Ratings Roundup: US Open Surges On Despite Hot Weather; College Football Kicks Off on ESPN, ABC

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 U.S. Open continues in New York City, the 2018 college football season brought in numbers for ESPN and their family of networks, NBC Sports benefits from a Michigan-Notre Dame opener, the highly-watched 2018 Little League World Series saw Hawaii defeat South Korea in the Championship, the WNBA Playoffs are underway, Monday Night Football kicked off on ESPN, and the Atlanta Braves dominate the local ratings.

Fans Flood Airwaves To Watch U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, NY
After Day 3 at the US Open, tennis’ fourth and final Major event of the year, ESPN’s overnight ratings — combining ESPN and ESPN2 — are up 20%, from 0.5 to 0.6. This covers 35.5 hours of exclusive live coverage, 2.5 more than the 33 scheduled (8% extra), thanks to late-night, long-running matches. This year’s schedule features the US Open’s first ever “double doubleheaders” as there are scheduled night session twin bills on both Arthur Ashe Stadium and the new Louis Armstrong Stadium.

The highest-rated telecast so far was Wednesday night’s six-hour, 15-minute marathon featuring Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal, and more that lasted until 1:15 a.m. ET. The telecast peaked with a 1.3 rating from 8:30 – 9:15 p.m.

The top 10 metered markets after three days:

  • West Palm Beach, Fla. 1.3
  • Columbus, Ohio 1.1
  • Tampa 1.0
  • Washington D.C. 1.0
  • Norfalk, Va. 1.0
  • New Orleans 0.9
  • Birmingham, Ala. 0.9
  • Las Vegas 0.9
  • New York 0.8
  • Richmond, Va. 0.8

Top-25 Matchups Highlight Opening Weekend for College Football on ESPN, ABC
ESPN and ABC combined to televise five of the six highest-rated games on any network across college football kickoff weekend (Aug. 30 – Sept. 3), generated significant ratings increases in prime-time specials Monday and Sunday night, and beat the competition head-to-head in nearly every game window. On cable, ESPN aired the three highest-rated games and seven of the top eight, including beating the cable competition in all four game windows where they went head-to-head.

ABC’s third annual Sunday night presentation between Miami and LSU (Sept. 2, 7:30 p.m.) delivered a 4.1 overnight, the network’s highest-rated game of the weekend. The Tigers’ decisive 33-17 victory generated a 41% increase in rating from last year’s Sunday night presentation (West Virginia vs. Virginia Tech) on the network.

New Orleans was the highest-rated local market, earning a 25.5, the market’s best regular season rating for a game on ESPN/ABC in nearly three years. The following cities rounded out the top 10:

  • Birmingham – 16.9
  • Columbus- 9.4
  • Jacksonville – 9.2
  • Miami – 8.6
  • Atlanta – 8.1
  • Memphis – 7.9
  • West Palm Beach – 7.8
  • Knoxville/Oklahoma City – 7.5

ESPN’s annual Labor Day game between Virginia Tech and Florida State (Sept. 3, 8 p.m.) earned a 3.8 overnight for the traditional telecast on ESPN, tying as cable’s highest-rated regular season game since November of 2016. The rating for the Hokies’ 24-3 victory was up 15% from the network’s Labor Day night game last season which went to overtime (Tennessee-Georgia Tech). The top markets:

  • Birmingham – 12.4
  • Jacksonville – 11.7
  • Richmond – 10.5
  • Tampa-St. Pete – 9.7
  • Norfolk – 8.4
  • West Palm Beach – 7.9
  • Greensboro-High Point – 7.8
  • Orlando – 7.8
  • Greenville – 7.7
  • Columbus, OH – 7.4

Head to head, ESPN/ABC beat the competition in nearly every game window of Kickoff Weekend, including the Saturday late afternoon window (3:30 p.m.) as Washington-Auburn on ABC earned a 3.6 overnight, beating the other broadcast networks by 100% and 350% respectively.

Earlier in the day, ABC and ESPN combined to generate the two highest-rated games of Saturday’s noon window, as Oregon State at Ohio State on ABC earned a 2.6 overnight and Ole Miss vs. Texas Tech on ESPN earned a 1.2 overnight. Both windows generated ratings increases year-over-year, with ABC up 63% and ESPN up 9%.

Additional Kickoff Week Highlights:

  • ESPN beat the cable competition head-to-head on Thursday and Friday by 233% and 80% respectively, as the network aired Northwestern at Purdue (Aug. 30, 8 p.m.) and Western Kentucky at Wisconsin (Aug. 31, 9 p.m.).
  • College GameDay Built by The Home Depot (Sept. 1, 9 a.m. – noon) started the 25th year of road shows on a high note, delivering a 1.4 overnight, an 8% increase from last season’s season premiere.
  • 538 million minutes were spent with ESPN’s college football non-game digital content during kickoff week, up 36% from last season

NBC Sports Captures Saturday Slate With Michigan-Notre Dame
NBC Sports’ coverage of Saturday night’s primetime clash between the No. 12 Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the No. 14 Michigan Wolverines on NBC dominated the opening Saturday of college football — producing a 4.51 overnight rating which tied the best Notre Dame overnight rating on NBC in 12 years.

