More than 163 Million Fans Watched 77 Billion Minutes of College Football Games on ESPN’s Networks; More Fans Reached than Any Other Network and More Minutes Watched Than All Competitor Networks Combined

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More than 163 Million Fans Watched 77 Billion Minutes of College Football Games on ESPN’s Networks; More Fans Reached than Any Other Network and More Minutes Watched Than All Competitor Networks Combined

  • Minutes Watched on ESPN’s Platforms is 33% Greater Than Competitor Networks Combined; Another 16.5 Billion Spent on Digital Platforms During Saturdays in Fall
  • ABC’s Saturday Night Football Airs Most-Watched Prime-time Game Nearly Every Week
  • ESPN and ABC ‘Wins the Night’ Nine Times This Season; Led in Key Male Demo 13 Different Nights
  • ABC Airs Four of Nine Most-Watched Games, ESPN/ABC 10 of Top 20
  • ESPN Televises Top 17 Most-Watched Games on Cable; ESPN/ESPN2: 46 of Top 50
  • College GameDay Built by The Home Depot Grows Viewership by 3%; Season’s Best Audience is Second Best in Show’s Previous Eight Seasons
  • Birmingham is No. 1 Local Market Once Again; Keeps 17-Year Streak Intact

More than 163 million fans watched 77 billion minutes of college football games on ESPN’s networks, more fans reached than any other network and 33% more minutes watched than competitor networks combined, further solidifying ESPN’s networks and ABC as the home of college football’s regular season. Additionally, more than 16.5 billion minutes were spent on ESPN’s Digital Platforms during college football Saturdays this year, up 15% year-over-year.

The massive collection of viewers, which represents nearly half of the United States population, is a result of consistent marquee audiences throughout the season’s 14 weeks, highlighted by delivering the largest, most-consistent prime-time audience, peppering the most-watched game list, and earning multi-year highs in many categories.

ABC’s Saturday Night Football: Most-Watched Prime-time Franchise across All Networks, Tops Main Broadcast Competition by 71%; Combines with ESPN to Air Most-Watched Prime-Time Game Nearly Every Week of the Season
ABC’s Saturday Night Football averaged 5,077,000 viewers, easily the most-watched prime-time audience across all networks with regular primetime packages and besting the regular broadcast competition by 71%. On a weekly basis, ABC’s Saturday Night Football aired the most-watched primetime game nine times and ESPN did this twice, a feat no other broadcast network achieved more than once. In seven of the 14 weeks, ABC and ESPN combined to air the two most-watched primetime games across all networks.

Nearly Nine Million Viewers Watching ESPN’s Networks in Prime-Time Each College Football Saturday
Across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, ESPN networks averaged 8,795,000 viewers in prime-time each week, including 2,830,000 viewers on ESPN. The 8.8 million viewers watching ESPN’s networks is similar to airing a top three prime-time game each week.

ESPN and ABC “Won the Night” Nine Times, Led in Key Male Demo 13 Times
ESPN and ABC’s prime-time success extended beyond its college football competition, as the sport drove the two networks to “win the night” nine times this season, out-delivering all programming on all other networks – sports and non-sports – among viewers P2+. Narrowing it down to key demos, the networks’ performance is stronger, as college football resulted in ABC/ESPN leading the male 18-34, male 18-19 and male 25-54 demo 13 different times.

ABC’s Telecast of Big 12 Championship among Most-Watched Games of the Season
ABC’s presentation of the Big 12 Championship between Oklahoma and Texas delivered a total live audience of 10,299,000 viewers, a top four most-watched game of the season. The game highlighted a championship week that saw ESPN/ABC combine on a number of superlatives, including:

  • Mountain West: The most-viewed MW Championship Game on ESPN/ESPN2
  • Inaugural Sun Belt Championship: Most-viewed Sun Belt Conference Game on ESPN/ESPN2 Since 2011

ESPN/ABC Demonstrate Season-Long Success; ESPN/ABC Combine to Air 10 of 20 Most-Watched Games
ABC aired four of the top nine most-watched games this season, and, combined with ESPN, 10 of the top 20 games.  Among the individual highlights on both networks:

  • Ohio State at Penn State: Among top five most-watched September games on ABC in the last decade
  • Notre Dame at USC: The most-watched Fighting Irish game this season on any network and the most-watched game featuring Notre Dame since September 2016
  • Ohio State vs. TCU: Fifth-highest viewership for a September, non-opening week Saturday Night Football game in the last 10 years.
  • Virginia Tech vs. Florida State: First Labor Day night Megacast leads to double-digit growth on Labor Day night year-over-year
  • Oklahoma at West Virginia: Top three ESPN regular season Friday viewerships on record, which dates back to 1993
  • Clemson at Texas A&M: Cable’s second-most-watched Saturday game since November 2016

ESPN Stands Alone in Cable’s Most-Watched Games
ESPN once again set the pace among all cable networks, as the network aired the 17 most-watched cable games, and 24 games with audiences north of two million, a feat achieved by a competitor’s network only twice. Overall, combined with ESPN2, the networks aired 46 of the top 50 and 83 of the top 100.

College GameDay Built by The Home Depot Grows Viewership Year-Over-Year
College GameDay Built by The Home Depot averaged 1,902,000 viewers across ESPN and ESPNU, up 3% from last season’s ESPN-only presentation. The show’s week 13 episode from Columbus, Ohio, earned 2,478,000 viewers, the second-most-watched show since 2011.

Birmingham Finishes as No. 1 Local Market: Accomplished Every Season Since Records Began in 2002
Across ESPN/ABC, Birmingham, Ala., was the highest-rated local market once again, a feat the market has achieved each year since records began in 2002.

Rank Market Rating
1 Birmingham 6.7
2 Columbus, OH 4.9
3 Tulsa 4.8
4 Oklahoma City 4.7
5 Greenville 4.0
6 Jacksonville 3.2
New Orleans 3.2
Dayton 3.2
9 Knoxville 3.1
10 Nashville 3.0

Note: Networks’ audience reach was as of Nov. 30, the most up-to-date information available at the time of the press release.


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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