SBD/December 22, 2015/Media

Fox, ESPN See College Football Season Viewership Gains, While CBS, ABC, NBC Drop

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CBS led all college football broadcasters for the seventh straight season with its package of SEC games, but the net saw its lowest viewership since ’08. CBS’ SEC games averaged 5.6 million viewers, down 12% from 6.38 million last season. The drop for CBS comes despite a gain for the primetime Alabama-LSU matchup and the return of the Iron Bowl to CBS after airing on ESPN last year. CBS this season had to get a waiver to add the Alabama-Auburn matchup, as it was the net’s sixth Alabama game telecast. The net’s Navy-Army game -- not counted in the SEC figures -- drew 7.13 million viewers, up 14% from last year and marking the matchup’s best audience since ’93. Meanwhile, ABC carried its most games ever this season (41), as the net no longer airs select NASCAR races on Saturdays. The net averaged 4.92 million viewers across all of its windows, down 3.5% from 5.1 million viewers last season. However, this season was up from 4.78 million viewers in ’13. Looking solely at ABC’s “Saturday Night Football,” that window averaged 5.34 million viewers, up 5% from 5.11 million viewers last season, and up from 4.78 million viewers in ’13.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL REGULAR-SEASON VIEWERSHIP TREND
NETWORK
'15 (000)
'14 (000)
'13 (000)
'12 (000)
'11 (000)
CBS*
5,597
6,380
7,353
6,141
6,857
ABC
4,921
5,101
4,777
4,975
5,522
NBC
3,070
3,226
3,340
4,381
2,617
Fox
3,040
2,573
3,116
2,839
n/a
ESPN
2,721
2,660
2,644
2,576
2,674
ESPN2
846
892
1,108
1,028
1,179
FS1**
608
670
529
611
1,016

CHART NOTES: * = SEC Package only. ** = Compared to FX in '12 and '11.

UPS & DOWNS: Fox averaged 3.04 million viewers for its coverage of Big 12, Pac-12 and Big Ten football this season, up 18% from last season’s 2.57 million viewers, but below the 3.12 million viewers in ’13. FS1 drew 608,000 average viewers, down 9% from 670,000 in ’14, but up from 529,000 in ’13. The drop for FS1 came despite the net’s most-viewed game on record. Michigan-Utah drew 2.89 million viewers on the opening Thursday of the season.

FOUR SCORE: ESPN in '15 saw its best CFB audience since ’10 this season and fourth straight season of audience increases. The net averaged 2.72 million viewers for 74 games. That figure is up 2% from last season. The net also saw an average of 1.96 million viewers for its “College GameDay” coverage, the most since the show expanded to three hours in ’13. The show averaged 2.03 million viewers in ’12 and 2.07 million viewers in ’11. ESPN2’s games this season averaged 846,000 viewers, down 5% from 892,000 last season.

SOUTH BENT: Notre Dame games on NBC averaged 3.07 million viewers this season, marking the net’s lowest average since ’11. One Notre Dame game was moved to NBCSN for the first time this season -- the Boston College-Notre Dame matchup on Nov. 21 drew 1.99 million viewers.

TOP GAMES: The Alabama-Florida SEC Championship was again CFB’s most-viewed regular-season game, drawing 12.76 million viewers on CBS. Alabama-LSU from Nov. 7 ranked second with 11.06 million viewers. Alabama was in four of the 10 most-viewed games on broadcast TV, and on two of the top 10 on cable. Michigan State-Iowa set a record for Fox with 9.82 million viewers, ranking No. 5 overall this season. Ohio State-Virginia Tech on Labor Day was cable’s most-viewed CFB telecast with 10.59 million viewers.

MOST-VIEWED BROADCAST TV CFB GAMES FOR '15 SEASON
GAME
DATE
NET
TIME (ET)
VIEWERS (000)
SEC Championship:
Alabama-Florida
12/5
CBS
4:00-8:00pm
12,760
LSU-Alabama
11/7
CBS
8:00-11:46pm
11,063
Michigan State-Ohio State
11/21
ABC
3:33-6:55pm
11,052
Ohio State-Michigan
11/28
ABC
12:01-3:33pm
10,830
Big Ten Championship:
Michigan State-Iowa
12/5
Fox
8:19-11:56pm
9,818
Alabama-Auburn
11/28
CBS
3:30-7:19pm
9,299
Alabama-Wisconsin
9/5
ABC
8:07-11:46pm
7,967
Oregon-Michigan State
9/12
ABC
8:06-11:54pm
7,898
Notre Dame-Clemson
10/3
ABC
8:07-11:53pm
7,647
Florida State-Clemson
11/7
ABC
3:33-7:04pm
7,563
MOST-VIEWED CABLE TV CFB GAMES FOR '15 SEASON
GAME
DATE
NET
TIME (ET)
VIEWERS (000)
Ohio State-Virginia Tech
9/7
ESPN
7:54-11:16pm
10,585
Ole Miss-Alabama
9/19
ESPN
9:18pm-1:27am
7,605
Michigan State-Michigan
10/17
ESPN
3:28-7:24pm
7,398
Florida-LSU
10/17
ESPN
7:24-10:46pm
6,777
Baylor-TCU
11/27
ESPN
8:14pm-12:15am
5,108
Arkansas-Alabama
10/10
ESPN
7:00-10:37pm
4,835
Penn State-Michigan State
11/28
ESPN
3:30-7:03pm
4,503
Florida State-Florida
11/28
ESPN
7:32-11:14pm
4,280
Oklahoma-Tennessee
9/12
ESPN
5:57-9:19pm
4,129
Texas-Baylor
12/5
ESPN
12:01-3:34pm
3,943


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