vegas Bowl presented by GEICO featuring San Diego State and Houston recorded a 2.4 rating with 3,744,000 viewers, making it the most-watched Las Vegas Bowl since 2012.
Birmingham, Ala., was the No. 1 local market for the CFP National Championship, earning a 53.6 overnight. Greenville, S.C., was the second highest local market, achieving a 35.1.
The FCS National Championship game between James Madison and Youngstown State garnered 1.6 million viewers on ESPN2, making it the most-watched FCS title game in the last five years. The viewership was up 16 percent from the 1.35 million who watched North Dakota State and Jacksonville State the year before.
The FCS quarterfinal game between South Dakota State and North Dakota State on ESPN had a 1.3 final rating and 2.0 million viewers, making it the most-watched FCS game since the 2009 game between Montana and Appalachian State (2.5 million viewers).
The Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl between Grambling State and North Carolina Central on ABC had a 1.8 final rating and 2,711,000 viewers, up a tick in ratings and 6 percent in viewership from last year's inaugural edition of the game between Alcorn State and North Carolina A&T (1.7 rating, 2,560,000 viewers).
The NCAA Division II National Championship between Northwest Missouri State and North Alabama on ESPN2 attracted 790,000 viewers, an increase of 114 percent over last year's championship between Northwest Missouri State and Shepherd (W.Va.).
ESPN networks aired 38 bowl games, all 23 games of the FCS playoffs, the semifinals and finals in both the Division II and Division III playoffs and the NAIA championship.
The four remaining bowl games were broadcast by the American Sports Network/Campus Insiders (NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl), CBS (Hyundai Sun Bowl), CBS Sports Network (AutoNation Cure Bowl) and FOX (Foster Farms Bowl).
30 bowl games each attracted more than 2 million viewers with the top ten contests each drawing more than 5 million viewers. Seventeen bowl games garnered a 2.1 or better household rating. Ratings and viewership numbers for the AutoNation Cure Bowl (CBS Sports Network) and NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl (American Sports Network/Campus Insiders) were unavailable.
Notable Bowl Facts and Milestones
Clemson's 35-31 victory over Alabama in the CFP National Championship gave the Tigers their second national title in history.
The NFF announced the 2017 College Football Hall of Fame Class as part of ESPN's SportsCenter the day of the CFP National Championship. Coach Steve Spurrier (Duke, Florida, South Carolina) represented the class on SportsCenter, and he was joined by fellow electee Peyton Manning (Tennessee) in pregame festivities and the coin toss prior to the title game. The NFF also recognized 2016 William V. Campbell Trophy winner Zach Terrell (Western Michigan) at the game.
The CFP Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl hosted the 12th Annual NFF National Hall of Fame Salute, featuring the 2016 College Football Hall of Fame Class.
Six members of the 2016 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class led their teams to the postseason. Carter Hanson led Saint John's (Minn.) to the second round of the Division III Playoffs while Brooks Ellis (Arkansas), Taysom Hill (BYU), Ryan Janvion (Wake Forest), Cooper Rush (Central Michigan) and Campbell Trophy Zach Terrell (Western Michigan) all guided their teams to an FBS bowl berth.
CBS aired the Hyundai Sun Bowl for the 49th consecutive season, the longest continuous relationship between a bowl game and one TV network. The 2016 Sun Bowl featured Stanford and North Carolina, and CBS aired a segment at halftime featuring 2016 William V. Campbell Trophy recipient Zach Terrell (Western Michigan).
The NFF inducted NFL COO Tod Leiweke into the NFF Leadership Hall of Fame at an induction dinner that kicked off the CFP National Championship weekend in Tampa, Fla.
The next three CFP National Championships will take place in Atlanta (2018), Santa Clara/Bay Area, Calif. (2019) and New Orleans (2020).
The San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl announced it will end after 12 years of existence.
Alabama made its record 64th postseason appearance.
The SEC is the first conference in college football history to send at least 10 teams to bowl games in four consecutive seasons. The conference has sent no less than eight teams to bowls in each of the last 11 seasons.
Eleven teams posted at least 45 points in their respective bowl games: Idaho (61), Tulsa (55), Hawai'i (52), Southern California (52), Western Kentucky (51), Colorado State (50), Penn State (49), Louisiana Tech (48), USF (46), Air Force (45) and Navy (45).
San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey ran for 115 yards against Houston in the Las Vegas Bowl, giving him the NCAA-FBS career rushing record with 6,405 yards.
Florida State played in a bowl game this year for the 35th consecutive year, the longest current streak in the nation, which started with the 1982 season.
The combined 111 points by Idaho (61) and Colorado State (50) in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl are the third-most in NCAA bowl history. The 84 points in the second half are the most combined in a half in any bowl game.
The combined 101 points by USC (52) and Penn State (49) are the most in Rose Bowl Game history.
