Ratings Roundup: Ohio State-Minnesota Becomes Most-Watched College Football Matchup in Week 1 on Fox; ABC Grabs Two Most-Watched CFB Games of the Weekend
Ratings roundup is a rundown of recent rating news and is derived from press releases and reports around the industry. In this week’s edition, Ohio State-Minnesota scores most-watched Week 1 college football game ever on Fox, college football on ABC were named the two most-watched games of the week, and more.
Ohio State – Minnesota Scores Most-Watched Week 1 College Football Game Ever on Fox
6,295,000 viewers watched Ohio State beat Minnesota in Thursday night’s Week 1 matchup on Fox. The contest was the most-watched Week 1 Thursday college football game ever on any network, was the most-watched Week 1 college football game ever on Fox, and is the Network’s 10th most-watched regular season college football game ever.
The game was also the most-watched telecast of the day on any network. The matchup peaked with 7,044,000 viewers from 9:15 to 9:30 p.m. ET and was up +41% over Fox’s 2019 Big Ten football season average (4,457,000). (Twitter)
ABC’s Saturday Night Football, Sunday Kickoff Become Two Most-Watched Games of the Week
ESPN and ABC scored several viewership superlatives in Week 1, with the networks combining to air the top two and three of the top four games in college football’s official premiere week, which has been determined now that Nielsen’s full reporting is available. More than 10 million viewers were watching college football in the average minute across ABC, ESPN and ESPNU in primetime on Saturday as the sport returned in full force.
College football fans flocked to ESPN networks over the six-day stretch, including on the first full CFB Saturday of the season. From noon to 11 p.m. ET on Saturday, there were at least 7.2 million viewers watching college football content in the average minute across ESPN platforms, including ABC, ESPN and ESPNU, as well as streaming on ESPN3 and ESPN’s college networks.
ESPN and ABC were responsible for 68% of the viewership on nationally-rated linear networks in Week 1, winning the night among all viewers and all key adult demos across all genres (not just sports) in primetime on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
ABC averaged 6.2 million viewers across its four-game slate over Labor Day Weekend, the network’s most-viewed Kickoff Weekend since 2017 and the third best in the past decade. ABC’s Kickoff Weekend audience was up 28% from 2019 and 21% from 2018. ABC was also the most-viewed network of Week 1.
The top-five faceoff between Georgia and Clemson averaged 8,863,000 viewers, making the matchup the second-most-viewed Kickoff Saturday game in the past 20 years (Florida State vs. Alabama, 2017). The contest ranks in the top five regular season college football games on ABC the past five years.
Peaking with 9.7 million viewers, the game’s audience was up 29% from the comparable game (Oregon vs. Auburn, 2019) and 95% from the Week 1 Saturday primetime game (Alabama vs. Louisville) in 2018.
One of the most exciting games of the season thus far, Notre Dame at Florida State averaged 7,751,000 viewers on Sunday night to rank as the second-most-watched game of Week 1. The Fighting Irish-Seminoles showdown, which peaked in overtime with 9.5 million viewers, is the second-most-viewed Opening Week Sunday game on record, trailing only Notre Dame vs. Texas in 2016.
Saturday’s matchup between Alabama and Miami averaged 5,674,000 viewers, the second-most-viewed game of the day on Saturday across all networks and the most-viewed game in that Week 1 timeslot since 2017. The audience peaked with 6.8 million viewers at the end of the first half. Viewership is up 22% from the comparable game in 2019 (Duke vs. Alabama) and up 8% from the Week 1 Saturday afternoon game of Washington vs. Auburn in 2018.
Friday’s primetime opener of North Carolina at Virginia Tech averaged 2,580,000 viewers, the most-viewed Opening Friday game since 2012 (Boise State vs. Michigan State). The game between the ACC foes preceded a Big Ten battle between Michigan State and Northwestern, which recorded 2,101,000 viewers to help ESPN to its most-viewed Opening Friday in the past decade.
