College Football Generates Record Audiences

College FootballFootball

College Football Generates Record Audiences

BCS Title Game Third Most-Viewed Cable Program Ever; Most-Viewed Non-BCS Bowls; Second & Fifth Most-Viewed Days; Birmingham Tops All Markets

ESPN’s extensive coverage of the 2013-14 college football season – 367 exclusive regular-season games and 33 bowl game telecasts – concluded with multiple viewership highlights:

  • Bowl Championship Series (BCS) generates the third most-viewed program in cable television history and helps ESPN to score its second and fifth most-viewed days ever
  • ESPN posts 9 percent increase in overall BCS viewership over last season
  • ESPN and ESPN2 televise their most-viewed non-BCS bowls ever
  • Birmingham leads all markets for 29 ESPN bowl telecasts with an 11. 9 rating
  • Millions of fans watch regular-season college football action on ESPN networks

Bowl Championship Series
ESPN’s coverage of the final BCS included cable television’s third most-viewed and third highest-rated program in history, ESPN’s second and fifth most-viewed days ever and a 9 percent viewership increase for the five game telecasts. 

  • ESPN’s telecast of the VIZIO BCS National Championship – No. 1 Florida State over No. 2 Auburn 34-31 – was the third most-viewed and highest-rated program in cable television history. A “BCS Megacast” presentation of the title game averaged 26,061,000 viewers and a 14.8 US HH rating across ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNEWS (television ratings for the additional five platforms offering coverage are not available). WatchESPN generated 773,000 unique viewers and an average minute audience of 252,000 for fans that viewed the BCS Megacast across ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPN3 and ESPN Goal Line collectively. The ESPN-only telecast of the matchup averaged 25,572,000 viewers and a 14.4 US HH rating.
  • The five BCS bowl games averaged 16,549,000 viewers and a 9.4 US HH rating, up nine percent (vs. 15,131,000) and 7 percent (vs. 8.8), respectively, over last year’s five BCS games. In addition to television, WatchESPN averaged 329,000 live unique viewers (up 52 percent), 20,300,000 live minutes viewed (up 86 percent) and an average minute audience of 92,000 (up 64%) for the five bowl games.
  • ESPN kicked off 2014 with two of its top five most-viewed and highest-rated days ever. The January 1 schedule – highlighted by an Outback Bowl, Rose Bowl Game Presented by VIZIO and Tostitos Fiesta Bowl tripleheader – averaged 6,299,000 viewers and a 3.7 US HH rating, making it the network’s second most-viewed day ever. ESPN’s lineup for January 6 – led by the BCS National Championship – averaged 5,835,000 viewers and a 3.5 US HH rating, the network’s fifth most-viewed and highest-rated day ever.
  • On Twitter, BCS championship generated 1.2 million unique authors and 4.4 million total tweets, up 10 percent compared to the previous year (source: Nielsen SocialGuide) and accounted for 60 percent of all TV-related tweets that day. 

ESPN & ESPN2 Most-Viewed Non-BCS Bowls; Growth for WatchESPN
The post-season schedule also included the most-viewed non-BCS bowls in ESPN and ESPN2 history. ESPN’s New Year’s Eve telecast of the Chick-fil-A Bowl – No. 21 Texas A&M’s thrilling 52-48 victory over No. 24 Duke – drew the network’s largest audience, averaging 8,689,000 viewers based on a 5.0 US HH rating. ESPN2 scored its most-viewed game ever on New Year’s Day, averaging 4,518,000 viewers and a 2.6 US HH rating for the Gator Bowl – a 24-19 Nebraska win over No. 22 Georgia. 

Overall, ESPN’s 29 bowl telecasts averaged 5,959,000 viewers and a 3.6 US HH rating for an increase of 9 percent (vs. 5,468,000 and vs. 3.3) over last season.

Non-BCS bowls on WatchESPN/ESPN3 averaged 79,000 live unique viewers (up 27 percent) and 3,400,000 live minutes viewed (up 47 percent) over last year.

Birmingham No. 1 in the Top 25 Metered Markets
Birmingham, the highest-rated metered market for ESPN’s regular-season telecasts for 13 straight years, was the highest-rated market for ESPN’s 29 bowl telecasts, averaging an 11.9 rating. All 25 of the top markets averaged a 4.3 rating or better with Columbus, New Orleans and Greenville posting a 7.0 or higher rating.  

