All the Maize & Blue buzz around FS1 (it’s going to take a while to get used to typing that exclusively instead of using Fox Sports 1) must have worked. FS1’s season opening college football broadcast – Michigan at Utah – drew the highest ratings for the two year old network for a game. The Utes’ victory over the Wolverines scored a 1.73 rating and over 2.8 million viewers.
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FS1’s highly-anticipated season-opening primetime showdown between Michigan, led by first-year head coach Jim Harbaugh, and Utah last night lived up to the hype as the channel set new audience records for its college football coverage.
The Utes’ 24-17 victory over the visiting Wolverines is the highest-rated and most-watched college football game on FS1 since its launch in 2013, posting a 1.73 household rating, with 2.868 million viewers, according to figures released today by Nielsen.
Previously, FS1’s top-rated college football game was a Big 12 matchup between Oklahoma and Baylor, which posted a 1.35 HH rating, on 11/7/13. Prior to last night’s game, FS1’s most-watched college football telecast had been the Pac-12 Civil War tussle between Oregon State and Oregon on 11/29/13 (2.179 million). The Michigan-Utah rating (1.73) exceeded FS1’s previous college football record (1.35) by +28%, while the audience was up +32% compared to the channel’s prior mark (2.868 million vs. 2.179 million). FS1 ratings records were also set locally last night in Detroit (14.77) and Salt Lake City (13.1).
While that’s great news for FS1, there is a bit of a caveat that comes with it. Michigan-Utah was not the most watched college football game on Thursday night. That honor fell to ESPN’s coverage of North Carolina-South Carolina, which drew 3.6 million viewers in a game that kicked off earlier in the evening. In a more direct matchup, FS1 did beat ESPN as Michigan-Utah drew more viewers than Minnesota-TCU (2.6 million viewers).
These numbers are exactly why Fox went so far overboard in devoting months of coverage to Michigan football and Jim Harbaugh at the expense of their current rights partner in the Pac 12. Yes, the Pac 12 probably was not happy to get such a raw deal in coverage from FS1, but it was all about wooing Michigan and the Big Ten to open their minds to linking up with Fox in a new rights deal. After seeing how the network rolled out the khaki carpet for Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines, the Big Ten might be more receptive to hearing the next sales pitch from FS1.