Duke at North Carolina Averages More than 4 Million Viewers, the Most-Watched Regular Season College Basketball Game on Any Network in Last Two Seasons

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Duke at North Carolina Averages More than 4 Million Viewers, the Most-Watched Regular Season College Basketball Game on Any Network in Last Two Seasons

  • ESPN’s 2016-17 College Basketball Slate Reaches More than 107 Million People; Delivers Three of Four Most-Watched Games on Any Network 
  • ESPN Sees TV Audience Increases in Multiple Windows This Season; Fans Stream Nearly a Billion Minutes of Games 
  • Louisville Finishes as No. 1 Local Market for the 15th Consecutive Season

Duke at North Carolina (ESPN at 8:15 p.m. ET on March 4, 2017) delivered a total live audience (TV + streaming) of 4,164,000 viewers, the most-watched regular season college basketball game in the last two seasons on any network. ESPN’s viewership for the game was up 28% from last season’s Blue Devils-Tar Heels March matchup (March 5, 2016) and set a new streaming record.  This is the third consecutive season a game between the classic rivals has been college basketball’s most-watched game of the year.

ESPN’s Industry-Leading Slate Reaches Over 107 Million Fans; Televises Most-Watched Games
ESPN’s industry leading men’s TV schedule (approx. 620 games) across ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU reached 107,134,000 viewers this season. Also, in addition to the being the only network to surpass four million viewers for a game this season, ESPN aired three of the four most-watched games of the season on any network:

Rank Network Total Live Audience Game Date
1. ESPN 4,164,000 Duke at North Carolina March 4, 2017
2. CBS 3,624,000* Kentucky at North Carolina Dec. 17, 2016
3. ESPN 3,426,000 Kansas at Kentucky Jan. 28, 2017
4. ESPN 3,184,000 North Carolina at Duke Feb 9, 2017

*Doesn’t include streaming audience

Additional 2016-17 Season Highlights

  • Saturday Primetime: ESPN’s Saturday night slate, featuring games at 6:15 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. most weeks, averaged 1,932,000 viewers** (13 games), up 8% from last season’s similar package (12 games).
  • Mid-Week Audience Grows: ESPN’s mid-week telecasts on Tuesdays and Thursdays both saw audience increases, with Super Tuesday night telecasts (18 games) averaging 1,213,000 viewers and Thursdays (16 games) 981,000** viewers, both up 6% from last year’s same nights.
  • Sonic BlockBuster Delivers: ESPN’s slate of marquee games, played on various days and start times throughout the year (14 games), averaged 2,314,000 viewers** this season.
  • College GameDay Sets the Scene: College GameDay Covered by State Farm (Saturdays at 11 a.m. on ESPN) averaged 640,000 viewers**, an increase from last year’s same seven show slate.
  • Louisville is the Home of College Hoops: ESPN’s college basketball telecasts in Louisville averaged a 5.5 local rating, making it the highest-rated local market for the 15th consecutive year and every year since ESPN began tracking the data. The market’s 5.5 rating is up 12% from last year. Raleigh-Durham and Kansas City finished second and third, respectively, for the second consecutive year.
Rank Market Rating
1. Louisville 5.5
2. Raleigh-Durham 2.4
3. Kansas City 2.3
4. Indianapolis 2.1
5. Greensboro-High Point 2.0
6. Cincinnati 1.8
7. Nashville 1.6
Greenville 1.6
9. Knoxville 1.5
Charlotte 1.5

ESPN telecasts only

ESPN and ESPN2 each equaled last season’s average rating per game. ESPN televised 121 games this season and ESPN2 aired 216 games, both increases from last year (119 and 213 games, respectively).

**Numbers are TV only
Tuesday and Thursday data began the week of Jan. 2, 2017; Saturday info on Jan. 21, 2017
SEC Network, Longhorn Network, and ESPNEWS are not Nielsen-rated and not accounted for in reach number

Fans Stream More than 900,000,000 Minutes of College Basketball on ESPN Platforms; ESPN Sets New Streaming Viewership Records
College basketball fans streamed more than 911,000,000 minutes of college basketball content on ESPN’s platforms this season***, a 22% increase from last season. Additionally, in its 1,800 game slate from 24 conferences, ESPN saw its streaming average minute audience per game grow by 8% this season. Among those 1,800 games, the three-most streamed college basketball games ever for ESPN occurred this season:

Rank Average Minute Audience Game Date
1. 103,000 Duke at North Carolina March 4, 2017
103,000 North Carolina at Duke Feb 9, 2017
3. 83,000 Duke at Kansas Nov. 16, 2016
4. 78,000 Kansas at Kentucky Jan 28, 2017
78,000 Kentucky at Duke Nov. 17, 2015

***Streaming seasonal data is as of Feb. 11, 2017

Champ Week Continues
ESPN’s presentation of Champ Week, with a record 171 men’s games, continues this week with games from the ACC, American, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC Championships. ESPN’s Saturday night lineup on March 11 will showcase a tripleheader of marquee title games: the Big 12 at 6 p.m., the ACC at 9 p.m., and Pac-12 at 11 p.m.

The final day of Champ Week – Selection Sunday, March 12 – will begin with a one-hour College Basketball Live at noon (ESPN) and the Ivy League Championship (ESPN2), followed by the SEC Championship (ESPN) at 1 p.m. and the Sun Belt Championship (ESPN2) at 2 p.m. Game action will conclude with ESPN’s telecast of the American Championship at 3:15 p.m. The studio coverage will continue at 4 p.m. with a one-hour Bubble Watch presented by Pringles (ESPN2). ESPN’s SportsCenter, at the conclusion of the American telecast, will include extensive coverage of the Men’s Basketball NCAA Championship selections as they are announced, followed by a two-hour Bracketology Presented by Allstate at 7 p.m. (ESPN) and another two-hour Bracketology Presented by Allstate at 9 p.m. (ESPN2).

ESPNU will televise the NIT Selection Show at 8:30 p.m. and a three-hour Tournament Countdown edition of The Experts at 9 p.m.


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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