College Football’s Best Kickoff Saturday: ESPN/ABC Games Earn Top Four Overnights Among All Networks

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College Football’s Best Kickoff Saturday: ESPN/ABC Games Earn Top Four Overnights Among All Networks

  • USC-Alabama and LSU-Wisconsin: Ties as Second Highest Overnight for an ESPN/ABC Saturday Kickoff Week Game on Record; Both Games Experience Large Year-Over-Year Increases
  • USC-Alabama: Will Propel ABC to Win the Night
  • LSU-Wisconsin: ESPN’s Most Streamed Saturday Kickoff Week Game Ever
  • Houston and Los Angeles: Set Local Records
  • ESPN Streaming: A Top Day Ever

ESPN/ABC earned the top four overnights among all networks during college football’s best kickoff Saturday with No. 20 USC vs. No. 1 Alabama (8 p.m. on ABC) and No.5 LSU vs. Wisconsin (3:30 p.m. on ABC) earning top billing across all games and networks with each receiving a 4.9 overnight. On WatchESPN, the Tigers-Badgers matchup was the most-streamed game of the weekend thus far, with an average minute audience of 151,000 and nearly 600,000 unique viewers.

Top Kickoff Week Saturday Games on Record LM
On television, the USC-Alabama and LSU-Wisconsin overnights are tied for the second best overnights for an ESPN/ABC Kickoff Week Saturday game*, equaling Georgia at Clemson in 2013. Notre Dame at Georgia Tech in 2006 is the only game to surpass a 4.9 overnight on the Saturday of kickoff week (5.8 overnight).

On WatchESPN, the LSU-Wisconsin average minute audience is the best ever for a kickoff week Saturday college football game and is the third best ever for a regular season college football game.

Large Year-Over-Year Audience Increases
Additionally, the Tigers-Badgers overnight  resulted in a 145% increase on television and a 347% and 263% increase in average minute audience and unique users, respectively, on WatchESPN over last season’s corresponding game (BYU at Nebraska on ABC).

The Alabama-USC overnight was a 14% increase on television and a 59% and 73% increase in average minute audience and unique users, respectively, on WatchESPN, over last season’s kickoff week ABC Saturday Night game featuring Alabama vs. Wisconsin.

ABC to Win the Night:
The 4.9 overnight for the USC-Alabama game will propel ABC to win the night among all broadcast networks.

ESPN/ABC Additional Highlights:

  • 15 Houston vs. No. 3 Oklahoma (noon on ABC) had a 4.0 overnight and had a streaming average minute audience of 131,000 and 547,000 unique viewers. The game was the third best overnight and second most-streamed game, in both average minute audience and unique viewers on WatchESPN, on Saturday. There is no corresponding game last season.
  • 2 Clemson at Auburn (9 p.m. on ESPN) earned a 2.8 overnight, ESPN’s highest overnight of the day and the fourth highest overnight among all networks. The overnight represents a 87% increase over last season’s kickoff Saturday prime time game on ESPN (Arizona State at Texas A&M at 7 p.m.). Additionally, with an average minute audience of 97,600 and 395,000 unique viewers on WatchESPN, it saw a jump of 85% and 32% respectively in those categories over the Sun Devils-Aggies game.

Local Markets Set New Highs:

  • The Houston market earned a 12.8 overnight for the Cougars-Sooners matchup, the market’s best overnight for an opening weekend game ever on ESPN’s networks.
  • Los Angeles earned a 6.9 overnight for the Trojans-Crimson Tide matchup, the market’s best overnight for an opening weekend game ever on ESPN’s networks


Top Day for Streaming:
The first Saturday of the college football season, combined with US Open coverage, resulted in one of the largest days ever for ESPN streaming audiences with 249.1 million minutes viewed and 2.7 million unique users. This is good for third and fifth, respectively, for the product in any single day.

Overall, four games had streaming audiences surpass 500,000 unique viewers and 100,000 average minute audience, with the Georgia-North Carolina game at 5:30 p.m. on ESPN (529,000 unique viewers and 102,000 average minute audience)  joining the previously mentioned LSU-Wisconsin, Oklahoma-Houston and USC-Alabama games.

*Overnight data exists back to 2004 for ABC and 2001 for ESPN. For ABC, only full national games are available.

College Football’s Best Opening Weekend Continues

Sunday, Sept. 4 – No. 9 Notre Dame at Texas
ESPN/ABC’s dynamite week 1 schedule continues Sunday, Sept. 4, when two of college football’s most celebrated programs match up: No. 10 Notre Dame at Texas (7:30 p.m. on ABC) from Austin, Texas. The game is believed to be the network’s first-ever live, Sunday, prime-time, regular season college football game and the Fighting Irish-Longhorns’ 12th all-time matchup, with their first game dating back to 1913.

Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 5 – No. 14 Ole Miss vs. No. 4 Florida State
ESPN will conclude college football’s first week with its annual Labor Day night game, this year with No. 11 Ole Miss vs. No. 4 Florida State (8 p.m.) in the 2016 Camping World Kickoff from Orlando, Fla. It is ESPN’s 13th annual prime-time Labor Day game, having begun in 2002*, and Florida State’s fifth appearance in the game and Ole Miss’ second.

*No game in 2004 due to Hurricane Francis


Media contact: Derek Volner at 860-384-9986; [email protected] and @DerekVolner

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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