Ratings Roundup: Despite Zion Williamson Injury, UNC-Duke Rises to Most-Watched Men’s College Basketball Game in ESPN History

Ratings roundup is a rundown of rating news from the past week and is derived from press releases and reports around the industry. In this week’s edition, the latest edition of the UNC-Duke rivalry becomes most-watched weeknight college basketball contest in ESPN’s history, the Daytona 500 ratings increase from last year, UFC Fight Night on ESPN debuted on cable to a favorable reception, and UNRIVALED: EARNHARDT vs. GORDON becomes the most-watched original film debut on Fox Sports.

First UNC-Duke Meeting of Season Breaks ESPN History
Despite Zion Williamson’s early exit, North Carolina’s win against Duke delivered a Nielsen reported audience of 4,343,000 viewers, making it the most-viewed weeknight college basketball game in ESPN history*, surpassing the previous record of 4,140,000 viewers, which was set by another UNC-Duke matchup on February 18, 2015.

The Rivalry Week matchup ranks as the fifth most-watched college basketball game in ESPN history, and is the most-watched college basketball game on ESPN since 2014 (Duke at Syracuse).

Season-to-date, men’s college basketball on ESPN is up 15 percent year over year. ESPN networks have aired the 82 most-viewed games on cable, including four of the top five across all networks.

2019 Daytona 500 Hits an 8% Increase
Sunday’s Daytona 500 on Fox scored a 5.5/11 metered market rating/share, up 8% over 2018 (vs. 5.1/11). The race ranks as the top-rated event of the weekend. NASCAR Raceday on Fox registered a 2.7/7, up +8% over last year’s prerace (vs. 2.5/6).

UFC Fight Night on ESPN Debuts on Cable TV
According to SportsMediaWatch, the first UFC Fight Night on ESPN scored a 0.9 rating and 1.46 million viewers Sunday night, up 69% in ratings and 64% in viewership from last year (0.52, 893K) and up 63% and 61% respectively from 2017 (0.54, 907K), both of which aired on FS1. Prelims leading into the main event had a 0.6 (+50%) and 988,000 (+46%).

Compared to the UFC’s predecessor, Sunday’s telecast trailed all 31 UFC on Fox main events, none of which ever dipped below a 1.0 and 1.68 million. In February of last year, UFC on Fox 26 had a considerably stronger 1.2 and 2.04 million.

Fox Sports Races Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon Documentary to Success
The on-air premiere of UNRIVALED: EARNHARDT vs. GORDON on FS1 delivered 854,000 viewers on last Thursday, up 86% over last year’s post-duel programming on FS1, according to Nielsen Media Research.

The documentary ranks as the most-watched original film debut ever on FS1.

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