Ratings Roundup: Clemson-Notre Dame Take Top Spot for Most-Watched College Football Game in 2020; An Update on Trends in the NFL

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, Clemson vs. Notre Dame do damage on NBC, updated numbers from the past week in the NFL, and a wrap-up of the 2020 World Series.

Clemson-Notre Dame OT Thriller

With Out of Home (OOH) viewership now included, Saturday night’s top-five clash between the No. 1 Clemson Tigers and the No. 4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish finished with a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 10.17 million viewers on NBC – making it the most-watched college football game of the 2020 season and the second-most watched Notre Dame on NBC game on record, based on Nielsen official national data & digital data from Adobe Analytics.

In NBC Sports’ 30-year history of broadcasting Notre Dame Football games, Clemson-Notre Dame now ranks behind only the “Game of the Century” between No. 2 Notre Dame and No. 1 Florida State in 1993 (22.02 million viewers). The Fighting Irish’s 47-40 double-overtime victory over the nation’s top-ranked team is also the most-watched ND on NBC primetime game on record.

Following are the top-five ND on NBC games:

  • Nov. 13, 1993 Florida State (22.02)
  • Nov. 7, 2020 Clemson (10.17)
  • Sept. 10, 1994 Michigan (10.10)
  • Oct 15, 2005 USC (10.07)
  • Nov. 20, 1993 Boston College (9.93)

Saturday night’s game ranks as the most-watched college football game of the season, surpassing Georgia-Alabama on Oct. 17 (9.669 million P2+), and is the most-watched regular season college football game since Alabama-Auburn on Nov. 30, 2019 (11.505 million P2+).

Through four games on NBC this season, Notre Dame matchups are averaging a Total Audience Delivery of 5.27 million viewers, the best start to the Notre Dame season since 2005 (four games; 6.106 million P2+).

Following are the top markets for Clemson-Notre Dame on NBC:

  • Birmingham, AL (24.0)
  • Greenville-Spartanburg (22.3)
  • Indianapolis (12.2)
  • New Orleans (11.9)
  • Charlotte (10.2)
  • Greensboro-High Point (10.1)
  • Cincinnati (9.6)
  • Louisville (9.1)
  • Atlanta (9.0)
  • Jacksonville (8.8)

Update on NFL Season

According to the Associated Press, NFL games are averaging 15.1 million television and digital viewers, a 6% decline from last year. Despite the decreases, all but four of the top 30 shows since the season began have been NFL games.

Sports consultant Marc Ganis cited the lack of preseason games to build up fan interest, and all four major professional sports playing in September as other reasons for this year’s slow start.

The ratings also didn’t suffer precipitous declines compared to the last presidential election cycle in 2016, when they were down 14% compared to 2015.

The Thursday and Sunday night packages have suffered the biggest declines with each package down 16%.

NBC’s Sunday Night Football is averaging 17.2 million and remains on pace to be primetime’s top show for the 10th straight year. There were five straight weeks when NBC’s games faced competition from NBA or MLB playoff games.

NBC has had tough luck the past two weeks. It had Dallas-Philadelphia on Nov. 1 while the New Orleans-Tampa Bay matchup last Sunday was a blowout by halftime. The first half this past week averaged 18.9 million viewers, which was the highest since the Cowboys-Rams game in Week 1.

Fox is averaging 12.8 million for Thursday Night Football. Some factors in their lower audiences include one of their games being moved to a late Monday afternoon (Kansas City-Buffalo) and another going against the final presidential debate (Giants-Eagles).

It’s not all bad news for primetime packages: ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” numbers were flat through the first eight weeks at 11.71 million.

CBS has rallied over the past five weeks and is down only 1%, while Fox has had a 6% decline. Both networks have faced competition from cable news, especially during the early afternoon window. The late afternoon numbers for both are flat.

CBS is averaging 17.84 million viewers, up 9% over the same period last season. Last Sunday’s Pittsburgh-Dallas game averaged 22.72 million. The network’s highest-ranked games were Giants-Cowboys in Week 5 and San Francisco-New England in Week 7, when both averaged 23 million.

Fox, which is averaging 17.4 million, has the season’s three most-viewed games. The first Saints-Buccaneers matchup, which was Tom Brady’s debut with Tampa Bay, was Fox’s featured Sunday game on opening weekend and averaged 26.3 million.

Defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City (45.8), New Orleans (41.6) and Buffalo (39.6) are the top-rated local markets. The rating is the percentage of television households tuned in to a broadcast.

MLB World Series

According to Advanced Television, each game in this year’s World Series was down between 21% and 33% in viewership in the U.S. compared to the 2019 series.

The final game, in which the Dodgers defeated the Tampa Bay Rays took home the crown for the first time since 1988, was the most-watched game, with 8.4 million U.S. households tuning in. However, that was lower than all but one game of the 2019 series (Game 5), as the average viewership per game was down 33 per cent from what it was a year ago.
Low World Series ratings follow lower than expected tune-in for the out-of-season NBA finals, although MLB lost fewer fans than the NBA.

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