ESPN networks had one of their strongest overall weekends of the 2021 college football season, as ESPN and ESPN2 both aired their most-watched games in years during Week 10. Fueling the year-over-year growth were two compelling Southeastern Conference showdowns – LSU and Alabama on ESPN, and Tennessee at Kentucky on ESPN2. Overall, ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 were all up significantly from Week 10 in both 2019 and 2020.
The most-watched game of the weekend on ESPN networks was LSU at Alabama (7 p.m. ET, ESPN), averaging 5 million viewers – the most-viewed college football game on cable this year. The primetime presentation was the top game in Week 10 among key male and adult demos (18-34, 18-49, 25-54). The audience was up 18 percent from the same matchup in 2020 and peaked with 6 million viewers from 10-10:15 p.m. in the final minutes of the game.
Tennessee at Kentucky (7 p.m., ESPN2) averaged 1.5 million viewers, ESPN2’s most-viewed game in more than three years (Auburn at Mississippi State, Oct. 6, 2018). ESPN2 also registered a strong showing with Friday night’s Virginia Tech at Boston College matchup (7:30 p.m., ESPN2), notching 1.2 million viewers. Season-to-date, ESPN and ESPN2 are well ahead of the pack as the top two most-viewed college football cable networks, with ESPN2 up 20 percent from 2019 and up 97 percent from 2020.
ABC’s top game on Saturday was Purdue’s upset of Big Ten rival Michigan State (3:30 p.m.), which scored 4.4 million viewers and was the top game of the late afternoon window.
ESPN Networks Own Saturday Primetime
In the average minute, 9 million viewers and 2.8 million P18-49 viewers were watching college football on ESPN networks. The audience peaked with nearly 10 million viewers from 8:15-8:30 p.m. ESPN networks had the top two college football games in primetime, and ESPN and ABC ranked as the top 2 networks from 8-11 p.m. among all viewers. Among P18-49 viewers, ESPN, ABC and ESPN2 ranked as three of the top four networks in primetime Saturday.
CFB Viewership Sees Exponential Year-Over-Year Growth
Viewership across ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 is up at least double digits from Week 10 in 2020 and 2019. ABC aired its most-viewed Week 10 since 2016 and was up 59 percent from the same week in 2020 and 13 percent from 2019. ESPN was up triple digits from both 2020 (136 percent) and 2019 (103 percent), while ESPN2 had above-average audiences in nearly every window and was up 135 percent from the same week in 2020 and up 27 percent from 2019.