ESPN is happy it has the rights to all of the North Carolina-Duke ACC conference games through the 2026-27 season. And the first game of the 2014-15 season paid dividends for the Worldwide Leader.

This week’s edition which ended in a 92-90 overtime thriller resulted as the most-watched college basketball game of the season surpassing the previous high, Kentucky-Louisville on ESPN2 back in December.

North Carolina at Duke garnered a 2.6 rating and an audience of 4.1 million viewers. Those numbers are way up from last year’s first meeting between the two schools (1.5 rating and 2.3 million). Earlier this season, Kentucky-Louisville averaged 3.5 million viewers.

Comparing this season’s North Carolina-Duke game to other college basketball games in ESPN’s history, it’s the 11th most-watched men’s college basketball contest of all-time on the network and it’s the 4th most-viewed telecast between the two rivals on ESPN platforms.

Locally, Greensboro, NC led all markets with a 14.3 rating. Raleigh-Durham was second with a 10.8 rating and Louisville was third with 8.9. Charlotte and Greenville rounded out the top five with ratings of 8.5 and 7.2 respectively.

North Carolina-Duke games move the meter for ESPN and they’re huge reasons why the Worldwide Leader locked up the ACC well into the next decade to ensure it carries all of the rivalry games through the 2026-27 season.

[ESPN/Sports Media Watch]

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the four Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.

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