Fast Start for ESPN in 2022 in Viewership and Social Media Engagements

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Fast Start for ESPN in 2022 in Viewership and Social Media Engagements

Best Start in Prime Time in Over a Decade 

College Football Playoff Games, Monday Night Football Boost Network to Top of Cable 

Propelled by cable television’s annually most-watched three programs – the College Football Playoff Semifinals and Championship – and Monday Night Football including the inaugural Week 18 doubleheader last Saturday, as well as the performance of many studio shows, ESPN is off to its best start in years after two weeks in 2022.  The network led cable in viewership and in the key P18-49 demo by wide margins in both prime time and total day and took total ownership of the list of cable’s most-watched 10 shows in that demo. (L+SD)  Accordingly, ESPN also led all sports media companies in those two weeks in social media engagements. 

For Nielsen’s 2022 to date (Dec. 27 – Jan. 10), ESPN is off to its best start:  

  • In prime time among all viewers (P2+) — since 2011. 
  • In prime time among P18-49 – since 2017 
  • In total day among all viewers – since 2017 
  • In total day among P18-49 – since 2017 

In that time, ESPN outperformed all cable competitors and attracted an audience up to eight times larger than the next best performing network among all viewers and in the key P18-49 sales demo in both prime time and total day:  

  • In prime time, ESPN was the No. 1 cable network among P2+, 245% higher than second-place Fox News Channel. 
  • In prime time, ESPN was the No. 1 cable network among P18-49, 766% higher than second-place TBS. 
  • In total day, ESPN was the No. 1 cable network among P2+, 71% higher than second-place Fox News Channel. 
  • In total day, ESPN was the No. 1 cable network among P18-49, 391% higher than second-place TBS. 

In those two weeks, ESPN aired nine of cable’s 10 –most viewed programs (P2+), led by the College Football Playoff Championship in which Georgia defeated Alabama 33-18, the two college semifinals and the Rose Bowl.  Among P18-49, ESPN aired all of the top 10 most-watched programs. 

As is often the case, big events led to big audiences for ESPN studio shows. The combination of the end to the NFL season on January 9 and the College Football Playoff Championship the next day served as the catalyst to a number of notably large audiences for a number of shows on January 10:  

  • Get Up had its most-viewed show ever – 620K viewers. 
  • PTI had its most-viewed show since January 9, 2018 – 1.1M viewers. 
  • Around the Horn had its most-viewed show since November 15, 2019 – 670K viewers. 
  • First Take had its most-viewed show since February 3, 2020 – 697K viewers. 
  • The 12 a.m. SportsCenter after the national championship was the most-viewed SportsCenter since January 1, 2021 – 3.8M viewers. 

In the social media space, over the same period of time, ESPN Social was No. 1 in total engagement among sports media companies with 170.1M engagements across Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and Twitter. 

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Dave Nagle

As I write this on 11-11-21, it's now 35 years for me at ESPN, the only real job I’ve ever had. I joined merely to help with the America’s Cup for three months at all of $5.50 per hour. I like to say I simply kept showing up. I’ve worked on almost every sport, plus answered viewer calls and letters (people used to write!), given tours, written the company newsletter and once drove NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon to the local airport. My travels have been varied…I’ve been to Martinsville, Darlington, Indy and Super Bowls; the America’s Cup (all 3) in San Diego and College GameDay in the sport’s meccas such as Eugene, Auburn, Lubbock, Stillwater and more; the NBA Finals, Wimbledon (16 times and counting) and the “other Bristol,” the one with a race track in Tennessee. These days, my main areas are tennis, UFC, boxing, ratings, and corporate communications documents, including more than 30 of the Year in Review press releases.
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