ESPN’s College GameDay Built by The Home Depot Averages Two Million Viewers in 2023 – Its Second- Most-Watched Season Since 2011

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ESPN’s College GameDay Built by The Home Depot Averages Two Million Viewers in 2023 – Its Second- Most-Watched Season Since 2011

2023 Season Image Highlights

    • GameDay remains college football’s most-watched pregame show and reached 30 million viewers this season
    • 2023 season is GameDay’s fourth-best season all-time
    • The premier pregame show celebrated its 30th season on the road, Lee Corso’s 400th headgear pick, CGD’s first visit to Duke and trips to six different conferences this year

ESPN’s College GameDay Built by The Home Depot had a monumental 2023, celebrating its 30th season on the road and finishing as the second most-watched season since 2011 and fourth-best all time. The premier pregame show made its first-ever trip to Duke this season, traveled to six different conferences and saw Lee Corso make his 400th headgear pick.

GameDay averaged 2.0 million viewers, just 0.7% below last year’s record-setting season (2.1 million) and 8% above 2021. The show marked its most-watched October ever with 2.1 million viewers across four episodes and third-best November ever with 2.2 million viewers. This season featured a GameDay record six telecasts to surpass 2.2 million viewers and reaching 30.0 million viewers on the season.

If the show were a game window, GameDay would rank as the third-most-watched regularly scheduled college football window on cable, behind only ESPN early and late prime games. College GameDay remains the most-watched sports news and studio show on cable and college football’s No. 1 pregame show, outpacing the competition in the final hour by 60% overall and by 105% in the key persons 18-49 demographic.

GameDay’s most-watched show of 2023 was the Week 13 visit to Ann Arbor, Mich., for Rivalry Week, averaging 2.4 million viewers and marking the sixth most-watched episode ever. The Week 3 visit to Colorado and Week 6 trip to the Red River Rivalry both followed with 2.3 million viewers. The former came in as the most-watched September episode since 2010 and the latter notched the second most-watched pre-November episode since 2010. All three shows hit 3.0 million viewers in the final hour, three of the four shows to do so this season.

College GameDay finished the 2023 season with trips to the SEC Championship Game –the best conference championship episode since 2011, and a special visit to the Army-Navy game. The two-hour episode ahead of the 124th playing of ‘America’s Game’ featured special guests including New England Patriots legendary head coach Bill Belichick as guest picker, Patriots CEO Robert Kraft and General Charles Q. Brown, Jr., the 21st Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The show averaged 1.3 million viewers, up 29% from the 2021 episode that aired prior to the game.

Faces of GameDay

College GameDay’s familiar faces returned this fall with host Rece Davis at the helm for his ninth season, joining former Ohio State quarterback Kirk Herbstreit (27th season), Michigan Heisman Trophy winner and College Football Hall of Famer Desmond Howard (18th season), and former West Virginia kicker and punter Pat McAfee, who returned for his second full season at the GameDay desk. McAfee started a new – and instant fan-favorite segment – this season hosting Pat McAfee’s Kicking Contest where he put up his own money as fans attempted a 33-yard field goal each week. Following ESPN’s licensing of The Pat McAfee Show earlier this year, McAfee and his team regularly joined GameDay on location for live Friday shows, drawing large, passionate audiences.

Legendary coach Lee Corso, who has been a part of the premier pregame show since its inception in 1987, celebrated a milestone year making his 400th headgear pick during the show’s Week 3 visit to Colorado.

Jen Lada (eighth season) returned as the GameDay features reporter sharing meaningful and impactful stories each week including Utah State head coach Blake Anderson’s resilience through tragedy and Florida State fan Jack Coleman’s continued love for the game.

College football insider Pete Thamel and reporter Jess Sims both returned for their second seasons on GameDay. Thamel provided breaking news and up-to-the minute college football updates all season, while Sims brought fans closer to the game through unique behind-the-scenes experiences like marching with the Ohio State band and participating in the grueling obstacle course at the U.S. Military Academy.

