ABC’s Saturday Night Football Televises College Football’s Most-Watched Game of the Week; ESPN’s Primetime Game Delivers Higher Viewership than Broadcast Competition

College Football

ABC’s Saturday Night Football Televises College Football’s Most-Watched Game of the Week; ESPN’s Primetime Game Delivers Higher Viewership than Broadcast Competition

  • Fourth-Time This Season ABC’s SNF Game Has Aired Most-Watched Game; ABC Up Year-Over-Year in Every Game Window This Week
  • ESPN Airs Network’s Most-Watched Saturday Game Since Week Zero
  • ESPN’s Networks Up 14% for Entire 2019 Season

ABC televised the most-watched game of the week for the fourth time this season and delivered audience growth in all three of its game windows, which has been determined now that Nielsen’s full reporting is available. ESPN joined ABC as leaders in primetime this week, as the networks combined to air the two most-watched night games across all networks and, together, averaged more than 12 million viewers during a portion of Saturday’s primetime window.

Now through six weeks of the season, ESPN’s networks are up 14% year-over-year throughout its entire portfolio of college football coverage.

ABC’s Saturday Night Football Drives Significant Year-Over-Year Growth; Peaks at Over Eight Million Viewers
ABC’s Saturday Night Football was the most-watched college football game of the week, as Michigan State at Ohio State (7:30 p.m.) averaged 6,677,000 viewers. The audience for the Buckeyes’ victory was up 49% from last year’s same game window (Notre Dame at Virginia Tech) and peaked at 8,188,000 viewers. Additional highlights:

  • Starting Fall Strong: ABC’s audience was larger than any October game last season, on any network.
  • Columbus Leads the Way: Ohio State’s home market led the way on Saturday night, with a 39.1 local rating. The top five markets include:
Rank Local Rating Market
1 39.1 Columbus
2 25.5 Dayton
3 22.4 Cleveland
4 13.4 Detroit
5 11.7 Cincinnati

ESPN Draws Best Saturday Audience since Week Zero
ESPN’s telecast of Georgia at Tennessee (7:15 p.m.) was the sport’s most-watched primetime game outside of ABC’s Saturday Night Football, as the game averaged 3,901,000 viewers. For ESPN, the audience was up 51% from last year’s same game window (Kentucky at Texas A&M) and delivered the network’s best Saturday audience this season, outside the stand-alone Week Zero matchup between Florida and Miami on Aug. 24. Additional highlights:

  • Joins ABC as Head of Class: Out-rated the broadcast competition’s primetime game by 94%
  • Multi-Year High: Cable’s most-watched October game since 2017

ABC and ESPN Best All Competition in Primetime
As a result of the two games, ABC and ESPN ranked first or second in prime across all broadcast and cable nets among viewers and all key male, female and adult demos. Combining week zero (Aug. 24), ESPN’s networks have ‘Won the Night’ six of the last seven Saturday nights. Factoring in the entire five-day Kickoff Weekend (Aug. 29 – Sept. 2), college football has led ESPN’s nets to “Win the Night” eight times this season.

Saturday Successes
ESPN and ABC’s success was one part of a significant day across ESPN’s networks. Additional highlights:

  • Up and Up: ABC grew its audience by 28% and 13% in the noon and late afternoon windows, respectively, adding to the 49% ABC was up in Saturday Night Football. Texas at West Virginia (3:30 p.m.) delivered 3,162,000 viewers and Oklahoma at Kansas (noon) had 2,976,000 viewers.
  • Starting and Ending Strong: ESPN began and ended the day with strong audiences, as College GameDay Built by The Home Depot averaged 1,747,000 viewers and ESPN’s telecast of Washington at Stanford (10:30 p.m.) drew an audience of 1,878,000 viewers. The late night window was up 31% year-over-year and College GameDay is up 4% year over year for the season. On Saturday, College GameDay delivered a final hour audience average of 1,976,000 viewers.



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

Derek Volner

I currently lead ESPN’s NFL Communications, including Monday Night Football, NFL Draft and studio programming. Previously, I did the same for ESPN’s vast college football portfolio. I have been with ESPN since 2013.
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