ESPN’s Networks Accounted for 54% of All College Football Viewership This Season

College Football

ESPN’s Networks Accounted for 54% of All College Football Viewership This Season

  • ESPN Networks’ Viewership Finishes Up 4% Year-Over-Year
  • ABC Generates the Highest Viewership in the Most Broadcast Windows; ESPN Airs 35 Most-Watched Games on Cable
  • College Football Playoff Ranking Reveals Generate Year-Over-Year Viewership Growth
  • ESPN Sees Increased Interests Across Multiple Digital Shows

College football fans turned to ESPN’s coverage of the sport more than all of the competitor networks combined in the 2019 season, as ESPN’s Nielsen-rated networks accounted for 54% of all college football viewing this fall. Among individual games, ESPN grew its college football viewership from last season, finishing up 4% across those same Nielsen-rated networks and reaching more than 160 million fans throughout the season.

Across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, ESPN networks averaged 8.5 million viewers in prime time each week of the college football season, equivalent to having a top ten most-viewed game each week of the season.

ESPN’s Nielsen-rated networks are ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPNEWS. The majority share was achieved without accounting for games on ACC Network, Longhorn Network, SEC Network, Big 12 Now on ESPN+, ESPN+ and ESPN3 (approximately 750 games) as they are not Nielsen rated.

ABC Tops the Competition
Ten games this season propelled ABC to generate an average audience of more than six million viewers, the most of any network. Additionally, among the 45 broadcast windows this season (three windows each Saturday of the season at noon, late afternoon and primetime), games on ABC garnered the most viewers in 18 (40%) of the 45 windows, more wins than any other single broadcast network.

ESPN Delivers More than 1.7 Million Viewers for 34 Games this Season
ESPN easily set the bar among its cable competition, as the network topped 1.7 million viewers, on average,  for 34 games this season, a feat the competition accomplished zero times. Among the 80 games on cable that garnered more than a million viewers, ESPN and ESPN2 aired 65 of them, while the competition combined to air only 15 games that crossed the million-viewer threshold.

ABC and ESPN Air Top Games, Earn Numerous Multi-Year Highs throughout the Season
Across the entire sport and all games, ESPN and ABC combined to air 15 of the 30 most-watched games this season, with the Big 12 Championship leading the way as Baylor vs. Oklahoma delivered 8,700,000 viewers. Additional highlights this year include:

  • LSU at Texas (Sept. 7): 8,651,000 viewers, an ABC’s Saturday Night Football top five most-watched September game since 2008
  • Oklahoma vs. Baylor (Nov. 16): 6,796,000 viewers, ABC’s best audience for a regular season Big 12 intra-conference game since 2013
  • Penn State at Minnesota (Nov. 9): 6,754,000 viewers, ABC’s most-watched regular season noon game since 2016
  • Florida at LSU (Oct. 12): 6,587,000 viewers, ESPN’s most-watched game in nearly two years
  • Miami vs. Florida (Aug. 24): 6,088,000 viewers, ESPN’s best viewership ever to start a season
  • Pac-12 Championship Utah vs. Oregon (Dec. 6): 5,856,000 viewers, Pac-12’s most-watched championship game since 2014

ESPN and ABC “Won the Night” 11 Times, Led in Key Male Demo 14 Times
ESPN and ABC’s primetime success extended beyond its college football competition, as the sport drove the two networks to “win the night” 11 times this season, out-delivering all programming on all other networks – sports and non-sports – among viewers P2+. Narrowing it down to key demos, the networks’ performance is stronger, as college football resulted in ABC/ESPN leading the both adult 18-34 and adult 18-49 demo 14 different times.

Birmingham Finishes as No. 1 Local Market, AGAIN!
Across ESPN/ABC, Birmingham, Ala., was the highest-rated local market once again, a feat the market has achieved every year since records began in 2002.

Rank Market
1 Birmingham, Ala.
2 Columbus, Ohio
3 Greenville
New Orleans
5 Atlanta
Oklahoma City
8 Knoxville
9 Jacksonville
10 Nashville


College Football Ranking Shows See Viewership Increase
ESPN’s College Football Playoff: Top 25 on Tuesdays averaged 1,276,000 viewers (five episodes), up 6% year-over-year from the same five shows. Following the linear show, Rankings Reaction – a one-hour digital offering on the ESPN App, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – reached 8.2 million viewers throughout the season, up 95% year-over-year.

Additional Digital Highlights:

  • On college football Saturdays, ESPN’s US digital platforms (App + Web) saw a 10% increase in minutes spent viewing
  • ESPN’s The College Football Show, which was streamed each Saturday the ESPN App, Twitter and YouTube, reached 14 million viewers throughout the season (15 shows), up 41% year-over-year.



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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