ABC, Fox start college football season with big viewership totals

By Austin Karp

The college football audience returned in force in Week 1, as ABC and Fox both saw impressive fast-national viewership numbers with the return to a normal schedule after a COVID-interrupted '20 slate. ABC likely saw its most-viewed Week 1 Saturday (covering three games) since ’17, fueled by Georgia-Clemson in primetime, while Fox had what will likely be the best Thursday regular-season college football game ever on any network with Ohio State-Minnesota. Number are likely to climb when final figures come in on Wednesday. Georgia-Clemson on ABC averaged just under 8 million viewers, a figure that marks the second-best Saturday Week 1 audience on any network over the last 15 years. Two years ago, Oregon-Auburn in the same window averaged 6.86 million. Earlier in the day (3:30pm ET), Alabama’s 44-13 win over Miami on ABC averaged 5.03 million, up from 4.64 million for Alabama-Duke in the same window in '19. Oklahoma-Tulane at noon also outdrew the comparable FAU-Ohio State game two years ago. ABC’s Week 1 Saturday tripleheader averaged 5.04 million, up 9% from the opening Saturday in ’19. Meanwhile, Fox had its most-watched Week 1 game ever with Ohio State’s 45-31 win over Minnesota on Thursday night, averaging 6.3 million viewers. It also was Fox’ 10th-best regular-season college football game on record.

STRIKING GOLD: Notre Dame delivered again for ABC in the Labor Day Sunday primetime window. The network averaged 7.1 million viewers for the Fighting Irish’s overtime win over Florida State, marking the second-best figure in that holiday window on record for ABC (figures dating back to ’96). The top game in that window is Notre Dame-Texas back in ’16, which averaged 10.9 million. There was no game last season, and ABC was up 29% from Houston-Oklahoma in ’19. 

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