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Return to New Year’s Day Boosts ESPN's 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 on New Year’s Eve.

ESPN said 26.8 million people watched the 2018 Rose Bowl Monday as Georgia beat Oklahoma 54-48 in overtime; with an audience up 39% from last year's Rose Bowl, the game was the fifth most watched cable telecast of all time.

Related: Georgia-Oklahoma Rose Bowl Telecast Scores on Social Media

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

Monday’s other semifinal, the 2018 Sugar Bowl with Alabama beating Clemson 24-6, drew 21.1 million viewers, up 10% from the comparable game last year.

Related: Four Trends in Play for Cable Sports

ESPN aired a total of six bowl games on Monday and said they averaged nearly 15 million viewers. The network anticipates the games will comprise 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.

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.