ESPN Delivers Its Most-Viewed College Football Kickoff Weekend Since 2016 – Notre Dame/Ohio State Scores 10.5 Million Viewers on ABC

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ESPN Delivers Its Most-Viewed College Football Kickoff Weekend Since 2016 – Notre Dame/Ohio State Scores 10.5 Million Viewers on ABC

ESPN networks registered its best kickoff weekend since 2016 and second best since 2009. Across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, 17 games accounted for nearly 82 percent of all college football viewing this weekend across linear networks. A dozen of those 17 games recorded more than a million viewers and nine were above two million viewers.

ABC and ESPN Score Record Viewership
ABC and ESPN aired the top five games of Week 1 across P2+ and P18-49 viewers, and the 17 games across Nielsen-measured networks during Labor Day Weekend averaged 2.9 million viewers in Week 1. On Saturday, the combined audience across ABC and ESPN in primetime was 13.4 million viewers.

ABC and ESPN each aired their best Kickoff Weekends in six years. ABC’s quartet of games averaged 7.1 million viewers, up 12 percent from 2021 and ABC’s second most-viewed Kickoff Weekend on record behind only 2016. ESPN’s seven games averaged 2.7 million viewers, up 69 percent over 2021.

Primetime Play Produces Powerful Audience Figures
Notre Dame at Ohio State, arguably one of the most highly anticipated matchups of the season, recorded 10.5 million viewers on ABC Saturday Night Football Presented by Capital One (7:30 p.m. ET), up 16 percent from last year’s Clemson vs. Georgia showdown and becoming the network’s most-viewed regular season game since FSU vs. Alabama (2017). 10.5 million is the second largest audience for a Week 1 Saturday game on record.

Sunday’s Allstate Louisiana Kickoff featuring Florida State and LSU drew 7.6 million viewers, ranking as the third best Opening Week Sunday game on record. Monday’s all-ACC clash between Clemson and Georgia Tech at the Chick-fil-A Kickoff scored 4.9 million viewers, the most-watched weekday game on ESPN in three seasons and up 57 percent over 2021.

Announced earlier in the week, the Backyard Brawl between West Virginia and Pittsburgh registered 3.15 million viewers, the most-watched ESPN Thursday game since 2017.

GameDay Goes Big and ABC Afternoon Action Shines in Week 1
Saturday also saw viewership victories with both College GameDay Built by The Home Depot and the Chick-fil-A Kickoff featuring defending national champion Georgia and Pac-12 powerhouse Oregon. GameDay notched 2.1 million viewers Saturday morning on ESPN and ESPNU, up 13 percent over 2021 and going down as GameDay‘s most-watched pre-November episode since 2016. The afternoon ABC showdown between the Dawgs and the Ducks registered 6.2 million viewers to become Week 1’s most-watched ABC 3:30 p.m. game since 2017.

A Final Week 1 Look – By The Numbers

  • Total minutes streamed of live college football games was up nine percent over 2021 in Week 1
  • From Thursday to Monday, unique visitors to college football digital content were up 8% and total CFB video starts were up 15% from 2021’s comparable Week 1 period
  • 26 million unique visitors consumed college football digital content throughout Week 1
  • From noon to 11 p.m. on Saturday, approximately 9.5 million viewers were watching college football in the average minute across ESPN platforms, including ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and the ESPN App.

ESPN Networks – Top Ten Most-Viewed Week 1 Matchups

Date Game P2+ Viewers Network
Sat, Sep 3 No. 2 Ohio State def. No. 5 Notre Dame, 21-10 10.5 million ABC
Sun, Sep 4 FSU def. LSU, 24-23 7.6 million ABC
Sat, Sep 3 No. 3 Georgia def. No. 11 Oregon, 49-3 6.2 million ABC
Mon, Sep 5 No. 4 Clemson def. Georgia Tech, 41-10 4.9 million ESPN
Sat, Sep 3 No. 8 Michigan def. Colorado State, 51-7 4 million ABC
Thu, Sep 1 No. 17 Pittsburgh def. West Virginia, 38-31 3.2 million ESPN
Sat, Sep 3 Florida def. No. 7 Utah, 29-26 3 million ESPN
Sat, Sep 3 No. 19 Arkansas def. No. 23 Cincinnati, 31-24 2.9 million ESPN
Sat, Sep 3 No. 13 NC State def. ECU, 21-20 2 million ESPN
Fri, Sep 2 No. 15 Michigan State def. Western Michigan, 35-13 1.3 million ESPN2

 

Amanda Brooks

Amanda is the Director of Communications for ESPN College Football and SEC Network, and oversees publicity for college gymnastics and track & field across all ESPN networks. Amanda is a proud alum of Hendrix College in Conway, Ark., and earned her master's in ethics from Vanderbilt University. A native of Kent, Ohio, she is a die-hard Cleveland sports fan.
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