College football betting analyst ‘Stanford Steve’ Coughlin finished his debut season on the show hosting a weekly segment of Fridge Picks in addition to joining Davis and Thamel on the popular College GameDay podcast.

Cross-Conference Coverage
The GameDay cast and crew traveled far and wide during the 2023 season with the Big 10, Pac-12 and SEC all hosting the premier pregame show three times apiece. In all, GameDay visited six different conferences over 14 weeks this season: ACC (1), Big Ten (3), Big 12 (1), Pac-12 (3), SEC (3), Sun Belt (1) and one neutral site.

Duke was the lone school to host College GameDay for the first time in 2023, while James Madison’s third time hosting the show featured a record crowd of 26,000 fans as GameDay officially celebrated its 30 years of road shows in November. In another milestone, Washington State’s ‘Ol Crimson’ flag celebrated 300 consecutive GameDay appearances on-site in Ann Arbor.

By the Numbers

Social and Digital Delivers

  • GameDay’s social platforms added to the success of the season – total followers for social accounts grew to 7.7 million while social engagement across for the show across all platforms was up to 35.6 million engagements – an 11% increase from 2022. Additionally, total impressions were up across all platforms to 673 million, up 3% year-over-year.
  • ESPN’s weekly digital and social show Countdown to GameDay saw significant increases across various metrics in 2023. Christine WilliamsonHarry Douglas and Harry Lyles Jr., returned to host the show, live on location from the site of College GameDay each week. Countdown brought in millions of viewers once again, including a 29% year-over-year increase in weekly viewers and a 20% increase in weekly minutes viewed on YouTube.

GameDay Extras

  • GameDay kicked off its first road show of the season in Tuscaloosa with a special performance by three-time GRAMMY® award winners Dan + Shay. During the Week 12 trip to JMU, the GRAMMY® award winning Jonas Brothers joined by Bailey Zimmerman helped celebrate the 30th season of the show being on the road.
  • Notable celebrity guest pickers this season included Darius Rucker (Week 1), Joe Namath (Week 2), Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson (Week 3), Vince Vaughn (Week 4), Ken Jeong (Week 5), Baker Mayfield (Week 6) and PFT Commenter (Week 12), among others.
  • ESPN celebrated the 30th season on the road with an anthem refresh and continued its creative campaign this year – ‘The Greatest Story Ever Played’ – with an ad telling the story of Nebraska fan Bobby Mersed who made the first GameDay

What’s Next
College GameDay will wrap up the 2023 college football season with special editions originating from the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game on Saturday, Dec. 30, from 9 a.m. – noon and Monday, Jan. 1, from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Monday’s show will be ahead of the No. 1 Michigan and No. 4 Alabama showdown for the National Championship spot (5 p.m.). The show will then close out the season at the CFP National Championship in Houston on Monday, Jan. 8, from 9 a.m. – noon before the big game (7:30 p.m.).

Announced earlier this month, College GameDay will make its first international trip to start the 2024 season, traveling to Dublin ahead of the ACC rivalry matchup between Georgia Tech and Florida State. Additional details on the trip will be announced in the coming months.

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Media Contact:
Julie McKay, ESPN Communications [email protected], @McKay_Julie

Julie McKay

I joined ESPN in 2022 as a member of the communications department working on college sports. My passion for college sports came at an early age in a divided household (Big Ten Conference-divided, that is) and followed that to the University of Wisconsin-Madison (sorry, Dad). Four years in the Athletic Communications Department, along with internships with the Big Ten Conference, Big Ten Network and NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, cemented my career path. After spending some time in sports media PR in San Francisco, I’ve spent five-plus years focused in golf, with stints at the American Junior Golf Association, Augusta National and Buffalo Agency, working with the USGA, Youth on Course and Destination Kohler, among others. Despite being a proud Wisconsin native, I’ll forever betray my home state as a lifelong Chicago sports fan. My dog Rizzo knows there’s always next year and wishes his namesake would return home to the North Side.
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