College Football Kickoff Weekend: ESPN and ABC Televise Five of Six Highest-Rated Games; Both Networks Generate Year-Over-Year Ratings Increases during Prime-Time Specials

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College Football Kickoff Weekend: ESPN and ABC Televise Five of Six Highest-Rated Games; Both Networks Generate Year-Over-Year Ratings Increases during Prime-Time Specials

  • Miami-LSU: ABC’s Highest-Rated Game of the Weekend; Sunday Special Up 41% Year-Over-Year
  • Virginia Tech-Florida State: Ties as Cable’s Best-Rated Regular Season Game in Nearly Two Years
  • ESPN Televises Top Three Games on Cable, Seven of the Top Eight
  • ESPN and ABC Top the Competition Head-to-Head in Nearly Every Game Window
  • ESPN’s Non-Game Digital Content Sees Significant Growth in Usage

ESPN and ABC combined to televise five of the six highest-rated games on any network across college football kickoff weekend (Aug. 30 – Sept. 3), generated significant ratings increases in prime-time specials Monday and Sunday night, and beat the competition head-to-head in nearly every game window. On cable, ESPN aired the three highest-rated games and seven of the top eight, including beating the cable competition in all four game windows where they went head-to-head.

Miami-LSU Leads the Way on ABC, Generates 41% Ratings Growth Year-Over-Year
ABC’s third annual Sunday night presentation between Miami and LSU (Sept. 2, 7:30 p.m.) delivered a 4.1 overnight, the network’s highest-rated game of the weekend. The Tigers’ decisive 33-17 victory generated a 41% increase in rating from last year’s Sunday night presentation (West Virginia vs. Virginia Tech) on the network.

New Orleans was the highest-rated local market, earning a 25.5, the market’s best regular season rating for a game on ESPN/ABC in nearly three years.  The complete top 10 markets:

Rank Market Rating
1 New Orleans 25.5
2 Birmingham 16.9
3 Columbus 9.4
4 Jacksonville 9.2
5 Miami 8.6
6 Atlanta 8.1
7 Memphis 7.9
8 West Palm Beach 7.8
9 Knoxville 7.5
Oklahoma City 7.5

Virginia Tech-Florida States Delivers Significant Cable Rating and Up 15% Year Over Year
ESPN’s annual Labor Day game between Virginia Tech and Florida State (Sept. 3, 8 p.m.) earned a 3.8 overnight for the traditional telecast on ESPN**, tying as cable’s highest-rated regular season game since November of 2016*. The rating for the Hokies’ 24-3 victory was up 15% from the network’s Labor Day night game last season which went to overtime (Tennessee-Georgia Tech).  The top markets:

Rank Market Rating
1 Birmingham 12.4
2 Jacksonville 11.7
3 Richmond 10.5
4 Tampa-St. Pete 9.7
5 Norfolk 8.4
6 West Palm Beach 7.9
7 Greensboro-High Point 7.8
Orlando 7.8
9 Greenville 7.7
10 Columbus, OH 7.4


ABC Beats Broadcast Competition Head-to-Head on Saturday Afternoon; ESPN and ABC Lead the Way at Noon
Head to head, ESPN/ABC beat the competition is nearly every game window of Kickoff Weekend, including the Saturday late afternoon window (3:30 p.m.) as Washington-Auburn on ABC earned a 3.6 overnight, beating the other broadcast networks by 100% and 350% respectively.

Earlier in the day, ABC and ESPN combined to generate the two highest-rated games of Saturday’s noon window, as Oregon State at Ohio State on ABC earned a 2.6 overnight and Ole Miss vs. Texas Tech on ESPN earned a 1.2 overnight. Both windows generated ratings increases year-over-year, with ABC up 63% and ESPN up 9%.

Additional Kickoff Week Highlights:

  • Out in Front: ESPN beat the cable competition head-to-head on Thursday and Friday by 233% and 80% respectively, as the network aired Northwestern at Purdue (Aug. 30, 8 p.m.) and Western Kentucky at Wisconsin (Aug. 31, 9 p.m.).
  • Starting High: College GameDay Built by The Home Depot (Sept. 1, 9 a.m. – noon) started the 25th year of road shows on a high note, delivering a 1.4 overnight, an 8% increase from last season’s season premiere.
  • Multi-Platform Success: 538 million minutes were spent with ESPN’s college football non-game digital content during kickoff week, up 36% from last season

*Alabama at Mississippi State on Nov. 11, 2017 also earned a 3.8
**ESPN offered six alternate viewing options across ESPNU, ESPNEWS, and ESPN3 in addition to the traditional telecast


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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