Based on Nielsen's Fast National ratings, ESPN's coverage of the Sugar Bowl on Thursday night averaged 16,339,000 viewers and a 9.3 rating.
No. 11 Oklahoma's 45-31 upset victory over No. 3 Alabama is the most-viewed Sugar Bowl since the 2004 matchup that crowned the 2003 BCS national champion and most-viewed that was not a championship game since 2001.
The telecast posted increases of 61 percent in viewers and 50 percent in rating over last year's game (No. 21 Louisville beat No. 3 Florida 33-23).
Birmingham, Ala., led all markets with a 50.1 rating, marking the fourth highest overnight for a bowl game on ESPN in the market (the other three were BCS championship matchups). Oklahoma City was second highest with a 34.7. The rating was the second highest for the Sooners this season, behind a 45.5 for the Bedlam game on KOCO-5. It was slightly lower than OU's Cotton Bowl loss to Texas A&M year, which got a 35.1 on KOKH-25.
Tulsa ranked third with a 33.5 rating, the highest rating for a bowl on ESPN in the market. New Orleans was fourth (23.9), followed by Nashville, Tenn. (18.7), Austin, Texas (17.8), Knoxville, Tenn. (17.6), Memphis, Tenn. (17.4), Atlanta (16.6) and Jacksonville, Tenn. (16.2).
ESPN's first three BCS telecasts of 2014 – the Rose, Fiesta and Sugar bowls – combined is averaging 15,372,000 viewers and a 8.7 rating. The three-game average marks an increase of 23 percent for viewers and 21 percent for rating for the first three BCS bowls in 2013.