ESPN College Football on Pace for Most-Watched Season Since 2016 – ABC is the Sport’s Most-Watched Network

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ESPN College Football on Pace for Most-Watched Season Since 2016 – ABC is the Sport’s Most-Watched Network

  • ESPN Platforms Deliver Top Game in Six of Seven Weeks
  • ESPN Platforms Own 52% Share of Minutes Watched, Double Any Other Nielsen-Measured Network
  • College GameDay Built by The Home Depot Off to Second-Best Start Since 2010

Through seven weeks of the 2023 college football season, ESPN platforms are on pace for their most-watched season since 2016, delivering multi-year audience increases and several superlatives across multiple platforms and conferences. Overall, ESPN platforms aired the top game across all networks in six of the first seven weeks, own 52 percent of the share of minutes watched across all Nielsen-measured networks, and viewership is up nine percent year-over-year through the midway point of the 2023 season.

ABC is the Top Network for College Football
ABC is the most-watched network in college football and is off to its best seven-week start since 2017, averaging 4.4 million viewers and up 16 percent over 2022. ABC’s late afternoon window is up +41 percent year-over-year and is averaging five million viewers, its largest average audience for that timeslot through midseason in 12 years.

ESPN Experiences Record-Setting Fall
ESPN is off to its best seven-week start since 2016, averaging 2.3 million viewers and currently up three percent over the 2022 season. ESPN has aired two of its seven most-watched regular season games of all time in 2023, including Colorado State at Colorado and Alabama at Texas. The early primetime window is averaging 3.8 million viewers through midseason, up 17 percent year-over-year and its largest audience for that timeslot since 2015.

ESPN Platforms Score Five of Top Seven Most-Viewed Matchups (excluding ESPN3 streaming)

  • No. 1 – Colorado/Oregon – 10.0M Viewers
    Top game of the season and best Pac-12 conference game since 2006
  • No. 3 – Colorado State/Colorado – 9.3M Viewers
    Fifth best regular season college football game on ESPN all-time
  • No. 4 – LSU/Florida State – 9.2M Viewers
    Most-watched Labor Day Sunday game since 2016 and second best on record
  • No. 5 – Texas/Alabama – 8.8M Viewers
    Seventh best regular season college football game on ESPN/ESPN2 all time
  • No. 7 – Oklahoma/Texas – 7.9M Viewers
    Second-best Red River Rivalry game in full national window on record

College GameDay Continues Unparalleled Performance
Following its record-breaking 2022 season, College GameDay Built by The Home Depot is off to another strong start, delivering 2.0 million viewers on average – its second-best start since 2010. Trailing only last year’s viewership, the 2022-23 season finished in historical fashion as the most-watched year for the premier pre-game programming since increasing to three hours. College GameDay reigns supreme as the top pre-game studio show, with the final hour of CGD averaging double the number of viewers as the competition.

Three of the top five most-watched pre-November CGD telecasts since 2010 have aired this season, including Week 6 at the Texas State Fair for the Red River Rivalry (2.29M viewers), Week 3 in Boulder for the Rocky Mountain Showdown (2.27M viewers) and Week 4 in South Bend as Notre Dame played host to Ohio State (2.24M viewers).

ESPN+ Boasts Banner Year to Date
The 2023 season has been an impressive one thus far for ESPN+, as September 2023 was the top month ever for college football on ESPN+. This fall has also delivered the top two days ever for the sport on ESPN+ (Sept. 9 and Sept. 2) and three of the top four college football games ever on the platform.

Additional Viewership Superlatives

  • Viewership gains across ESPN platforms are driven by the P18-34 demographic, up 16% year-over-year, and P18-49 up 13%.
  • Several conferences are delivering increases in average audiences compared to the 2022 season, including the Pac-12 (+146%), Big 12 (+32%), ACC (+21%) and the American (+15%).
  • College football digital content has posted year-over-year gains in uniques (+8%) and page views (+12%). This season has included three of the top four days ever for college football content across ESPN digital, based on uniques.

Amanda Brooks

Amanda is the Senior Director of Communications overseeing publicity strategy for ESPN’s entire college sports portfolio, including college football and the College Football Playoff, 40 NCAA Championships and ESPN's college 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 Guardians fan.
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