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Week 1 of the college football season was a success on multiple fronts, including viewership.
Thursday’s Ohio State-Minnesota game averaged 6.3 million viewers on FOX. The Buckeyes’ win broke the record for the highest-watched season opening Thursday night game. That’s the first win.
Next, Saturday night’s Georgia-Clemson matchup on ABC is on track to be the second-most-viewed Kickoff Saturday game in 15 years (on any network) with an average of 8 million viewers.
What does that number mean? Compared to the early fast affiliate ratings of the 2021 NBA Finals — networks have yet to receive the data for out-of-home viewing for last weekend — Georgia-Clemson’s average trailed only Game 6 of the NBA Finals, the night the Bucks won the title. More people are watching regular season college football than the NBA Finals. Bet you haven’t read that online.
Furthermore, the Georgia-Clemson matchup is up 16% from the comparable game in 2019 between Alabama and Miami. This year, Alabama-Miami kicked off at 3:30 pm, averaging 5 million viewers, up 8% from its comparable 2019 game.
Overall, ABC’s opening Saturday triple-header is up 9% and 11% from 2019 and 2018, respectively.
On Sunday night, ND vs. FSU on ABC drew 7.1 million viewers, peaking in OT with 8.8 million viewers. And to prepare you for the annoying Notre Dame fan in your group text chain, Notre Dame-FSU is the most-viewed opening week Sunday game on record. That dates back to 1996.
Though networks have yet to release the viewership for the remaining windows, it’s hard to see a scenario in which college football does not walk into Week 2 with significant momentum in the ratings.
Because of last year’s truncated season, opening weekend is compared to 2019, making the increases more impressive. Comparisons from two years ago tend to be negative in a climate of cord-cutting. Yet college football is up in all key windows.
Hmm. So Americans have not fallen out of love with sports. Instead, they despise woke sports. There’s a difference. For context, compare the trends in college football to those of the NBA — or the Olympics. College football is winning.