ESPN’s three-hour College GameDay Built by The Home Depot (9 a.m. – noon) from Romare Bearden Park in Charlotte averaged 1,836,500 viewers, while the final hour (11 a.m. – noon) averaged 2,283,600 viewers. (ESPN)
Saturday’s College Football Tripleheader Delivers Massive Gains on Fox
5,409,000 viewers watched Penn State defeat Wisconsin in Big Noon Saturday’s Game of the Week. The matchup more than doubled 2019’s Week 1 performance in the comparable window (+105%, 5,409,000 vs. 2,633, 000 viewers). In addition, 2,879,000 viewers on average watched Texas’ victory of Louisiana, up +42% over 2019’s Week 1 matchup in the comparable window (2,024,000). Lastly, 3,219,000 viewers on average tuned in for UCLA’s win over LSU, up +28% over 2019’s Pac-12 Saturday average on Fox (2,523,000).
Before Saturday’s slate starting at 11 a.m. ET, Fox’s Big Noon Saturday Kickoff posted 1,069,000 viewers, which was up +27% over 2019’s Week 1 performance (840,000). (Twitter)
Fox College Football Records Most-Viewed Week Across Social Platforms
Fox Sports saw success on the digital side as well. For example on the streaming end, average minute audience (AMA) for Week 1 college football games on Fox, FS1, and BTN up +180% over 2019. Ohio State-Minnesota is the third most-streamed regular-season college football game in Fox Sports history with an AMA of 133,863. In addition, Penn State-Wisconsin drew an AMA of 89, 986, up +188% vs. the comparable Big Noon Saturday game in 2019.
On social, there were more than 25 million views across @CFBONFOX social platforms, up +171% over 2019 Week 1 and the most-viewed regular season week in @CFBONFOX history. @CFBONFOX on Twitter also had its most-viewed week in account history with 18.1 million views. Lastly, “Jump Around” at Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium is the most-watched video in @CFBONFOX Twitter history with more than 9.5 million views. (Twitter)
Two Most-Watched Paralympics Telecasts on Record Highlight Tokyo Paralympics Viewership Milestones Across NBCUniversal
NBCUniversal’s coverage of the Tokyo Paralympics generated numerous viewership milestones, including the two most-watched Paralympic Games telecasts on record in the U.S. Coverage collectively reached 14.1 million viewers across NBC, NBCSN, and Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, setting a new Paralympics Games record and marking an increase of 81% vs. the Rio Paralympics in 2016 (7.8 million). The first-ever Paralympic primetime coverage on NBC on Sunday, Aug. 29, averaged a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 2.1 million viewers, ranking as the most-watched Paralympic Games telecast on record in the U.S. and surpassing the previous record by 1 million viewers (1.1 million; NBC; Salt Lake City 2002 Paralympic Opening Ceremony). NBC’s primetime coverage this past Sunday, Sept. 5, averaged a TAD of 1.5 million viewers, marking the second most-watched Paralympic Games telecast on record in the U.S.
The two most-watched Paralympic Games telecasts on record in the U.S. and an unprecedented 6.5 hours of coverage on NBC helped deliver a TAD of 1.2 million viewers on the broadcast network over the course of the Games, up 81% vs. the network’s average in 2016 for the Rio Paralympics (640,000 viewers).
Primetime coverage on NBCSN averaged 180,000 viewers, up 27% vs. Rio 2016 Paralympics primetime coverage (143,000 viewers). Additionally, the primetime presentation of the Tokyo Opening Ceremony on Tuesday, Aug. 24, ranks as the third-most watched Paralympic Games cable telecast on record, averaging 175,000 viewers on NBCSN, an increase of 30% vs. the Rio Opening Ceremony (135,000 viewers). NBCSN presented live coverage for roughly 12 hours a day during the Games. (NBC Sports)
USMNT World Cup Qualifier Posts Double Digit Growth on FS1
776,000 viewers tuned in for the USMNT’s draw against Canada Sunday on FS1, up +41% from the prior September USMNT World Cup qualifier in 2016 on FS1 (555,000). The top five rated markets were Nashville (1.69), Portland (1.37), San Diego (1.23), St. Louis (1.13), and Seattle (1.10). (Twitter)
Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Race in Darlington
The NASCAR Cup Series race at Darlington was the highest-rated cable sports telecast of the week, earning a 1.43 rating and 2.50 million viewers. This rating is up +4% vs. 2020 Darlington II on NBCSN (1.37), viewership up +1% (2.44 million). At its peak, 2.7 million viewers were tuned in.