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College Football is Back in Session

Notre Dame, Ohio State Draw 12.83M TV Viewers to Headline Week One

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College Football
September 21, 2022
September 20, 2022
 min read

The pageantry of college football is unparalleled in the sporting landscape. On Saturdays throughout autumn, campuses and college towns across the country teem with students, alumni, and fans buzzing about their favorite teams. But that excitement is not exclusive to the fortunate few with tickets to the games. It extends to the local community and fan bases at large in all corners of the U.S. With nearly every high-profile college football contest available to watch on television, Saturdays can quickly morph into marathon viewing sessions for diehard enthusiasts. And as the season got underway earlier this month, we used MVP’s broadcast platform to determine which opening games were most compelling. We examined a subset of 21 games that aired across nine networks — including ABC, FOX, ESPN, and FS1 – during Weeks Zero and One to understand total viewership and DMA breakdowns. Among our spotlighted games were defending national champion Georgia’s convincing win over Oregon and a pair of primetime matchups aired on Sunday and Monday of Labor Day Weekend – Florida State against LSU and Clemson’s tilt versus Georgia Tech. But none commanded the attention drawn by Notre Dame and Ohio State, as the perennial powerhouses amassed a total audience of 12.83 million viewers on ABC for their highly anticipated showdown.

ABC Draws 38.47M Viewers For Top Games

College football’s opening weekend typically features a wide range of games pitting the sport’s elite against seemingly lesser opponents. While there are often opportunities for upsets, many of the true contenders play Week One games designed to be relatively easy wins that serve as tune-ups for tougher competition deeper into the season. But there are always a handful of appealing games between schools from power conferences aiming to make strong early statements on national broadcasts. This year, several of those games were on ABC. The network’s Week One coverage began with a game between Colorado State and Michigan at the Big House that drew 7.04 million viewers and acted as an appetizer for the games to come later in the day. It was followed by Georgia’s victory over Oregon, as the Bulldogs showed 9.05 million viewers they are still among the favorites to win a championship despite plenty of new faces on the roster. But the day was highlighted by a top-five matchup between Notre Dame and Ohio State. The nightcap drew 12.83 million viewers to set the weekend’s high-water mark across all networks. When adding ABC’s Sunday night showcase between Florida State and LSU to the equation, the network drew a total of 38.47 million viewers for its four college football broadcasts in Week One. Its household viewership average of 9.62 million was 91.2% higher than FOX’s average of 5.03 million for its broadcasts featuring Nebraska versus Northwestern, Penn State versus Purdue, and UTEP versus Oklahoma. ESPN’s top viewership total from the opening weekend was Clemson vs. Georgia Tech on Monday night, which had a total audience of 6.09 million.

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College Football Earns Nationwide Interest

Our cross-section of games featured teams from each Power Five conference as well as various Group of Five schools, and nine networks were included in our study for a broad representation of viewing options during the season’s opening slate of games. As a result, our DMA breakdown comprised regions on each coast, the Midwest, college towns, and big cities, demonstrating a true nationwide interest in the sport. Leading the way was Los Angeles, where a total of 4.17 million household viewers watched the games included in our analysis. The most popular game within the set was Notre Dame against Ohio State, which had an audience of 635,614 in the City of Angels alone. Dallas-Fort Worth and New York rounded out the top three, amassing 3.74 million and 3.53 million viewers, respectively. Atlanta, which was bolstered by 470,691 viewers for Georgia’s game against Oregon, cracked the top five with a total of 2.64 million viewers for our curated list of opening week games.

Top Teams Are California Dreaming

College football teams cannot win a championship in any given week, but they can see their hopes of reaching the grandest stage slip away with a single loss. The ever-present high stakes make winning each game imperative for those contenders who have dreams of reaching this year’s College Football Playoff at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California. Between now and then, MVP will continue to monitor the usual suspects while also sharing broadcast and social stories from across college football as they pertain to network partners, schools, NIL deals, and more.

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