ESPN Leads Cable in Total Day and Prime Time in Key Demos in First Quarter


ESPN Leads Cable in Total Day and Prime Time in Key Demos in First Quarter

  • ESPN and ESPN2’s Audiences in Prime Time up in March, Including all Key Viewer and Male Demos
  • College Football Playoff, NBA and College Basketball among Winter Ratings Highlights


ESPN grew its prime-time audience in March in all the key Male and Adult Viewer demographic groups – ages 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54, according to Nielsen.  The biggest increase, 8%, was among men 25-54.  The boost helped ESPN lead all full-time cable networks in first quarter in total day and in prime time among those six groups.

For total day, ESPN has led cable in the first quarter in the three male demos for at least 11 consecutive years.  The network has led cable among the three adult viewer demos for the last three years.

Prime time was also fine for ESPN2.  The network’s average audience was up 14% (to 412,000 viewers) and there was similar growth (13-15%) for the six key Person and Male demographic groups.

(Source:  Nielsen, 1/1-4/1/18 for the quarter and 2/25/18-4/1/18 for March, M-Su 6a-6a or Cable Prime–Strict Daypart, Includes DTVR, Live+Same Day.)

ESPN Ratings Winter Highlights

  • The College Football Playoff posted the second- and third-biggest audiences in cable history. The CFP National Championship (Alabama defeating Georgia in overtime) was seen by an average of 29,932,000 viewers (including out-of-home).  The total live audience for the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game (Georgia defeated Oklahoma in overtime) was 28,311,000 viewers (including out-of-home).  Furthermore, ESPN’s entire presentation of the New Year’s Six plus the CFP National Championship was the most-watched in the system’s four-year history
  • The NBA on ESPN is up 5% in viewership (to 1,659,000 viewers/P2+) for the 2017-18 season, and ABC is up 17% (to 3,891,000) including its most-watched NBA Sunday Showcase in five years (since Feb. 10, 2013), an average of 4,647,000 for Cavaliers-Celtics on February 11. Overall, ABC’s NBA Sunday Showcase posted its best year since the 2013-14 campaign, up 23% from a year ago.
  • ESPN aired the most-watched NCAA basketball game of the regular season on TV (broadcast and cable) – North Carolina at Duke on March 3 with an average of 3,369,000 viewers. It was the seventh consecutive year ESPN aired the most-watched game.  In addition, between ESPN and ESPN2 the company aired the 156 most-watched college basketball games on cable.
  • In college basketball’s Champ Week, the ACC Tournament Championship Game on ESPN helped set the pace for conference championship games across all networks, while the ACC Tournament early rounds set records. ESPN also saw an increase for the Big 12 Championship game, while also simultaneously out-rating the competition during key head-to-head windows in the final weekend of conference championship play and Selection Sunday aftermath (March 9-11).

Earlier today, a press release detailed ESPN’s success in March with weekday studio programming, most notably with First Take and SportsCenter.



Dave Nagle

As I write this on 11-11-21, it's now 35 years for me at ESPN, the only real job I’ve ever had. I joined merely to help with the upcoming America’s Cup in Australia. I was told it would be for three months at all of $5.50 per hour. I like to say I simply kept showing up. I’ve worked on almost every sport, plus answered viewer calls and letters (people used to write!), given tours, written the company newsletter and once drove NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon to the local airport. My travels have been varied…I’ve been to Martinsville, Darlington, Indy and Super Bowls; the America’s Cup (all 3) in San Diego and College GameDay in the sport’s meccas such as Eugene, Auburn, Lubbock, Stillwater and more; the NBA Finals, Wimbledon (16 times and counting) and the “other Bristol,” the one with a race track in Tennessee. These days, my main areas are tennis, UFC, boxing, network-wide ratings (by month/quarter/year), and corporate communications documents, including fact sheets, chronologies, lists and nearly 35 of the Year in Review press releases. UPDATE EXACTLY ONE YEAR LATER: Today, November 11, 2022, I am retiring from ESPN -- 36 years to the day I began. As I ride off into the sunset – top down and E Street Radio blaring – I do so with so many wonderful memories, proud of my contributions and a heart full of gratitude for the opportunity. 
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