College Football Gives ESPN Record Thanksgiving Ratings


ESPN viewers feasted on college football throughout Thanksgiving, with six of the top seven games and eight of the top 10 matchups airing on ESPN networks over the holiday weekend.

ABC and ESPN aired their most-viewed Thanksgiving Weekend slate of games since 2017 and 2015, respectively.

Friday’s ABC doubleheader (Iowa State-Texas and Notre Dame-UNC) averaged 4,806,000 viewers, the most-viewed Thanksgiving Friday doubleheader on ABC since 2005. Notre Dame-UNC averaged 6,089,000 viewers, the best Friday game on ABC since 2015 (Iowa-Nebraska) and the second-best Friday game in 15 years.

The ACC showdown between the Fighting Irish and the Tar Heels goes down as the best weekday game across ESPN networks since 2016, when Ole Miss and FSU matched up on Labor Day, and was the most-viewed telecast of the day across all networks and genres among males, females and adults, 18-49.

Top Games and Year-Over-Year Highs Highlight Thanksgiving Weekend

ABC’s five Thanksgiving games averaged 3,730,000 viewers, up 23 percent year-over-year and registering the network’s most-viewed Thanksgiving slate since 2017.

On ESPN, an average of 2,587,000 viewers tuned in for its five Thanksgiving Weekend matchups, up 56 percent year-over-year from the seven-game schedule in 2019 and giving ESPN its top Thanksgiving Weekend since 2015.

Oregon-Oregon State averaged 2,837,000 viewers on ESPN Friday night, the second-most viewed Thanksgiving Friday game on ESPN since 2015 (Oklahoma-West Virginia, 2018). It was also up 60 percent year-over-year from the comparable game in 2019 (USF-UCF).

ESPN saw all three of its Saturday showdowns surpass 2.5 million viewers, notching its second-best Saturday of the season.

LSU-Texas A&M averaged 4,154,000 viewers, up 39 percent from the same matchup last year in the same Thanksgiving Saturday timeslot.

The game helped ESPN win the night as the most-viewed network in primetime among all viewers and all key male and adult demos. The College Station contest also ranks as ESPN’s third-most viewed game this season.

1Auburn at Alabama6,656,000CBS
2Notre Dame at UNC6,089,000ABC
3LSU at Texas A&M4,154,000ESPN
4Penn State at Michigan4,093,000ABC
5Iowa State at Texas3,577,000ABC
6Pittsburgh at Clemson3,084,000ABC/ESPNU
7Oregon at Oregon State2,837,000ESPN
8Nebraska at Iowa2,712,000FOX
9Northwestern at Michigan State2,549,000ESPN
10Kentucky at Florida2,511,000ESPN

College GameDay Tallies Its Biggest Audience of the Season

Saturday’s College GameDay Built by The Home Depot averaged 1,569,000 viewers, making the show’s visit to Tuscaloosa ahead of the Iron Bowl the most-viewed show of the season. The three-hour pregame show averaged 2,085,000 viewers in the last hour (11 a.m. – noon).

Fuller Kicks into Top Spot across ESPN Social and Digital

Vanderbilt kicker Sarah Fuller was the top topic of conversation over Thanksgiving week, kicking her way into leading ESPN’s social and digital coverage on Saturday.

In addition to trending in the top two on Twitter for much of Saturday’s games, the SEC champion goalkeeper’s kick was the top video clip across ESPN digital last week and was ESPN digital’s second-ranked college football video clip and story since the start of the 2020 season. Fuller’s historic moment helped Saturday rank as the top day for CFB video starts, excluding streaming, in 2020.

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