Monster College Football Audiences and Record-Breaking US Open Viewership Propel ESPN and ABC to Reach 72 Million Viewers during 48-Hour Stretch; ESPN App Sets New Daily and Weekend Usage Records

College FootballNFLTennis

Monster College Football Audiences and Record-Breaking US Open Viewership Propel ESPN and ABC to Reach 72 Million Viewers during 48-Hour Stretch; ESPN App Sets New Daily and Weekend Usage Records

  • LSU at Texas: More Than 8.6 Million Viewers; Among ABC’s Saturday Night Football Top 5 Most-Watched September Games Since 2008
  • Texas A&M at Clemson: ABC’s Third Most-Watched 3:30 p.m. September Game in a Decade; Fourth Best This Millennium
  • US Open: ESPN’s Most-Watched Women’s Championship; Best Men’s Championship in Four Years
  • More than 14 Million Fans Utilize ESPN App During the Weekend
  • ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown Delivers Most-Viewed Episode since 2016 Season

While celebrating its 40th anniversary, ESPN continued to raise the bar for sports fans by programming the highest quality college football, men’s and women’s tennis championship grand slam and best news and information programming which combined to reach 72 million people across ESPN and ABC on Saturday, Sept. 7, and Sunday, Sept. 8. In the same window, more than 14.3 million fans also utilized the ESPN App, marking a two-day record for the product.

Parsing the significant audience reveals record-setting audiences and multi-year highs. ABC’s Saturday telecasts of LSU at Texas and Texas A&M at Clemson generated two of the network’s most-watched September college football games in recent history and elevated the network to its most watched Saturday college football slate in more than two years. On the same day, ESPN televised its most-watched US Open Women’s Championship and then followed that up on Sunday with its most-watched US Open Men’s Championship in four years. The ESPN App kept everyone tuned into live streaming events and connected to every storyline throughout the sports world, as 11.8 million fans utilized the platform on Saturday followed by 10.8 million fans on Sunday, the two best individual days in the app’s history.

ESPN Begins 2019 Season Red Hot: Every Network is Up, Has Aired All the Most-Watched Games
Two full weeks into the college football season, ESPN is up 41% year-over-year (30 games). Most impressively, every ESPN Nielsen-rated network is up across the board: ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPNEWS. College GameDay Built by The Home Depot is up 2% year-over-year, averaging 1,940,000 viewers per show. Among individual games, ESPN and ABC have aired the top six games among all networks.

Rank Game Viewership Network Date
1 LSU-Texas 8,633,000 ABC Sat, Sept. 7
2 Oregon-Auburn 6,863,000 ABC Sat, Aug. 31
3 Texas A&M-Clemson 6,461,000 ABC Sat, Sept. 7
4 Miami-Florida 6,087,000 ESPN Sat, Aug. 24
5 Notre Dame-Louisville 5,599,000 ESPN Mon, Sept. 2
6. Houston-Oklahoma 5,442,000 ABC Sun, Sept. 1

Viewership based on initial Nielsen reporting. Numbers will continue to increase as reporting continues

Among games on cable, ESPN’s networks have aired the 15 most-watched games of the season.

Tigers-Longhorns Deliver One of ABC’s Saturday Night Football’s Biggest September Audiences
ABC’s Saturday Night Football featuring LSU at Texas (7:30 p.m. ET) averaged 8,633,000 viewers, one of the franchise’s top five most-watched September games on the network since 2008. Excluding multiple week 1, record-setting audiences, the viewership for the Tigers’ victory ranks as SNF’s third best September audience in that same period.

The more-than 8.6 million viewers is the most for a college football game this year and is up 162% from last year’s comparable game.

Texas A&M-Clemson Among Most-Watched ABC September 3:30 p.m. Game Since 2000
ABC’s telecast of Texas A&M at Clemson (3:30 p.m.) averaged 6,461,000 viewers, the network’s third most-watched nationally-televised September 3:30 p.m. game since 2009 and the fourth most-watched in this millennium. For this season, the viewership represents the third best for a college football game, trailing only both ABC Saturday Night Football contests.

ABC Airs its Best Saturday Slate in Nearly Two Seasons; Wins the Night
Buoyed by the two most-watched games of the season, ABC aired its best tripleheader since the 2017’s record-breaking opening weekend, averaging 6,226,000 viewers for its three games, up 102% year over year. Cincinnati at Ohio State (noon) began the day with 2,939,000 viewers, up 16% from the comparable game last year.

ABC also delivered the most viewers across broadcast and cable among households, viewers and all key adult demos (18-34, 18-49 and 25-54) on Saturday, driving the two networks to ‘Win the Night.’ This is the second consecutive Saturday ABC has achieved the distinction and is already the sixth time an ESPN network has done so this college football season.

ESPN Concludes US Open with Records for Women’s Championship, Multi-Year High for Men’s Championship
ESPN’s US Open coverage delivered a great finale, as the Women’s Championship (Saturday, 4 p.m.) delivered 3,219,000 viewers, ESPN’s most-viewed ever and the Men’s Championship (Sunday, 4 p.m.) had 2,751,000 viewers, the most-viewed since 2015, ESPN’s first year of exclusivity and airing the entire tournament.

ESPN Sets New Record throughout its US Open Coverage
Throughout the two weeks, ESPN’s live, exclusive coverage of the US Open was seen by an average of 1,275,000 viewers, ESPN’s most ever for the event and up 23% from last year. Overall, 28 of 29 comparable telecast windows saw an increase in viewership over 2018, with the increase including all the key male, female and adult demos.

NFL Opening Sunday Sees Multi-Platform Growth for ESPN; Success Continues on Monday Night Football
The start of the NFL season added to the momentum for ESPN. The network’s season-opening Sunday NFL Countdown (10 a.m. – 1 p.m.) delivered 1,600,000 viewers, the show’s most-viewed episode since the 2016 season and up 15% year-over-year. Throughout the entire day, Sunday was also the biggest day ever for the ESPN Fantasy App.

ESPN’s NFL success continued as Monday Night Football’s 50th season opening doubleheader averaged a combined 8.6 overnight rating, resulting in a 19% increase year-over-year and is the highest-rated MNF doubleheader since 2015. Full viewership numbers will be available later today.




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.