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Return to New Year’s Day Boosts ESPN Bowl Games

With the college football playoff semifinals returning to New Year’s Day, ratings on ESPN jumped from last year when the games aired in New Year’s Eve.

ESPN said that 26.8 million people watched Monday as Georgia beat Oklahoma in overtime, up 39% from last year and the fifth-most watch cable telecast of all time.

The Georgia-Oklahoma game trailed only the 2015 Championship game between Oregon and Ohio State, the 2011 Championship games between Oregon and Auburn and the two semi-final games in 2015, the last time the games were played on New Year’s Day.

Related: Buyers Optimistic About New Year’s Day College Football Playoff Viewership

Monday’s other semifinal, with Alabama beating Clemson, drew 21.1 million viewers, up 10% from the comparable game last year.

ESPN aired six bowl games on Monday and said that they averaged nearly 15 million viewers. The network said it will become the most-watched New Year’s Eve Six ever once the streaming audience is fully reported.

The currently available metrics show viewership up 9% from last year and up 24% from the 2015 season.