National

Final Pac-12 championship game ever draws huge TV ratings compared to 2022

The final Pac-12 championship game was the most-watched ever.

According to ESPN, No. 3 Washington’s 34-31 win over No. 5 Oregon drew over 9 million viewers on Friday night. The game effectively served as a College Football Playoff semifinal as undefeated Washington is assured of a spot in the four-team playoff after the victory.

Washington's victory ranks as one of the most-watched games of the season so far. Just a handful of games drew over 9 million viewers during the regular season. The most-watched game in 2023 — by far — has been Michigan's Week 13 win over Ohio State.

The game had nearly 50% more viewers than the title game a season ago when Utah blew out USC. That’s a significant jump; USC entered that game needing a win to get to the playoff and Caleb Williams entered as the presumptive Heisman winner.

Williams suffered a hamstring injury in that game and its lack of competitiveness undoubtedly hurt viewership, however.

There was also probably some nostalgia effect for viewership as well on Friday night. Washington and Oregon are both off to the Big Ten in 2024 along with USC and UCLA and Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah are heading to the Big 12. With Stanford and Cal joining the ACC next season, just two teams — Oregon State and Washington State — will remain in the shell of the Pac-12 after the end of the school year.

The conference dissolved because of myriad factors. With its current media rights deal expiring at the end of the 2023-24 school year, Pac-12 presidents never could agree on the next steps for the conference’s broadcast future. That uncertainty kept lingering until UCLA and USC announced they were heading to join the Big Ten in the summer of 2022.

Their departures shook the conference and made any new TV deal worth far less than it would have been with the Los Angeles schools in the fold. As the remaining schools looked for a new deal, they didn’t find anything they believed was suitable for the conference and decided to jump ship and break the conference apart rather than stay together.