Even though it featured two of the biggest name brands in college football, Monday night's national championship game didn't draw as large of a TV audience as usual.
Alabama's 52-24 win over Ohio State drew an audience of 18.7 million TV viewers, the lowest for any national championship game since the national championship game began with the Bowl Championship Series in 1998.
The national championship game also drew less viewership than both Ohio State's Sugar Bowl win over Clemson (19.1 million) and Alabama's Rose Bowl over Notre Dame (18.9 million), though it was the most-watched non-NFL sporting event of the past year other than the College Football Playoff semifinals.
Monday night's showdown between #GoBuckeyes & #RollTide registered 18.7 million viewers across ESPN's MegaCast coverage— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) January 12, 2021
The @CFBPlayoff semis & championship are cable's best telecasts & the best non-NFL sporting events across all networks since the 2020 #NationalChampionship pic.twitter.com/IEqUpMj2bx
Previously, the least-watched national championship game came at the end of the 2004 season, when USC blew out Oklahoma 55-19 in the final game of the season.
Monday night's lower-than-usual TV ratings likely resulted from a combination of factors. TV ratings have been down across all sports during the COVID-19 pandemic – for example, ratings for the wild card round of the NFL playoffs were down 22% this past weekend – and the lopsided nature of Monday's game certainly didn't help. And while Ohio State and Alabama are typically large ratings draws because of their massive fan bases, the TV ratings could be an indicator of national fatigue from watching those teams in the CFP.
The semifinals drawing higher ratings than the national championship game probably stemmed in part from those games being played on a holiday – New Year's Day – rather than a Monday night, but previous national championship games dating back to the BCS have also been played on Mondays.