ESPN's Saturday Night Football on ABC is the Most-Watched College Football Series in 2012

Earlier this month, CBS sent out a press release that its Southeastern Conference package was the highest-rated college football series in 2012. Now ESPN has issued a release that its Saturday Night Football on ABC package was the highest-rated and most-watched series of the year.

According to ESPN, Saturday Night Football averaged a 4.0 rating with an audience of almost 6.52 million. CBS’ SEC package averaged a 3.9 rating. CBS’ press release factored in ABC’s ratings from both Saturday afternoon and evening.

Once again, Birmingham, AL was the top-rated local market for ESPN’s college football coverage averaging 8.9 far outdistancing last year’s 5.9 rating.

We have the press release from ESPN.

ESPN Colllege FootballSaturday Night Football – Most-Viewed College Football Series on TV

ESPN Reaches Hundreds of Millions of Viewers, Heisman Presentation Second Highest Rated Ever,
Birmingham Most-Viewed Market for 12th Straight Year

ESPN’s Saturday Night Football on ABC, the first weekly prime-time college football game on broadcast television, was the highest-rated and most-viewed college football series among all networks carrying college football this season. The weekly package averaged 6,518,000 viewers and a 4.0 rating, and was the most-watched program of the night in viewers on six of its 12 broadcasts this season.

The Saturday Night Football broadcast of Notre Dame defeating USC 22-13 on November 24 was ABC’s second most-viewed and second highest-rated regular-season game since 1991, averaging 16,059,000 viewers and a 9.4 rating. The victory, securing Notre Dame’s spot in the BCS National Championship (against Alabama on January 7 at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN), was second only to ABC’s broadcast of No. 2 Michigan at No. 1 Ohio State (21,037,000 viewers; 14,479,000 households; and a 13.0 rating) on November 18, 2006.

ABC televised four games involving Notre Dame this season, averaging 8,839,000 viewers, 6,100,000 households, and a 5.3 rating. Led by Notre Dame against USC, ABC has televised the three most-viewed and highest-rated regular-season games involving Notre Dame since Florida State on NBC in 1993. The other two games were also against USC: November 25, 2006 (14,647,000 viewers; 10,048,000 households; and a 9.0 rating) and November 30, 1996 (10,847,000 viewers; 7,246,000 households; and a 7.5 rating).

ESPN concluded its extensive regular-season coverage of the 2012 college football season by televising the second most-viewed and second highest-rated Heisman Trophy Presentation telecast ever, averaging 4,902,000 viewers and a 3.5 rating (behind 2009’s average of 5,990,000 viewers and a 4.1 rating).

Most-Extensive Coverage Reaches Millions

For the 2012 college football season, ESPN offered exclusive coverage of more games than every network combined across television and digital platforms, reaching hundreds of millions of fans.

For the season, ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN3 covered 306 regular-season Football Bowl Subdivision games exclusively – 195 more than every other national network combined (CBS, FOX, NBC, FX, NBC Sports Network and CBS Sports Network) – involving teams from all 11 conferences, plus independents Notre Dame, BYU, Navy and Army.

Overall, ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 combined to reach more than 187,000,000 viewers for game telecasts. Combining ABC, ESPN, and ESPN2 with ESPNU’s extensive lineup and the networks averaged 2,018,000 viewers for 216 regular-season games. ESPN offered games across every day of the week with select Tuesday and Wednesday matchups and a regular schedule of Thursday, Friday and Saturday telecasts.

ESPN college football content also posted significant usage across digital platforms (, ESPN mobile Web, ScoreCenter, ESPN College Football app, ESPN3, WatchESPN), logging an average minute audience of 163,000 on college football Saturdays. The new ESPN College Football app for Android and iOS devices received 3.4 million downloads this season. On Saturdays, the app averaged 972,000 unique visitors, 1,800,000 visits, 10,600,000 page views and 9:30 per visitor.

Birmingham Takes Top Spot… Again

For the 12th consecutive year, Birmingham was the highest-rated metered market for ESPN’s regular-season telecasts, averaging an 8.9 rating, 89 percent higher than second place Greenville’s 4.7 rating. Eight of last season’s top 10 metered markets finished the 2012 season among the top 10 again. Tulsa (seventh in 2011) and Las Vegas (ninth) both fell out of the top 10, tying at 12th with a 2.5 rating, while Nashville, Memphis and Austin jumped into the top 10.

  • All three of Tennessee’s metered markets finished in the top 10 with Knoxville leading the way at third. The home market of the Tennessee Volunteers jumped from 10th last year, averaging a 4.6 rating. Nashville at ninth (3.3 rating) and Memphis at 10th (3.1 rating) were tied at 16 last year with a 2.5 rating.
  • Every market in the top 10 but Columbus and Oklahoma City finished with a higher average rating than in 2011, led by Knoxville with a 53 percent increase (4.6 vs. 3.0). Birmingham posted a 51 percent increase over last year’s leading 5.9 rating.
Top 25 Markets for 2012 Top 25 Markets for 2011
No. 1 — Birmingham: 8.9 rating No. 1 — Birmingham: 5.9 rating
No. 2 — Greenville: 4.7 rating No. 2 — Oklahoma City: 4.3 rating
No. 3 — Knoxville: 4.6 rating             Columbus: 4.3 rating
No. 4 — New Orleans: 3.7 rating No. 4 — Greenville: 4.1 rating
No. 5 — Jacksonville: 3.6 rating No. 5 — New Orleans: 3.4 rating
            Columbus: 3.6 rating             Atlanta: 3.4 rating
No. 7 — Atlanta: 3.5 rating No. 7 — Jacksonville: 3.3 rating
No. 8 — Oklahoma City: 3.4 rating             Tulsa: 3.3 rating
No. 9 — Nashville: 3.3 rating No. 9 — Las Vegas: 3.2 rating
No. 10 — Memphis: 3.1 rating No. 10 — Knoxville: 3.0 rating
            Austin: 3.1 rating No. 11 — Dayton: 2.8 rating
No. 12 — Tulsa: 2.5 rating No. 12 — Greensboro: 2.7 rating
              Charlotte: 2.5 rating               Austin: 2.7 rating
              Las Vegas: 2.5 rating               Charlotte: 2.7 rating
No. 15 — Portland: 2.3 rating               Fort Myers: 2.7 rating
             Richmond: 2.3 rating No. 16 — Pittsburgh: 2.5 rating
No. 17 — Orlando: 2.2 rating               Nashville: 2.5 rating
             Dayton: 2.2 rating               Norfolk: 2.5 rating
             Norfolk: 2.2 rating               Memphis: 2.5 rating
No. 20 — Louisville: 2.1 rating No. 20 — Cleveland: 2.4 rating
             Tampa-St. Petersburg: 2.1 rating No. 21 — Orlando: 2.3 rating
No. 22 — West Palm Beach: 2.0 rating No. 22 — Raleigh-Durham: 2.2 rating
              Greensboro: 2.0 rating               West Palm Beach: 2.2 rating
              Cleveland: 2.0 rating               Detroit: 2.2 rating
              Ft. Myers: 2.0 rating No. 25 — Cincinnati: 2.0 rating
                Richmond: 2.0 rating
                Portland 2.0 rating
                Kansas City: 2.0 rating
                Tampa-St. Petersburg: 2.0 rating

That’s all for now.

Ken Fang

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013. He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television. Fang celebrates the three Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.