College Football’s Kickoff Weekend Propels ESPN and ABC to Television’s Largest Audience in Key Demos for Five Consecutive Nights; ESPN’s Networks Up 35% Season-to-Date

College Football

College Football’s Kickoff Weekend Propels ESPN and ABC to Television’s Largest Audience in Key Demos for Five Consecutive Nights; ESPN’s Networks Up 35% Season-to-Date

  • 62.9 Million Fans Combined to Watch 8.5 Billion Minutes across ESPN’s Networks During Kickoff Weekend

  • ABC’s Saturday Night Football Sets Pace; ESPN and ABC Have Aired Five Most-Watched Games among all Networks this Season

  • College GameDay Built by The Home Depot Averages Nearly Two Million Viewers

Fans responded to ESPN’s college football Kickoff Weekend (Aug. 29-Sept. 2) with overwhelming enthusiasm, as the slate of games catapulted ESPN or ABC to draw the highest viewership among all cable and broadcast networks in key demos resulting in one of them “Winning the Night” for five consecutive nights. Season-to-date, ESPN and ABC have also combined to air the five most-viewed games on any network and, across all ESPN networks, have increased its ratings by 35%. During Kickoff Weekend alone, ESPN’s networks increased its rating by 24% and a total of 62.9 million fans tuned in, combining to watch 8.5 billion minutes.

ESPN and ABC completed the five-day Kickoff Weekend with signature primetime games, as Notre Dame at Louisville on Labor Day (8 p.m. ET, ESPN) averaged 5,599,000 viewers and Houston-Oklahoma on Sunday (7:30 p.m., ABC) delivered 5,442,000 viewers. The two marquee games, combined with ABC Saturday Night Football’s Oregon and Auburn (7:30 p.m.) and the ESPN CFB150 Showcase Game between Duke and Alabama (3:30 p.m., ABC) make up the most-watched games of the weekend. Adding in the Week 0 matchup between Miami and Florida, ESPN and ABC have aired the five most-watched games of the season.

Rank Game Viewership Network Date
1 Oregon-Auburn 6,863,000 ABC Sat, Aug. 31
2 Miami-Florida 6,087,000 ESPN Sat, Aug. 24
3 Notre Dame-Louisville 5,599,000 ESPN Mon, Sept. 2
4 Houston-Oklahoma 5,442,000 ABC Sun, Sept. 1
5 Duke-Alabama 4,641,000 ABC Sat, Aug. 31


ESPN and ABC ‘Win the Night’ Five Consecutive Nights
ESPN or ABC delivered the most-viewers in all key male demos (18-34, 18-49 and 25-54) and adults (18-24 and 18-49) during each night of Kickoff Weekend, driving the two networks to ‘Win the Night’. ESPN reached the milestone on August 29, 30 and September 2, while ABC captured the nights of August 31 and September 1. Additionally, ESPN was the second most-watched network on Aug. 31 in the key male and adult demos, only behind ABC.

College GameDay Draws Nearly Two Million Viewers
College GameDay Built by The Home Depot (9 a.m. – noon) delivered an audience of 1,907,000 for its three-hour show. In its final hour, College GameDay drew 2.4 million viewers.

Additional ESPN Kickoff Week Highlights:

  • ESPN and ABC combined for 3,663,000 viewers in Saturday’s noon window, making it the most-watched media company in that game window. In that same window, the ESPNEWS telecast of Boise State-Florida State (Noon) delivered an average viewership of 1,194,000 viewers, the network’s best full telecast ever on record. Factoring that game, plus ESPNU, ESPN’s networks totaled 4.8 million viewers in the game window.
  • ESPN generated significant growth in individual Saturday game windows, including 79% increase in primetime (Georgia at Vanderbilt), 46% in Saturday afternoon (North Carolina vs. South Carolina) and 25% in the final game window (Fresno State at USC).
  • Throughout the five-day Kickoff Weekend, 5.2 billion minutes were spent on ESPN’s digital platforms in the United States, up 29% from the same Kickoff Weekend last season.
  • On ESPN’s Twitter handles, across @ESPN, @SportsCenter, @ESPNCFB, and @CollegeGameday, fans generated a total of 2,370,000 engagements from August 27 to September 2, up 31% year-over-year.


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.