ESPN and ABC scored several viewership superlatives in Week 1, with the networks combining to air the top two and three of the top four games in college football’s official premiere week, which has been determined now that Nielsen’s full reporting is available. More than 10 million viewers were watching college football in the average minute across ABC, ESPN and ESPNU in primetime on Saturday as the sport returned in full force.
College football fans flocked to ESPN networks over the six-day stretch, including on the first full CFB Saturday of the season. From noon to 11 p.m. ET on Saturday, there were at least 7.2 million viewers watching college football content in the average minute across ESPN platforms, including ABC, ESPN and ESPNU, as well as streaming on ESPN3 and ESPN’s college networks.
ESPN and ABC were responsible for 68 percent of the viewership on nationally-rated linear networks in Week 1, winning the night among all viewers and all key adult demos across all genres (not just sports) in primetime on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
ABC averaged 6.2 million viewers across its four-game slate over Labor Day Weekend, the network’s most-viewed Kickoff Weekend since 2017 and the third best in the past decade. ABC’s Kickoff Weekend audience was up 28 percent from 2019 and 21 percent from 2018. ABC was also the most-viewed network of Week 1.
Duke’s Mayo Classic Contest Between Georgia, Clemson Leads the Way
The top-five faceoff between Georgia and Clemson averaged 8,863,000 viewers, making the matchup the second-most-viewed Kickoff Saturday game in the past 20 years (Florida State vs. Alabama, 2017). The contest ranks in the top five regular season college football games on ABC the past five years.
Peaking with 9.7 million viewers, the game’s audience was up 29 percent from the comparable game (Oregon vs. Auburn, 2019) and 95 percent from the Week 1 Saturday primetime game (Alabama vs. Louisville) in 2018.
Labor Day Sunday Thriller Sees Big Numbers, Overtime Peak
One of the most exciting games of the season thus far, Notre Dame at Florida State averaged 7,751,000 viewers on Sunday night to rank as the second-most-watched game of Week 1. The Fighting Irish-Seminoles showdown, which peaked in overtime with 9.5 million viewers, is the second-most-viewed Opening Week Sunday game on record, trailing only Notre Dame vs. Texas in 2016.
Chick-fil-A Kickoff Saturday Game Goes Down as No. 2 Game of the Day
Saturday’s matchup between Alabama and Miami averaged 5,674,000 viewers, the second-most-viewed game of the day on Saturday across all networks and the most-viewed game in that Week 1 timeslot since 2017. The audience peaked with 6.8 million viewers at the end of the first half. Viewership is up 22 percent from the comparable game in 2019 (Duke vs. Alabama) and up 8 percent from the Week 1 Saturday afternoon game of Washington vs. Auburn in 2018.
In-Conference Contests Register ESPN’s Most-Viewed Opening Friday in a Decade
Friday’s primetime opener of North Carolina at Virginia Tech averaged 2,580,000 viewers, the most-viewed Opening Friday game since 2012 (Boise State vs. Michigan State). The game between the ACC foes preceded a Big Ten battle between Michigan State and Northwestern, which recorded 2,101,000 viewers to help ESPN to its most-viewed Opening Friday in the past decade.
|Sat, Sep 4||Georgia vs. Clemson||8,863,000||ABC|
|Sun, Sep 5||Notre Dame at Florida State||7,751,000||ABC|
|Sat, Sep 4||Alabama vs. Miami||5,674,000||ABC|
|Mon, Sep 6||Ole Miss vs. Louisville*||3,078,000||ESPN|
|Fri, Sep 3||North Carolina at Virginia Tech||2,580,000||ESPN|
|Sat, Sep 4||Oklahoma at Tulane (Norman, Okla.)||2,526,000||ABC|
College GameDay Built by The Home Depot
ESPN’s three-hour College GameDay Built by The Home Depot (9 a.m. – noon) from Romare Bearden Park in Charlotte averaged 1,836,500 viewers, while the final hour (11 a.m. – noon) averaged 2,283,600 viewers.