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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

CFB Week 1 Viewership Sets Multiple Milestones

  • Week 1 on ESPN garnered more viewers than any kickoff weekend since 2016.
  • The high price for the sports’ top media rights appears worth it.
Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

From the Big Ten to the CFP, the value of college football media contracts are at an all-time high.

Week 1 ratings on ESPN suggested that the high price for the sport’s top media rights is more than worth it. The full slate garnered more viewers than any kickoff weekend on ESPN since 2016.

There were also several game-specific milestones:

  • Ohio State’s win over Notre Dame on Saturday drew 10.5 million viewers on ESPN — the second-largest for a Week 1 Saturday for any network in history, and the most-watched regular-season game on ESPN Networks since 2017.
  • The FSU-LSU matchup, which featured Brian Kelly’s inaugural loss with the Tigers, drew 7.6 million viewers — the third-most-watched in history for an opening Sunday.
  • Georgia’s blowout win against Oregon still drew 6.2 million viewers. On ABC, it was the most-watched 3:30 p.m. ET slot in Week 1 since 2017.

The strong early showing for college football ratings follows two major media rights milestones. 

In mid-August, the Big Ten inked a gargantuan mid-$7 billion media rights package featuring Fox, NBC, CBS, and Peacock. It’s billed as the largest conference-wide media deal in college sports history.

While ESPN will soon lose rights to the Big Ten, it has inked a future deal for exclusive rights to the SEC — and projects that it will continue to be a leader in college sports. 

And last Friday, the College Football Playoff announced it would expand from four to 12 teams by 2026. The next iteration of its media contract, which is up in 2026, could be worth up to $2.2 billion, FOS previously reported

It would garner more in annual fees than any college sports property — including the Division I men’s basketball tournament.

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