Appalachian State running back Marcus Cox became the ninth FBS player ever with four 1,000-yard rushing seasons during the Mountaineers' victory in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl.
After its win in the Miami Beach Bowl, Tulsa became the first FBS school to ever feature a 3,000-yard passer, two 1,000-yard rushers and two 1,000-yard receivers in a single season.
Old Dominion won its first bowl game in school history in its first bowl appearance, defeating Eastern Michigan, 24-20, in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl. The bowl also marked Eastern Michigan's second-ever bowl appearance, and first since 1987.
Appalachian State is now 2-0 in bowl games in just two years at the FBS level after winning their second consecutive Raycom Media Camellia Bowl.
UTSA's appearance in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl marked the first bowl berth in the program's six-year history.
After its win in the Dollar General Bowl, Troy (10-3) finished off its first 10-win season since moving up to the FBS in 2001. The 28-23 victory over Ohio came in the Trojans' first bowl appearance since 2010.
Hawai'i defeated Middle Tennessee, 52-35, in the Hawai'i Bowl, earning its first bowl victory since 2006.
Miami (Ohio) became the first team in NCAA history to start 0-6 and finish the regular season 6-6. The RedHawks lost to Mississippi State in the St. Petersburg Bowl to finish 6-7.
Boston College defeated Maryland, 36-30, in the Quick Lane Bowl to earn its first bowl victory since 2007.
Wake Forest defeated Temple, 34-26, in the Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman for its first bowl victory since 2008.
Louisiana Tech won its third consecutive bowl game for the first time in program history, defeating Navy, 48-45, in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl.
Miami (Fla.) defeated West Virginia, 31-14, in the Russell Athletic Bowl to earn its first bowl victory since 2006.
Bowls celebrating notable milestones included the Las Vegas Bowl (25th), Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (20th), Belk Bowl (15th), Foster Farms Bowl (15th) and Hawai'i Bowl (15th).
The ACC led all conferences with a 9-3 record in bowl games this season, setting a new conference-record for bowl victories.
The Sun Belt notched a conference record by sending six teams to postseason bowls.
Conference USA sent a record seven teams to play in bowl games.
The 2016 season was the fourth straight year the Mountain West has sent at least seven teams to bowl games.
After knocking off five-time defending FCS National Champion North Dakota State in the semifinals, James Madison beat Youngstown State, 28-14, to claim its second FCS title in program history.
Northwest Missouri State defeated North Alabama to claim the school's sixth Division II national title, and third in the last four seasons. The Bearcats are currently in the midst of a school-record 30-game winning streak that includes back-to-back national titles.
Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) won its first-ever Division III National Championship with a 10-7 victory over Wisconsin-Oshkosh in Stagg Bowl XLIV.
Saint Francis (Ind.) claimed its first-ever NAIA national title with an impressive 38-17 victory over previously undefeated Baker (Kan.).
2016-17 Chronological Bowl Results:
Bowl Result. (Attendance) & [US HH coverage rating] & (Household Impressions) & [Viewers (P2+)]
Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl, ABC: Grambling State 10 - North Carolina Central 9. (31,096) & [1.8] & (2,171,618) & [2,711,320]
Gildan New Mexico Bowl, ESPN: New Mexico 23 - UTSA 20. (29,688) & [0.9] & (1,055,417) & [1,390,881]
Las Vegas Bowl presented by GEICO, ABC: San Diego State 34 - Houston 10. (29,286) & [2.4] & (2,822,003) & [3,743,936]
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, ESPN: Appalachian State 31 - Toledo 28. (20,300) & [0.9] & (1,078,738) & [1,482,568]
AutoNation Cure Bowl, CBS Sports Network: Arkansas State 31 - UCF 13. (27,213) & [N/A] & (N/A) & [N/A]
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, ESPN: Southern Miss 28 - Louisiana 21. (35,061) & [0.9] & (1,016,456) & [1,334,603]
Miami Beach Bowl, ESPN: Tulsa 55 - Central Michigan 10. (15,262) & [0.6] & (699,419) & [794,129]
Boca Raton Bowl, ESPN: Western Kentucky 51 - Memphis 31. (24,726) & [1.0] & (1,212,718) & [1,580,952)
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, ESPN: BYU 24 - Wyoming 21. (28,114) & [1.5] & (1,730,284) & [2,380,190]
