ESPN Sets Viewership Records for 2014 Regular-Season College Football
ESPN’s 2014 regular-season college football schedule set an industry record for total game coverage, reaching hundreds of millions of fans across multiple television and digital platforms.
Overall, ESPN, ABC, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNEWS, ESPN3, SEC Network and Longhorn Network covered 453 exclusive regular-season Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) games involving teams from all 10 conferences, plus independents Notre Dame, BYU, Navy, and Army. Combined with an extensive schedule of Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) contests, ESPN platforms carried 494 regular-season Division I football games in 2014. Total coverage highlights:
- ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPNEWS combined to televise 272 FBS contests, reaching more than 185,687,000 viewers. If those viewers who watched college football games on an ESPN platform formed a country, it would be the seventh most populous in the world, larger than countries such as Russia, Japan, Mexico, Germany, France, United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and Canada.
- The 272 telecasts averaged 1,767,000 viewers (note: the final audience for ABC’s December 6, noon broadcast was not available). ESPN offered games every day of the week, including the opening Sunday of the season, Labor Day, select Tuesday and Wednesday matchups, and a regular schedule of Thursday, Friday and Saturday telecasts.
- The 517 FBS games on WatchESPN – every exclusive contest on an ESPN platform and the GamePlan matchups — generated 1,200,000,000 live minutes viewed, an 80 percent increase over 2013. Overall, 2014 produced WatchESPN’s 10 largest average minute audiences for regular-season college football games ever.
ABC Audience Growth Led by Most-Viewed Weekly Prime Series Saturday Night Football
The weekly series, Saturday Night Football on ABC – the most-viewed and highest-rated weekly college football night game on television – led the network to post a total-season viewership increase over 2013. The 34 windows on ABC averaged 5,106,000 viewers and a 3.2 rating for 7 percent increases in each (vs. 4,778,000 and vs. 3.0) (note: viewership data for ABC’s Saturday, Dec. 6, noon telecast was not available at time of release). The weekly prime-time series that features multiple conferences throughout the season also experienced significant audience growth, averaging 6,197,000 viewers and a 3.8 rating for increases of 8 percent (vs. 5,750,000) and 9 percent (vs. 3.5), respectively.
Significant Viewership Increases for ESPN Saturday Nights
In addition to the weekly ABC telecast, ESPN’s Saturday night games generated larger audiences than 2013, averaging 4,397,000 viewers for a 24 percent increase (vs. 3,557,000).
Winning Saturday Nights
Saturday night college football telecasts helped ESPN and ABC to finish first or second for the night across all cable and broadcast networks among total viewers on 14 of the season’s 15 Saturdays. An ESPN or ABC Saturday prime-time game was the night’s most-viewed college football game across all networks televising the sport on 12 of the 15 weeks.
ABC or ESPN was the number one or two network among all key male and adult demographics (18-34, 18-49 and 25-54) every Saturday night except September 6.
Iron Bowl – Record Regular-Season Telecast for ESPN and WatchESPN; Season’s Most-Viewed Game on TV
ESPN’s Saturday prime time coverage of Alabama’s victory over Auburn on November 29 delivered the season’s most-viewed game across all networks televising college football and generated television and digital audience records for ESPN and WatchESPN. ESPN’s telecast averaged 13,529,000 viewers and a 7.4 rating, making it the network’s most-viewed regular-season college football game on record (since 1990), surpassing USC at Ohio State in 2009 (10,586,000 viewers and a 6.3 HH US rating).
The game also garnered 475,000 unique viewers and an average minute audience of 119,000 people on WatchESPN, product records for regular-season action.
Birmingham Leads All Markets for 14th Straight Year with 9.2 Metered Market Rating
Birmingham was the number one metered market for ESPN’s college football game telecasts for a 14th consecutive season, averaging a 9.2 rating for ESPN’s 74 telecasts. The season was highlighted by a 51.8 rating in Birmingham for the Auburn at Alabama contest, the highest rating for an ESPN regular-season college football game in the market on record (since 2000).
The top four most-viewed metered markets for ESPN’s game telecasts in 2013 remained among the top three in 2014: New Orleans at second (4.2 rating) followed by Knoxville and Greenville tied at third (4.1 rating). Three markets that jumped into the top 25 for the season, highlighted by Salt Lake City jumping from 38th to 13th with a 2.6 rating. Portland and Phoenix went from being tied at 27th to 17th (2.4 rating) and 25th (2.1 rating), respectively.