Men’s College Basketball on ESPN Up 15 Percent in the Regular Season; Women’s College Basketball Up Five Percent Across All Networks

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Men’s College Basketball on ESPN Up 15 Percent in the Regular Season; Women’s College Basketball Up Five Percent Across All Networks

  • Franchise Programming, Including Sonic Blockbuster, Saturday Primetime and Thursday Showcase, Up Significantly
  • Men’s Duke-North Carolina Contests Rank as Top Two Games of the Season Across All Networks; ESPN Televised the Six Most-Watched Games Overall

ESPN’s industry-leading college basketball slate was up significantly year-over-year, with men’s basketball up 15 percent, averaging 1,199,000 viewers per game. Across all networks, men’s basketball finished up six percent, and women’s basketball was up five percent.

ESPN’s franchise programming led the way for the network, with its Sonic Blockbuster (2,803,000 viewers) and Saturday Primetime Presented by H&R Block (2,776,000 viewers) games being up 64 percent and 42 percent, respectively. Thursday Showcase contests (women’s), which featured marquee matchups throughout the season, averaged 549,000 viewers, up 28 percent.

On the men’s side, ESPN aired the top six games across all networks, including Saturday’s Duke-North Carolina matchup (March 9, 6 p.m. ET), which averaged 4,162,000 viewers.

Date Matchup Network Viewers
Feb. 20, 2019 North Carolina at Duke ESPN 4,472,000
Mar 9, 2019 Duke at North Carolina ESPN 4,162,000
Jan. 19, 2019 Virginia at Duke ESPN 3,837,000
Feb. 9, 2019 Duke at Virginia ESPN 3,378,000
Feb, 16, 2019 Tennessee at Kentucky ESPN 3,057,000
Feb, 23, 2019 Duke at Syracuse ESPN 3,026,000


Duke generated significant interest on ESPN this season, with Duke games averaging 2,143,000 viewers, up 30 percent year over year. Even factoring out Duke’s increase, college basketball on ESPN is still up six percent.

ESPN networks aired the top 105 men’s games on cable, with ESPN networks averaging 410,000 viewers across all games on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU. College GameDay Covered by State Farm on ESPN, and simulcast on ESPNU, averaged 638,000 viewers this season.

Hoops Love from the Locals
For the 17th consecutive year, Louisville is the number one market for men’s college basketball. Knoxville ranks second (2.9 rating), followed by Raleigh-Durham (2.8).

Rank Market Rating
1 Louisville 4.2
2 Knoxville 2.9
3 Raleigh-Durham 2.8
4 Greensboro-High Point 2.7
5 Kansas City 2.5

For the seventh year in a row, Hartford & New Haven is the number one market for women’s college basketball.

Rank DMA Rating
1 Hartford & New Haven 1.2
2 Knoxville 0.9
3 Louisville 0.5
4 Memphis 0.3
Birmingham 0.3

Champ Week
Champ Week Presented by Principal continues this week with a number of conference tournaments across ESPN networks. Coverage will culminate with daylong Selection Sunday programming and Selection Monday, when the teams vying for the men’s and women’s national titles will be revealed.

Teams playing in the women’s championship will be revealed during ESPN’s Selection Special Presented by Capital One on Monday, March 18 at 7 p.m. Maria Taylor, Rebecca Lobo and Andy Landers will unveil the bracket during the one-hour special, discussing the matchups, regions and overall bracket. The show will continue on ESPNU from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The exclusive presentation of the 2019 NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship Presented by Capital One begins Friday, March 22, on ESPN, ESPN2 and the ESPN App, and continues through the NCAA Women’s Final Four (April 5-7).


Anna Negron

It was always a dream of mine to work at ESPN, and here I am! I joined the College Sports PR team in March 2016. Hailing from the great Garden State, I graduated from Seton Hall University (Go Pirates!) with a degree in sport management, where I not only sang the National Anthem at games, but was also a member of the Seton Hall Sapphires Dance Team and a student reporter for Pirate Sports Network. Before joining ESPN, I served as a Public Relations Associate for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
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