This past Saturday, we finally got a college football pregame show battle worth talking about. ESPN’s College GameDay went to Minnesota (for the first time) for the Gophers’ game against the Wisconsin Badgers, while Fox’s Big Noon Kickoff went to Ann Arbor for the Ohio State-Michigan game.

GameDay has dominated the pregame show landscape for years, but on Saturday, Fox claimed that Big Noon Kickoff came ahead for the first time ever.

Or…did it? ESPN is (naturally) claiming that they won the morning.

As usual, the “winner” depends on how you look at the data.

Overall, ESPN won the pregame window. This is unquestionable. The three hour block of GameDay drew 2.28 million viewers. The two hour block of Big Noon Kickoff drew 1.98 million viewers.

ESPN is claiming they drew 2.892 million viewers, while Fox is claiming 2.788 million viewers and a win in the final hour. That doesn’t jive on the surface, but there are some games that both networks are playing with the viewership numbers for their pregame shows.

ESPN is taking umbrage at Fox for how Big Noon Kickoff was scheduled, going off the air at 12:06 PM instead of noon. SBJ’s Austin Karp reported that the extra six minutes added nearly 400,000 viewers to the Big Noon Kickoff viewership tally, despite taking place after noon.

(this is also why ESPN has been clear to note that their claims are based on the window ending at noon, as in the below blurbs).

College GameDay Built by The Home Depot delivered its largest audience of the 2019 college football season, generating a three-hour audience of 2,280,000 viewers (9 a.m. – noon ET) for its first ever show from the University of Minnesota. College GameDay’s audience jumped to 2,892,000 in the final hour (11 a.m. – noon), the 11-time Emmy-winning pregame telecast’s most-watched final hour of the season.

ESPN’s overall calculations also include the GameDay simulcast on ESPNU, which drags their overall viewership from 2.78 million to 2.89 million, ahead of the 66 minute Fox Big Noon Kickoff final hour.

Holy shit, I have a headache.

Here’s as much of a summary as I can actually offer

  • The final hour is the subject of the debate, and no one is actually making false claims about the full length of the pregame shows.
  • Fox wins the final hour if you don’t count the ESPNU simulcast and you don’t mind the extra six minutes.
  • ESPN wins the final hour if you *do* count the ESPNU simulcast, regardless of how you feel about the extra six minutes.
  • This is all very stupid.

None of this actually matters in the long run. The biggest takeaway is that College GameDay has a legitimate competitor for the first time ever, and ESPN can’t just rest on their laurels in 2020.

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.