Banner Week: ABC’s Michigan at Penn State and ESPN’s Tennessee at Alabama Primetime Games Are Two Most-Watched Matchups of Week 8; Both Networks Also Win Noon Game Window

College Football

Banner Week: ABC’s Michigan at Penn State and ESPN’s Tennessee at Alabama Primetime Games Are Two Most-Watched Matchups of Week 8; Both Networks Also Win Noon Game Window

  • More than 6.6 Million Fans for Wolverines-Nittany Lions; ABC Increases Year-Over-Year Audience in All Three Game Windows

  • ESPN’s Florida at South Carolina Audience Tops All Broadcast Competition at Noon

  • Season to Date: ESPN’s Viewership up 11% across all Networks; Have Aired Five of Seven, 10 of 14 Most-Watched Games
  • College GameDay Built by The Home Depot Raises Year-Over-Year Audience Again; Up 4% for Season and Continues Best Start Since 2015

ESPN’s viewership led the way in nearly every facet among all networks during college football’s week 8, beginning with ABC’s Saturday Night Football featuring Michigan at Penn State (7:30 p.m. ET) and ESPN’s primetime presentation of Tennessee at Alabama (9 p.m.) delivering the two most-watched college football games of the week. The primetime window solidified an already banner day, as ESPN and ABC televised the two most-watched games in the noon window across all networks — Florida at South Carolina (ESPN) and Clemson at Louisville (ABC). Overall, the two networks combined to air six of the top seven most-watched games of the week. In addition to besting the competition, ABC and ESPN also increased their own year-over-year audience in nearly all game windows.

Now, season to date, across all its Nielsen-rated networks, ESPN’s viewership is up 11% for the season.

More than 6.6 Million Fans for Wolverines-Nittany Lions
The Big Ten battle between the Wolverines and Nittany Lions delivered an average audience of 6,658,000 viewers, planting its audience among the most-watched games of the season. The viewership is up 6% from last season’s week 8 SNF contest (Ohio State at Purdue).  Columbus was the top-rated local market, earning a 16.5. The complete top 10:

Rank Local Rating Market
1 16.5 Columbus
2 16.2 Detroit
3 10.9 Pittsburgh
4 10.7 Dayton
5 10.4 Philadelphia
6 8.6 Cleveland
7 7.2 Fort Myers
8 6.6 Cincinnati
9 6.1 Oklahoma City
10 5.6 Charlotte

ESPN’s Tennessee-Alabama Audience Tops All Competitors’ Broadcasts; Airs Most-Watched SEC Game for Second Consecutive Week
ESPN’s SEC showdown between the Volunteers and Crimson Tide earned 4,248,000 viewers, the second most-watched game of the week across all networks, trailing only ABC’s SNF.  The significant audience propelled ESPN to garner the most-watched SEC game of the week for the second consecutive week, as last week’s Florida-LSU on ESPN also earned that superlative.

For the entire season, the viewership is among ESPN’s – and all of cable’s —  best Saturday games this season, trailing only last week’s Florida at LSU audience and ESPN’s special Week 0 presentation of Miami vs. Florida.

Birmingham was the top market, earning a 41.8 local rating. The top five:

Rank Local Rating Market
1 41.8 Birmingham
2 26.6 Knoxville
3 14.6 Nashville
4 11.3 Atlanta
5 8.0 New Orleans

Big Noon Audience for ESPN and ABC
ESPN and ABC topped the competition in the first window of the day (Noon), as the Gators-Gamecocks drew an audience of 3,193,000 viewers and Tigers-Cardinals delivered 2,608,000 fans. The ESPN audience was up 42% year-over-year and peaked at 4,130,000 viewers late in the second half (2:30-2:45 p.m.). ABC’s audience was up 5% year-over-year.

ESPN and ABC Finishes with Six of Seven Most-Watched Games of Week 8
Overall, ESPN and ABC combined to air six of the seven most-watched games of the week, as Oregon at Washington on ABC (3:30 p.m.) averaged 3,619,000 viewers and Kentucky at Georgia on ESPN (6 p.m.) earned 2,936,000 viewers. The Ducks-Huskies audience was up 15% year-over-year (Penn State at Indiana).

ESPN’s Networks are the Top Home to College Football Fans
ESPN networks have continued to be the top home to college football this season, as the networks have aired five of the seven most-watched games and, expanded further, 10 of the 14 most watched games.

Most-Watched Games of the Season

Rank Game Viewership Network Date
1 Notre Dame at Georgia 9,349,000 CBS Sept. 21
2 LSU at Texas 8,651,000 ABC Sept. 7
3 Oklahoma vs. Texas 7,323,000 FOX Oct. 12
4 Oregon vs. Auburn 6,876,000 ABC Aug. 31
5 Michigan State at Ohio State 6,683,000 ABC Oct. 5
6 Michigan at Penn State 6,658,000 ABC Oct. 19
7 Florida at LSU 6,611,000 ESPN Oct. 12
8 Auburn at Florida 6,480,000 CBS Oct. 5
9 Texas A&M at Clemson 6,476,000 ABC Sept. 7
10 Alabama at Texas A&M 6,145,000 CBS Oct. 12
11 Ohio State at Nebraska 6,144,000 ABC Sept. 28
12 Miami vs. Florida 6,088,000 ESPN Aug. 24
13 Notre Dame at Louisville 5,683,000 ESPN Sept. 2
14 Houston at Oklahoma 5,450,000 ABC Sept. 1

Please note: Audience numbers reflect most up-to-date Nielsen data

College GameDay Built by The Home Depot Continues Best Start Since 2015
College GameDay Built by The Home Depot delivered an audience of 1,825,000 viewers, up 3% from last season’s Week 8 episode. This marks the sixth time in eight weeks the show has increased its audience year-over-year. For the season, GameDay is up 4% and off to its best start since 2015. In this week’s final hour, the show drew 2,185,000 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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