ABC’s Saturday Night Football Ohio State at Penn State Draws an Average of 9.3 Million Viewers, the Most-Watched Game of the 2018 Season

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ABC’s Saturday Night Football Ohio State at Penn State Draws an Average of 9.3 Million Viewers, the Most-Watched Game of the 2018 Season

ABC’s Saturday Night Football continues to be the standard-bearer among all college football franchises, as the weekly primetime series drew an average total live audience of 9,279,000 viewers for Ohio State-Penn State (7:30 p.m. ET), making the Big Ten thriller the most-watched game of the season on any network. The substantial viewership is among the network’s most-watched primetime audiences in the last five seasons and, factoring in games played in just September, approaches the top of the network’s charts over the last decade. The down-to-the-wire Buckeyes’ victory peaked at 12,537,000 viewers, the sport’s highest peak audience this season on any network.

In addition to setting a new season high in week 5, ABC televised the two most-watched games of the week while simultaneously growing its audience by 60% year-over-year from the same week last season.

Ohio State-Penn State Audience Rewrites Record Books
ABC’s Saturday Night Football average of more than 9.2 million viewers for the Buckeyes 27-26 victory is the network’s highest regular season audience since its 2017 Kickoff Weekend record-breaking audience for Florida State vs. Alabama (56 games) and ranks in the top five most-watched September games on ABC in the last decade.

ABC Bests the College Football Competition by Triple Figures; “Wins the Night” Among All Broadcast and Cable Competition
In addition to re-writing the record books, ABC was also the best among all networks in week 5, dwarfing the primetime college football broadcast competition by 170% and 622%, respectively. ABC also more than doubled its own audience from last year’s week 5 SNF game (Clemson-Virginia Tech).

As a result of its prime-time success, ABC “won-the night” on Saturday among all broadcast and cable competition – sports and non-sports programming for the third straight Saturday and, for ABC/ESPN,  the sixth time overall. Each of the six times, ABC/ESPN rated the highest, and earned the most overall viewers, from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., while also delivering the highest ratings among all key male and adult demos.

ABC/ESPN Lead the Way in the 2018 College Football Season
Five weeks into the season, ABC’S Saturday Night Football has televised the two most-watched games of the season and the network is responsible for three of the top four. Combined with ESPN, the two networks have aired seven of the top 10 games this season.


Most-Watched Games of 2018 Season Based on Nielsen Reported Numbers

Rank Network Audience Game
1 ABC 9,141,000 Ohio State at Penn State
2 ABC 7,244,000 Ohio State vs. TCU
3 NBC 7,107,000 Michigan at Notre Dame
4 ABC 6,562,000 Miami vs. LSU
5 CBS 5,955,000 LSU at Auburn
6 ESPN 5,746,000* Virginia Tech at Florida State
7 CBS 5,669,000 Texas A&M at Alabama
8 ABC 5,261,000 Washington vs. Auburn
9 ESPN 4,551,000 Clemson at Texas A&M
10 ABC 4,545,000 Louisville vs. Alabama

*Includes ESPN’s MegaCast presentation
Please note: Nielsen reported numbers for ABC don’t include streaming and are TV only. Explanation here

Syracuse-Clemson Draws ABC’s Highest Noon Audience Since 2016
Syracuse at Clemson (noon) delivered a total live audience of 4,617,000 viewers, the second most-watched game of the week across all networks. The audience for the come-from-behind Tigers victory is ABC’s best in the noon game window since the 2016 season and up 65% from last year’s same game window.


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


Derek Volner

I work in college sports, which includes football and basketball, with an emphasis on Olympic Sports. Additionally, I handle ESPN’s coverage of high school athletics and recruiting.
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