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, ESPN: Idaho 61 - Colorado State 50. (24,975) & [0.7] & (852,990) & [1,142,835]
Popeyes Bahamas Bowl, ESPN: Old Dominion 24 - Eastern Michigan 20. (13,422) & [0.9] & (1,108,551) & [1,371,159]
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, ESPN: Louisiana Tech 48 - Navy 45. (40,542) & [1.5] & (1,741,674) & [2,341,087]
Dollar General Bowl, ESPN: Troy 28 - Ohio 23. (32,377) & [1.5] & (1,752,439) & [2,511,815]
Hawai'i Bowl, ESPN: Hawai'i 52 - Middle Tennessee 35. (23,175) & [0.7] & (877,558) & [1,359,188]
St. Petersburg Bowl, ESPN: Mississippi State 17 - Miami (Ohio) 16. (15,717) & [1.3] & (1,548,571) & [2,045,262]
Quick Lane Bowl, ESPN: Boston College 36 - Maryland 30. (19,117) & [1.9] & (2,238,193) & [3,019,352]
Camping World Independence Bowl, ESPN2: North Carolina State 41 - Vanderbilt 17. (28,995) & [0.8] & (906,516) & [1,269,647]
Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl, ESPN: Army 38 - North Texas 31. (39,117) & [1.1] & (1,305,286) & [1,615,214]
Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman, ESPN: Wake Forest 34 - Temple 26. (26,656) & [1.4] & (1,663,917) & [2,099,804]
National Funding Holiday Bowl, ESPN: Minnesota 17 - Washington State 12. (48,704) & [2.4] & (2,887,716) & [4,046,252]
Motel 6 Cactus Bowl, ESPN: Baylor 31 - Boise State 12. (33,328) & [1.4] & (1,704,612) & [2,281,713]
New Era Pinstripe Bowl, ESPN: Northwestern 31 - Pittsburgh 24. (37,918) & [1.6] & (1,935,277) & [2,254,576]
Russell Athletic Bowl, ESPN: Miami (Fla.) 31 - West Virginia 14. (48,625) & [2.5] & (2,969,271) & [3,994,299]
Foster Farms Bowl, FOX: Utah 26 - Indiana 24. (27,608) & [1.6] & (N/A) & [2,628,000]
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl, ESPN: Kansas State 33 - Texas A&M 28. (68,412) & [2.3] & (2,662,145) & [3,580,864]
Birmingham Bowl, ESPN: USF 46 - South Carolina 39. (31,229) & [1.5] & (1,808,498) & [2,307,578]
Belk Bowl, ESPN: Virginia Tech 35 - Arkansas 24. (46,902) & [2.9] & (3,457,068) & [4,963,258]
Valero Alamo Bowl, ESPN: Oklahoma State 38 - Colorado 8. (59,815) & [2.6] & (3,047,409) & [4,550,584]
AutoZone Liberty Bowl, ESPN: Georgia 31 - TCU 23. (51,087) & [2.1] & (2,495,037) & [3,128,089]
Hyundai Sun Bowl, CBS: Stanford 25 - North Carolina 23. (42,166) & [1.9] & (N/A) & [2,926,000]
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, ESPN: Tennessee 38 - Nebraska 24. (68,496) & [3.1] & (3,618,504) & [5,026,354]
NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl, American Sports Network/Campus Insiders: Air Force 45 - South Alabama 21. (33,868) & [N/A] & (N/A) & [N/A]
Capital One Orange Bowl, ESPN: Florida State 33 - Michigan 32. (67,432) & [6.2] & (7,364,503) & [11,461,317]
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl, ABC: LSU 29 - Louisville 9. (46,063) & [4.0] & (4,674,232) & [6,389,531]
TaxSlayer Bowl, ESPN: Georgia Tech 33 - Kentucky 18. (43,102) & [1.6] & (1,921,104) & [2,647,196]
CFP Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, ESPN: Alabama 24 - Washington 7. (75,996) & [10.7] & (12,696,920) & [19,344,077]
CFP Semifinal at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, ESPN: Clemson 31 - Ohio State 0. (71,279) & [9.8] & (11,579,379) & [19,236,397]
Outback Bowl, ABC: Florida 30 - Iowa 3. (51,119) & [3.6] & (4,295,224) & [6,103,608]
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, ESPN: Wisconsin 24 - Western Michigan 16. (59,615) & [3.1] & (3,712,605) & [5,441,503]
Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual, ESPN: Southern California 52 - Penn State 49. (95,128) & [8.6] & (10,191,852) & [15,739,631]
Allstate Sugar Bowl, ESPN: Oklahoma 35 - Auburn 19. (54,077) & [5.6] & (6,586,654) & [9,514,909]
CFP National Championship, ESPN: Clemson 35 - Alabama 31. (74,512) & [14.2] & (16,903,596) & [25,318,759]
The NFF would like to thank the following people for providing information for this release, including NFF Correspondent Bo Carter, the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl's Matt Garvey, the College Football Playoff's Gina Lehe, ESPN's Eric Loh, the NCAA's Christopher Radford and the FBA's Wright Waters.
Information for this release was compiled from CBS, ESPN, FOX Sports, the NCAA, Sports Media Watch, and releases from bowl games and football-playing conferences, universities and colleges.
*The NCAA began keeping national home football attendance in 1948 (including non-NCAA teams) and started keeping NCAA-only teams in 1978.
Total live audience on ESPN includes TV viewership and streaming feeds.