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College GameDay Averages 1.31 Million Viewers For Opening 2023 Basketball Broadcasts

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Social Media
March 9, 2023
March 9, 2023
 min read

March is finally here. For college basketball fans, the month promises emotional roller coasters, an array of meaningful games all being played at once, and immeasurable productivity lost in the name of watching their favorite teams. But before the ball was tipped in conference tournaments across the land, marquee matchups stoked interest in the sport throughout regular season play. And an on-campus presence from one of the most popular preview shows in all of sports broadcasting helped fans remain abreast of the nation’s top contenders, bubble teams, and sleepers. College GameDay began as a football property on ESPN, going on the road to air weekly shows from college campuses across the country in 1993 after several years of broadcasting from a studio. Its success prompted the Worldwide Leader to produce a spin-off ahead of premiere college basketball games beginning in 2005. Since then, beginning in late January annually, a crew of analysts ventures to an iconic arena every Saturday to preview the day’s action. This season, destinations have included Tennessee’s Thompson-Boling Arena, Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium, and Kansas’s Allen Fieldhouse, among others. Using MVP’s omnichannel platform we measured viewership figures for the season’s first month of broadcasts and social media metrics from the show’s owned channels to gauge its audience as a standalone product and relative to its football predecessor. We found through four College GameDay basketball broadcasts in 2023, household viewership averaged 1.31 million. Unsurprisingly, an historic Tobacco Road rivalry delivered the largest audience.

Top Rivalry Turns Into All-Day Fan Affair

College basketball is a unique breeding ground for rivalries. Geography, talent, success, history, and school prestige are all factors that serve to elevate the importance of specific games on a team’s schedule. But few – if any – are as heated or highly anticipated as the Battle of the Blues on Tobacco Road. The Duke-North Carolina rivalry is as intense as advertised both nationally and locally. And as a result, it has become a staple on the College GameDay calendar, with the program showcasing the game 18 times in its history – more than double any other matchup. Our viewership analysis includes this year’s first contest between the blue bloods, with College GameDay broadcasting from Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, NC on February 4. The hour-long broadcast drew 2.36 million household viewers, and it was the only broadcast among the program’s first four this year with an audience exceeding 1 million. Second in our viewership rankings from the opening four weeks was a broadcast from Auburn Arena on February 11 before a game between Auburn and Alabama, which drew 994,711. The season’s opening College GameDay broadcast in Knoxville, TN on January 28 drew 950,174, and last month’s show from Lawrence, KS had a total audience of 944,899. And while interest is apparent, the numbers suggest a top rivalry is necessary to approach viewership numbers from College GameDay’s football program. A broadcast from Knoxville on September 24, 2022, drew 2.91 million viewers – 3.06x as many as the basketball pregame show from January. Similarly, an ACC matchup between NC State and Clemson from Clemson’s campus in October had an audience of 3.16 million, or 33.9% more than watched College GameDay ahead of North Carolina-Duke.

Somewhat expectedly, local markets for each College GameDay basketball broadcast were at or near the top of our weekly audience rankings. For the show’s February 18 broadcast in advance of Kansas hosting Baylor, the Kansas City DMA was responsible for 45,658 viewers, the most among all markets and roughly 4.8% of the entire audience. Each of the other three programs we examined drew its most viewers from the New York DMA, including 102,130 for the North Carolina-Duke game to lead the way across all four shows. However, the nearby Atlanta market ranked fourth overall with 33,104 viewers when College GameDay aired from Auburn, Raleigh-Durham’s market drew 75,434 to finish third before the Tobacco Road rivalry game, and Nashville was in the top 10 DMAs when GameDay traveled to UT. Accordingly, local partners can reap significant exposure benefits when their area university appears on the show.

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Chasing Football Numbers on Social

In many parts of the country, autumn Saturdays are synonymous with college football. Beginning in late August or early September, the sport truly owns a day of the week, and a not insignificant number of fans spend all day immersed in its action. As such, ESPN’s College GameDay accounts are typically more active in the fall than during other parts of the year when sporting calendars are more diverse. We used MVP’s social platform to examine these channels over the past six months, while also isolating regular season college football content to measure against regular season college basketball content. From January 23 – the week of College GameDay’s first basketball broadcast of the season – through this past Sunday, we found the account was averaging 4.85 posts per day across its channels. That represents a slight dip from the 5.88 posts per day during the six months ending March 6, and also a 73.9% drop from content shared during football season from August 29 through November 27. Moreover, other metrics are also down sharply during basketball coverage. College GameDay earns 4,219 engagements per post during basketball season, whereas last fall, it averaged 2.75x that number. Similarly, the average post value for College GameDay content is 3.08x higher during football season.

Intriguingly, there are several apparent platform differences between the seasons, suggesting different user profiles for their audiences. Twitter is the source of 40% of College GameDay’s post value during football season, while only accounting for 27.2% during basketball season. Meanwhile, Facebook was the program’s biggest post value driver during the hoops campaign, as it was responsible for 48.8% of the overall figure, compared to just 40.1% for football content. Instagram elicited the most engagements during each season, but online interactions with the entity’s football posts were more diversified. During football season, 66.2% of engagements came on Instagram while 21.8% derived from Facebook and 12% resulted from Twitter content. Those splits during basketball season were 77.7%, 16.4%, and 5.9%, respectively.

College Basketball Peaks in March

Conference tournaments are in full swing this week as teams everywhere aim to improve their seeding in or simply reach the Big Dance. Meanwhile, college basketball fans are sure to experience the full range of emotions as games play out on the hardwood leading up to Selection Sunday and beyond. Stay connected with MVP in the coming weeks for complete broadcast and social coverage of conference action and the NCAA tournament for both men’s and women’s college basketball.

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