The renewal of the iconic Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind., on NBC, which the Fighting Irish won by a score of 24-17, easily won the day across college football. The 4.51 overnight rating for Notre Dame-Michigan was up 51% vs. the 2014 matchup on NBC between the two schools (9/6/14; 2.99), up 60% vs. last year’s first primetime game vs. Georgia on NBC (9/9/17; 2.81), and tied the same matchup in 2010 as the best overnight rating for all Notre Dame on NBC broadcasts since Sept. 16, 2006 (Michigan, 4.90).

Locally, Columbus, Ohio, led all markets with a 16.2 rating. Following are the top 10 metered markets from last night’s game on NBC:

Rank Metered Market Rating

  • Columbus 16.2
  • Detroit 15.4
  • Dayton 11.4
  • Indianapolis 9.9
  • Cleveland 7.4
  • Ft. Myers-Naples 6.9
  • Knoxville 6.8
  • New Orleans 6.5
  • Cincinnati 6.2
  • Greenville-Spartanburg 6.2
  • Norfolk 6.2

Little League World Series and Sunday Night Baseball Receive Positive Bump
Average viewership for the 72nd Little League Baseball World Series presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods in Williamsport, Pa., on ESPN’s linear networks, including ABC, was up 13% this year with 1,020,000 viewers — compared to 900,000 average viewers during the 2017 tournament.

This year’s Little League Baseball World Series Championship Game on ABC, which saw Honolulu, Hawaii claim the title by defeating Seoul, South Korea 3-0 on Sunday, was the most-watched final matchup since the 2015 championship with 3,248,000 average viewers. The game generated a 2.2 metered market rating, up 5% from last year’s championship game at a 2.1.

The top-rated local markets across ESPN’s linear networks, including ABC, during the Williamsport section of the Little League Baseball World Series were: Houston (1.3); San Antonio (1.3); Nashville (1.2); Louisville (1.1); Birmingham (1.1); San Diego (1.1); Dayton, OH (1.1); Columbus, OH (1.0); Indianapolis (1.0); Greenville-Spartanburg-Asheville (1.0); Albuquerque-Santa Fe (1.0); Atlanta (1.0).

The Little League Classic by the Sunday Night Baseball telecast, in which the New York Yankees defeated the Baltimore Orioles 5-3, generated a 1.2 metered market rating — up 71%from last year’s comparable game at a 0.7. The telecast delivered a 2.4 in the Baltimore market making it the best ESPN MLB rating in the market in nearly a year, since Sept. 10, 2017.

WNBA Playoffs Surges Forward on ESPN2
After two games of the 2018 Semifinals, the WNBA Playoffs have an average combined metered market rating of 0.3 — up 14% from last year’s playoffs. Overall, the playoffs are generating 276,000 viewers, which is a 23% increase (224,000 in 2017).

For the two semifinal matchups, the top five metered markets were:


  • Washington, DC (1.4)
  • Hartford/New Haven (0.8)
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul (0.7)
  • New Orleans (0.7)
  • San Antonio (0.6)


  • Seattle-Tacoma (1.2)
  • Hartford/New Haven (0.8)
  • San Antonio (0.7)
  • New Orleans (0.7)
  • Dallas-Ft.Worth (0.6)

Monday Night Football Receives Preseason Increase
Thursday night’s Monday Night Football preseason game on ESPN — a Washington Redskins’ 15-13 victory over the New York Jets — earned a 2.1 overnight rating. This is an increase of 11% compared to ESPN’s 2017 preseason opener (Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Jacksonville Jaguars). The game rating peaked from 9-9:15 p.m. ET with a 2.3 metered market rating.

This game also marked the preseason debut for ESPN’s new Monday Night Football commentator team of play-by-play voice Joe Tessitore, analysts Jason Witten and Booger McFarland, and reporter Lisa Salters.

In New York, the game delivered a 2.0 rating on ESPN and a 4.1 rating on WABC-ABC, for a combined 6.1 rating in the market. In Washington, the game delivered a 4.3 rating on ESPN and a 6.3 on WJLA-ABC, for a combined 10.6 rating in the market.

The top 10 metered markets (not including those of the competing teams): Richmond-Petersburg (5.7), Norfolk (5.1), New Orleans (4.7), Kansas City (4.1), Raleigh-Durham (3.7), Baltimore and Charlotte (3.4), Louisville and West Palm Beach (3.2), Jacksonville and Nashville (3.0).

Additionally, the Thursday night edition of Monday Night Countdown is up 40% year-over-year (0.7 vs. 0.5).

Braves Control Atlanta DMA
The matchup between the Miami Marlins vs. Atlanta Braves on Fox Sports Southeast at 7:30 ET on August 15 received the following accolades:

  • Highest-rated pregame show of the season: 2.06 HH rating (previous high: 1.77 HH rating vs Marlins 8/14/18)
  • Highest-rated game of the season: 5.99 HH rating (previous high: 5.45 HH rating vs Yankees 7/2/18)
  • Ranked #1 in prime for Atlanta DMA HH ratings
  • Highest-rated game since 2013 season (4/1/13: 8.87 HH rating, Phillies vs. Braves [Season/Home Opener])
  • Highest-rated peak of the season: 7.29 HH rating in 9:45 p.m. QH (previous high: 6.87 HH rating in 10 p.m. QH vs Yankees, 7/2/18)
  • Highest-rated postgame show of the season: 4.86 HH rating (previous high: 3.61 HH rating vs Marlins 5/20/18)

Through 114 games on Fox Sports South/Fox Sports Southeast, Atlanta Braves telecasts are averaging a 3.19 HH rating, up 55% Y-o-Y (2.06 HH rating) in the Atlanta DMA.

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