After massive audiences for games in both Week 1 and Week 2, Week 3 was a disappointment with a lack of marquee games on the schedule.
The most-watched game of the weekend was Penn State’s afternoon win over Auburn on CBS, which averaged 4.054 million viewers. The same game took place in primetime on ABC last year, and averaged 7.606 million viewers. Furthermore, CBS aired Alabama-Florida in its 3:30 PM timeslot a year ago, and that game averaged a week-high 7.863 million viewers.
In their Big Noon window, Fox aired Oklahoma-Nebraska, which averaged 3.414 million viewers. Last year, the same game in that Fox window averaged 4.210 million viewers.
Compared to that Auburn-Penn State broadcast a year ago, ABC’s primetime window took a hit. This year, Michigan State-Washington was the game in that window, and it averaged just 2.791 million viewers. And not only was the ABC primetime window down from last year, it didn’t even win the window for the week – Mississippi State-LSU began at 6 PM on ESPN and averaged 3.055 million viewers, while Fox’s primetime broadcast of Toledo-Ohio State averaged 3.048 million viewers. Fox did not have a primetime game last season, while ESPN aired South Carolina-Georgia to 2.548 million viewers. That same Georgia-South Carolina game aired at noon this year on ESPN, drawing 3.001 million viewers.
ESPN did draw a strong audience for a later game in Week 3, with Miami-Texas A&M starting at 9 PM on ESPNEWS before shifting to ESPN. The ESPN broadcast began at 9:33 PM, and averaged 3.400 million viewers, more than any ESPN game in Week 3 of last season.
Despite the team’s poor start to the season, Notre Dame viewership ticked up on NBC. 2.905 million watched the Fighting Irish’s win over Cal in Week 3 up from 2.584 million for their game with Purdue last season.
ESPN also drew a strong audience for a weekday game, with Florida State-Louisville on Friday averaging 2.753 million viewers. UCF-Louisville on Friday of last year averaged 1.881 million on ESPN.
Something else a bit funny stood out to me when looking at the four games that aired on FS1. The most-watched game started at 11:15 PM, with Arizona’s win over North Dakota State averaging 335,000 viewers. It was the network’s lone Pac-12 broadcast of the day. Pay the Pac-12 for the late night games!
[Data via ShowBuzz Daily, Sports Media Watch]