Week 2 of the 2023 college football season saw both ESPN and Fox draw strong audiences for their featured games. Each network can realistically beat its chest for having Saturday’s top game.
Fox’s broadcast of Nebraska-Colorado averaged 8.725 million viewers in the Big Noon window, good for the most-watched game on a single network. It’s the second straight week the Buffaloes have drawn a big number in Big Noon, averaging 7.26 million in Week 1 for their win over TCU.
While Fox’s noon broadcast was the most-watched on a single network, ESPN aired Texas-Alabama on *two* networks and the combined viewership of 8.762 million between ESPN and ESPN2 edged out Colorado-TCU for the most-watched game overall on the weekend. The main ESPN broadcast averaged 7.963 million, while the Pat McAfee Show alternate broadcast on ESPN2 chipped in another 799,000.
NBC’s second week of airing the Big Ten in primetime did not go well. Maryland’s win over Charlotte averaged just 665,000 viewers, falling behind several other games – including the McAfee alternate broadcast of Texas-Alabama on ESPN2. It barely topped The CW’s airing of Cincinnati-Pittsburgh at 6:30 PM ET, which averaged a respectable 617,000 viewers.
The afternoon window drew strong audiences for ABC, CBS, and Fox. ABC led the way, averaging 4.024 million viewers for Miami’s win over Texas A&M. Fox followed with 3.378 million for Iowa’s win over Iowa State. Finally, CBS drew 2.965 million for Michigan’s win over UNLV. Notably, all three games were going on at the same time as the US Open Women’s Championship on ESPN, which topped two of the three by averaging 3.422 million viewers.
In Week 3, the viewership story will likely be different. The schedule is far weaker, and newfound viewership powerhouse Colorado is shunted to the 10 p.m. ET window on ESPN against Colorado State. Tennessee-Florida in primetime on ESPN is probably the best game of the weekend, and we’ll have an eye on that. It’s also worth looking at the first SEC on CBS game of the season, South Carolina vs Georgia, in the 3:30 p.m. ET window, and monitoring whether or not NBC releases viewership data for their pair of Peacock-exclusive games on Saturday.
[Data via Sports Media Watch]