Three markets that were not among the top 25 highest-rated markets at the conclusion of the regular season made it to the top 25 for bowl telecasts: Phoenix (tied for 19th bowl vs. tied 26th regular season), Portland (22nd bowl vs. tied 26th regular season) and Seattle (23rd bowl vs. tied 31st regular season). Meanwhile, two of the highest-rated markets at the conclusion of the regular season did not make the top 25 for bowl games: Dallas-Fort Worth (tied for 25th at end of season and 30th bowls) and Las Vegas (tied 25th at end of season and 31st bowls).

Markets with notable movement between regular-season and bowls include three that jumped into the top 10: Oklahoma City (5th from 12th), Austin (6 from 16) and Tulsa (7 from 14). Memphis (5th to tied for 11th) and Louisville (9th to tied for 19th) showed the largest drop.

The top 25 markets for ESPN’s bowl and regular-season telecasts for the 2013-14 season:

Bowl Rank Market Rating   Season Rank Market Rating
No. 1 Birmingham 11.9   1 Birmingham 9.2
No. 2 Columbus 7.4   2 Greenville 4.9
No. 3 New Orleans 7.1   3 Knoxville 4.4
No. 4 Greenville 7.0   4 New Orleans 4.3
No. 5 Oklahoma City 6.7   5 Nashville 3.3
No. 6 Austin 6.6     Memphis 3.3
No. 7 Tulsa 6.4     Columbus 3.3
No. 8 Knoxville 6.2     Jacksonville 3.3
  Nashville 6.2   No. 9 Louisville 3.2
No. 10 Jacksonville 6.1     Atlanta 3.2
No. 11 Atlanta 5.9   No. 11 Charlotte 2.9
  Memphis 5.9   No. 12 Oklahoma City 2.8
No. 13 Dayton 5.6   No. 13 Orlando 2.7
No. 14 Orlando 5.2   No. 14 Tulsa 2.6
No. 15 Charlotte 5.1     Tampa-St. Petersburg 2.6
No. 16 Richmond 5.0   No. 16 Austin 2.5
No. 17 Kansas City 4.8     West Palm Beach 2.5
  Tampa-St. Petersburg 4.8   No. 18 Kansas City 2.4
No. 19 Norfolk 4.7     Norfolk 2.4
  Louisville 4.7   No. 20 Dayton 2.3
  Phoenix 4.7   No. 21 Greensboro 2.2
No. 22 Portland 4.6     Raleigh-Durham 2.2
No. 23 Seattle 4.5     Richmond 2.2
No. 24 West Palm Beach 4.4   No. 24 Ft. Myers 2.1
No. 25 Ft. Myers 4.3   No. 25 Dallas-Fort Worth 2.0
  Greensboro 4.3     Las Vegas 2.0
  Raleigh-Durham 4.3        

Regular Season: Extensive Schedule Reaches Millions & Audience Growth across ESPN, ESPN2 & ESPNU
ESPN’s industry-leading coverage of the 2013 season reached 189,000,000 viewers for game telecasts across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPNEWS. The television networks’ extensive game schedule averaged 1,865,000 viewers for 257 regular-season games.

ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU – which each televised more games in 2013 than 2012 – posted audience increases over last season.

  • ESPN averaged 2,644,000 viewers, an increase of 3 percent over last season (vs. 2,564,000)
  • ESPN2 averaged 1,108,000 viewers, an 8 percent increase (vs. 1,024,000)
  • ESPNU averaged 400,000 viewers, an increase of 4 percent (385,000)

For the season, ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNEWS and ESPN3 covered 367 regular-season Football Bowl Subdivision games exclusively – 274 more than every other national network combined (CBS, FOX, FS1, NBC, NBC Sports Network and CBS Sports Network) – involving teams from all 10 conferences, plus independents Notre Dame, BYU, Navy and Army.

In addition to television, WatchESPN/ESPN3’s regular-season games averaged 705,556,000 total live minutes viewed for an increase of 44 percent over 2012. The average live game on the platforms experienced 32,000 live unique viewers (a 20 percent increase), 1,200,000 live minutes viewed (31 percent growth) and 33 minutes per viewer (6 percent increase). In an average Saturday, had 3,700,000 video starts


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