This headline requires that major caveat above involving the NFL and Olympics, given that those two sports accounted for 45 of the 50 most-watched sporting events of 2016. So with those ratings juggernauts removed, we have a pretty good idea of what other sports people were watching last year between baseball, basketball, college football and the like.
The two College Football Playoff semifinal games played on New Year’s Eve had better ratings than 2015’s semifinals, but the ratings were still down from 2014’s games.
Sixteen college football games ranked in the top 50 most-watched sporting events of 2016, per Sports Media Watch. Those games:
No. 3: Alabama/Clemson College Football Playoff Championship (15.0 rating, 26.18m viewers)
No. 10: Alabama/Washington Peach Bowl Playoff Semifinal (19.34m viewers, no rating available)
No. 11: Clemson/Ohio State Fiesta Bowl Playoff Semifinal (19.24m viewers, no rating available)
No. 16: Michigan/Ohio State regular season (9.4 rating, 16.84m viewers)
No. 22: Stanford/Iowa Rose Bowl (7.4 rating, 13.55m viewers)
No. 25: Florida State/Michigan Orange Bowl (11.7m viewers, no rating available)
No. 28: Alabama/Florida SEC Championship (6.6 rating, 11.09m viewers)
No. 29: Notre Dame/Texas regular season (6.4 rating, 10.95m viewers)
No. 33: Alabama/LSU regular season (5.8 rating, 10.39m viewers)
No. 38: Notre Dame/Ohio State Fiesta Bowl (5.6 rating, 9.76m viewers)
No. 41: Louisville/Clemson (5.5 rating, 9.29m viewers)
No. 42: Penn State/Wisconsin Big Ten Champi0nship (5.3 rating, 9.19m viewers)
No. 43: Ohio State/Wisconsin regular season (5.2 rating, 8.96m viewers)
No. 44: Mississippi/Oklahoma State Sugar Bowl (5.1 rating, 8.94m viewers)
No. 45: Michigan/Florida Citrus Bowl (5.1 rating, 8.76m viewers)
No. 49: Texas A&M/Alabama regular season (5.0 rating, 8.46m viewers)
Both the 2016 Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl saw the lowest TV ratings in the history of those respective games, though an uninspiring matchup (Ole Miss/Oklahoma State) and a blowout (Stanford/Iowa) probably contributed to both.
Alabama or Ohio State were involved in nine of these 16 games, and expanding that further, 13 of the 16 involved a team from the Big Ten or SEC.
Also, here’s why the NFL and Olympics have to be factored out of these rankings: Without it, only last year’s Alabama/Clemson title game ranks in the top 50 at No. 26, and that fell behind six regular season NFL games.