Struggling NFL ratings has been a weekly discussion throughout the last year. Although less notable, college football has also experienced a decline in viewership. Aside from Fox, which offered a new Big Ten package this season, each network experienced a significant drop off in ratings during college football broadcasts.
According to Austin Karp, assistant managing editor of Sports Business Daily, this season’s college football average audience totals were as follows:
CBS: 4.951 million viewers, down 10% from 5.489 million in 2016.
ABC: 4.203 million, down 18% from 5.097 million.
Fox: 3.625 million, up 23% from 2.951 million.
NBC: 2.742, down 3% from 2.814 million.
ESPN: 2.155 million, down 6% from 2.300 million.
FS1: 819,000, up 4% from 743,000.
“I don’t think that meant less interest in college football,” Karp told Richard Deitsch of SI. “If anything, I’d say the interest was higher this season compared to some prior years. If you look at total minutes viewed for college football, it had to be some sort of record this year. “
Karp attributes the ratings decline to more TV options for consumers, streaming platforms, and less appealing matchups, rather than an overall interest reduction in the sport.
The NFL’s regional viewership has been less impacted than their national broadcasts, which is partially why college football’s ratings haven’t been affected to the same extent. Aside from select matchups, college football is much more of a regional sport than the NFL is. Due to the amount of teams in the sport and lack of fantasy interest, college football will remain more popular at the regional level.
According to Karp and Deitsch, the following games were the only college football broadcasts to garner an audience of more than 10 million this year:
1. Alabama-Auburn (CBS) Nov. 25: 13.657 million viewers.
2. Georgia-Auburn (CBS) Dec. 2: 13.466 million viewers.
3. Ohio State-Wisconsin (Fox): Dec. 2: 12.918 million viewers.
4. Florida State-Alabama (ABC): Sept. 2: 12.335 million viewers.
5. Ohio State-Michigan (Fox): Nov. 25: 10.507 million.