As TV broadcasting schedules are being drawn up for the 2018 college football season, the viewership numbers from last year are now being released.
In a statement by the National Football Foundation, the most viewed game last season was, unsurprisingly, the College Football Playoff National Championship Game between Alabama-Georgia. The overtime thriller that saw the Crimson Tide take home the trophy brought in 29,932,000 viewers. However, the Ohio State-Oregon title game of 2015 still holds the title of most viewed college football game; the Buckeyes-Ducks showdown in Dallas captivated an audience of 33,395,000 viewers.
While the Scarlet and Gray didn’t have the most viewed game last season, they made up for it with fan attendance. In the same report outlined by the NFF, Ohio State brought 1,254,160 football enthusiasts through the turnstiles across all home, away and neutral site games. At home, the Buckeyes averaged 107,495 fans to the games—good enough for second in the nation. Michigan led the college football world with home game attendance, wrangling in an average of 111,589.
(It should be noted that Ohio Stadium has a capacity 104,944, and Michigan Stadium has a capacity of 107,601).
Below are the top-10 most viewed games from the college football regular season.
Most viewed CFB regular season games (including conference championships)
|Auburn-Georgia (SEC Championship)||13,466,000||CBS|
|Ohio State-Wisconsin (B1G Championship)||12,918,000||FOX|
|Ohio State-Penn State||9,868,000||FOX|
The 2017 Big Ten Championship was FOX’s highest viewed college football game since the 2013 version of the B1G title game. In both contests, Ohio State was one of the participants.
For those that have repressed the 2013 conference championship game, OSU was riding a 24-game win streak and a No. 2 ranking heading into the clash with Michigan State in Indianapolis. The Buckeyes led 24-20 after the third quarter and had a trip to Pasadena for the BCS Championship Game game within grasp. However, a 14-point surge by the Spartans upended that dream for the Scarlet and Gray.
With FOX having a bigger stake in college football-- and especially Big Ten— broadcasts, it’s not a surprise that the 2017 season brought record highs in viewership. An average of 3,625,000 viewers tuned in for college football games on FOX—a 23 percent increase from the year before. Marquee matchups like Texas-USC carried the non-conference slate, while the Big Ten partnership propelled FOX to higher views throughout the season. It also didn’t hurt to have great games in Ohio State-Michigan and Ohio State-Penn State on the network, either.
For ESPN, Ohio State was part of the highest viewed Thursday night opening weekend game on record. Playing in Bloomington, Indiana, on Aug. 31, the Buckeyes toppled the Indiana Hoosiers, 49-21, with 5,400,000 viewers tuning in. The game was back-and-forth in the first half, with the Hoosiers actually leading at halftime, 14-13. However, J.K. Dobbins burst onto the scene rushing for 181 yards on 29 carries to help the Bucks avoid the upset.
While OSU fans may have not liked the Oklahoma game (and the Baker Mayfield antics after it), the game was good content for ABC. For a non-opening week CFB game, the Buckeyes-Sooners clash in The ‘Shoe was the highest overnight rating in seven years for the network.
With the announcement yesterday that FOX has the broadcasting rights to Ohio State-Michigan again in 2018, that’s a marquee Big Ten game that’s pulled away from ABC/ESPN. Michigan-Michigan State will also be on FOX this season, so expect even more conference games to have the FOX overlays instead of ABC/ESPN.
For Big Ten (and especially Ohio State) fans, get ready for more Buckeye games to have the smooth sounds of Gus Johnson, Joel Klatt and Jenny Taft on the call, rather than ESPN/ABC’s Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Tom Rinaldi and Maria Taylor.
FOX is making noise in the college football world, and with a few more years left in the rights deal, they appear to be increasing their footprint—especially with Big Ten games. Fox Entertainment Group (21st Century Fox) owns 51% of the Big Ten Network.