Maybe Disney can find a way to make ESPN work in the end. For all the talk of the expenses associated with sports programming the one truth in the TV business is that sports sell. Especially football.
Last week ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 combined for their most-watched college football Rivalry Week since 2016, averaging 2.8 million viewers across the holiday weekend. ABC recorded its most-watched Rivalry Week since 2016, averaging 4.1 million viewers for six games on the broadcast slate. ESPN was up 38 percent year-over-year, with half a dozen games averaging 2.5 million viewers.
ABC’s primetime presentations over the holiday registered a plethora of viewership superlatives, including winning the night as the most-viewed network in primetime across all viewers and key demos on both Friday and Saturday night. Both broadcasts averaged 6.7 million viewers, registering among the top dozen games of the entire college football season across all networks and two of the top four on ESPN platforms.
The Sunshine State rivalry between Florida and Florida State (6.7M viewers) is the most-watched regular season Friday game since 2011 on any network, and the faceoff for the Florida Cup delivered ABC’s most-viewed Friday game since 2005. The Gators-Noles audience peaked at 7.5 million viewers Friday for ABC’s first Thanksgiving Friday college football broadcast in primetime.
Saturday’s Notre Dame-USC clash (6.7M viewers) ranks as the second most-watched edition of the rivalry in the past decade behind 2018 and peaked with 8.1 million viewers from 8:45-9 p.m. ET. Saturday night’s combined primetime audience throughout ESPN College Football programming was nearly 11 million viewers, the best Saturday across ESPN platforms since Kickoff Week.
Over the entire Thanksgiving Weekend, college football fans devoured nearly 19 billion minutes of the sport across all networks (ESPN and beyond), up 9 percent over 2021.
Through 13 weeks, ESPN platforms remain on pace for their most-viewed season since 2017 and are up 7 percent among P2+ viewers and 9 percent among P18-49 viewers from this point in 2021. ESPN is also on pace for its best season since 2016 and is up 22 percent year-over-year. ESPN will share a look at its cumulative regular season viewership later this week.