Two things were abundantly clear after the first week on college football – at least in terms of TV ratings.
1.) The networks really like early season match-ups of ranked teams, and
2.) The Big 12 really needs a strong Texas for their TV partners.
Over 12.3 million viewers tuned in to watch #1 Alabama take down #3 FSU 24-7 Saturday night on ABC. That is the most-viewed college game on opening week in 21 years. In all likelihood it will also be the most-watched regular season game of the year.
Earlier in the day, also on ABC, 7.7 million watched Michigan throttle Florida 33-17.
2.1 million tuned in to Maryland’s 51-41 win over Texas on FOX. It was the most-watched game on a cable network for Saturday (whoopee).
The contest drew more than the following ESPN broadcasts: BYU-LSU in prime time (1.8 million) N.C. State at South Carolina (1.5 million) Kent State at Clemson (1.6 million) or Appalachian St. at Georgia (1.7 million).
As a matter of fact, ESPN’s College Gameday show (2 million) drew a larger audience than any of their football contests.
Saturday night was a great example of just how important your network distributor can be. Va. Tech and West Virginia played on ABC and drew 4.7 million fans. Directly opposite on Fox, The Texas A&M “Mother of all Collapses” against UCLA had 3.2 million viewers.
Thursday night Oklahoma State defeated Tulsa 59-24 with 382,000 tuning in on FOX. Ohio State-Indiana drew 5.2 million on ESPN.
Saturday Oklahoma-UTEP had 1.1 million on FOX.
Liberty-Baylor? 137,000 on FS2.
Jackson State at TCU on FS1 didn’t even register on the ratings scale.
The money is great for the Big 12 TV contract. The combination of a small base of fans, little national following and a distributor still playing catch up to ESPN makes for lousy TV ratings – especially during non-conference play.