ESPN Rings in 2015 with its Most-Viewed Week Ever

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ESPN Rings in 2015 with its Most-Viewed Week Ever

ESPN Rings in 2015 with its Most-Viewed Week Ever

  • Three of Top Eight Most-Watched Cable Programs of All-Time Last Week 
  • January 1, 2015  is Most-Viewed Day in Network History
  • 2014’s Most-Watched Cable Network in Primetime
  • Outback Bowl Delivers Highest Audience in ESPN2’s History
  • ESPN Claims Top 19 Programs in Cable History

Buoyed by the inaugural College Football Playoff Semifinals and its first ever NFL Playoff telecast – three of the top eight most-viewed programs in cable television history, ESPN earned the most-viewed week in its 35-year history, averaging 4,119,000 viewers from Monday, Dec. 29, 2014 – Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015, according to Nielsen.

The Allstate Sugar Bowl featuring No. 4 Ohio State’s victory over No. 1 Alabama (Thursday, Jan. 1 at 9 p.m. ET) became the most-viewed program in cable television history, garnering 28,271,000 viewers.  The Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual, which saw No. 2 Oregon defeat No. 3 Florida State (January 1 at 5 p.m.), produced the second most-watched program in cable history with 28,164,000 viewers. ESPN’s unprecedented stretch concluded with the NFL Wild Card game which resulted in the Carolina Panthers defeating the Arizona Cardinals (Saturday, Jan. 3, at 4:20 p.m.), earning 21,678,000 viewers, the eighth most-viewed program in cable history and ESPN’s second most-watched NFL telecast.

Other notable milestones…

Most-Viewed Day Ever
ESPN celebrated the New Year in historic fashion on Thursday, Jan. 1, 2015.  Starting with SportsCenter and continuing with College GameDay, The 2015 Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, The Rose Bowl Presented by Northwestern Mutual, and concluding with the Allstate Sugar Bowl, ESPN averaged 11,680,000 million viewers, making it the most-viewed day ever in the network’s 35-year history.

No. 1 Primetime Cable Network in 2014
ESPN was the most-watched cable network in primetime in 2014, averaging 2,300,000 viewers. Additionally, ESPN’s 2014 primetime audience saw an increase of +5% in viewership when compared to 2013 (2,194,000 viewers). This marks the first time ESPN has finished No. 1 in primetime within a calendar year.

Outback Bowl Delivers Record Audience for ESPN2
The Outback Bowl, featuring No. 18 Wisconsin defeating No. 19 Auburn in overtime, on January 1, 2015 at noon, averaged 6,400,000 viewers, the most-ever for a telecast on ESPN2. The back-and-forth game also generated a 3.8 rating, a new high for the network as well. Additionally, the New Year’s Day bowl is currently the seventh most-viewed bowl game of 2014-15 season.

Cable Television Records
ESPN now claims the top 19 most-viewed programs in cable history with the inaugural College Football National Championship Presented by AT&T to be played Monday, Jan. 12, at 8:30 p.m. (No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 4 Ohio State).

Top 20 Most-Viewed Programs in Cable Television History (Viewers)

Rank Date Program Network Viewers (000s)
1. 01/01/2015 CFB/Sugar Bowl: Alabama-Ohio St. ^ ESPN 28,271
2. 01/01/2015 CFB/Rose Bowl: Oregon-Florida St. ^ ESPN 28,164
3. 01/10/2011 CFB/BCS Champ: Oregon-Auburn ESPN 27,316
4. 01/07/2013 CFB/BCS Champ: Alabama-Notre Dame ESPN 26,380
5. 01/06/2014 CFB/BCS Champ: Florida St.-Auburn ESPN 25,572
6. 01/09/2012 CFB/BCS Champ: Alabama-LSU ESPN 24,214
7. 10/05/2009 NFL MNF: Green Bay-Minnesota ESPN 21,839
8. 01/03/2015 NFL Wild Card: Arizona-Carolina ESPN 21,678
9. 11/30/2009 NFL MNF: New England-New Orleans ESPN 21,402
10. 01/01/2011 CFB/Rose Bowl: TCU-Wisconsin ESPN 20,558
11. 12/27/2010 NFL MNF: New Orleans-Atlanta ESPN 19,137
12. 10/27/2014 NFL MNF: Washington-Dallas ESPN 18,809
13. 01/01/2014 CFB/Rose Bowl: Stanford-Michigan State ESPN 18,636
14. 09/15/2008 NFL MNF: Philadelphia-Dallas ESPN 18,608
15. 10/25/2010 NFL MNF: NY Giants-Dallas ESPN 17,953
16. 01/02/2012 CFB/Rose Bowl: Wisconsin-Oregon ESPN 17,558
 17. 12/03/2007 NFL MNF: New England-Baltimore ESPN 17,522
18. 09/27/2010 NFL MNF: Green Bay-Chicago ESPN 17,454
19. 10/11/2010 NFL MNF: Minnesota-NY Jets ESPN 17,313
20. 10/12/2014 Season Premier: Walking Dead AMC 17,286

^ = College Football Playoff Semifinal

Please Note: USA-Portugal from the 2014 World Cup achieved an average audience of 18,200,000 for the game window. However, following the official Nielsen records, this game would not qualify for top 20 cable telecasts of all time because the official Nielsen window for the telecast includes the pre-game show.

2014-15 Bowl Season
Overall, ESPN’s 33 bowl telecasts this season have averaged 5,423,000 viewers, up 4% (5,229,000 viewers) from the 2013-2014 bowl telecasts (minus the BCS Championship game).


Derek Volner

I currently lead ESPN’s NFL Communications, including Monday Night Football, NFL Draft and studio programming. Previously, I did the same for ESPN’s vast college football portfolio. I have been with ESPN since 2013.
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