College football drives ABC’s victory in Aug. 30-Sept. 5 Nielsen ratings race

Georgia defensive back Christopher Smith intercepts a pass.
Georgia defensive back Christopher Smith, center, intercepts a pass intended for Clemson wide receiver Justyn Ross, right.
(Curtis Compton / AP)

College football games accounted for three of last week’s four highest-rated prime-time programs, led by ABC’s coverage of Saturday’s Clemson-Georgia game.

An average of 8.863 million viewers watched Georgia’s 10-3 victory, the second-most for a Kickoff Saturday game in the past 20 years, according to live-plus-same-day figures released Wednesday by Nielsen. It trailed only the 2017 Alabama-Florida State game, which averaged 12.335 million viewers.

ABC’s coverage of Notre Dame’s 41-38 overtime victory over Florida State on Sunday finished second among prime-time broadcast and cable programs airing between Aug. 30 and Sunday, averaging 7.751 million viewers.


The audience was the second-largest on record for an Opening Week Sunday game, trailing only the 2016 Notre Dame-Texas game, which averaged 10.945 million viewers, also on ABC.

Ohio State’s 45-31 victory over Minnesota on Thursday drew the largest audience for an opening-week college football telecast on Fox, averaging 6.295 million viewers, fourth for the week.

The week’s only entertainment programs to average more than 6 million viewers were the two “America’s Got Talent” episodes on NBC. The two-hour Tuesday episode was third for the week, averaging 7.192 million, and the hourlong Wednesday episode was fifth, averaging 6.102 million.

The two college football games landed ABC at the top of the network ratings for the fifth time in the 14 full weeks of television’s summer season and seventh time in the 50 weeks of the 2020-21 television season, averaging 4.39 million viewers.

ABC’s biggest audience outside its college football programming was for Thursday’s three-hour country music special, “CMA Summer Jam,” 14th for the week averaging 3.679 million viewers.

Cable’s Fox News Channel was second overall for the second consecutive week following its first-place finish the week of Aug. 16-22, averaging 2.585 million viewers.


CBS was third overall, averaging 2.58 million, followed by NBC, which averaged 2.53 million, and Fox.

CBS’ ratings leader was an edition of “60 Minutes” with three previously broadcast segments that were updated for the broadcast, sixth for the week, averaging 5.908 million viewers.

Fox also benefited from its coverage of UCLA’s 38-27 victory over LSU, which was second among Saturday’s prime-time programs and 33rd for the week, averaging 3.219 million viewers.

Fox’s highest-ranked non-college-football program was “Hell’s Kitchen,” 38th for the week, averaging 2.609 million viewers.

The Canadian crime drama “Coroner” was The CW’s biggest draw for the third consecutive week, averaging 711,000 viewers, tying for 157th among broadcast programs with a rerun of the 1964-69 CBS comedy “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” on MeTV. Its overall rank was not available.

The CW again was fifth among the five major English-language broadcast networks.

Fox News Channel finished first in prime time among cable networks for the ninth consecutive week, averaging 2.585 million viewers, more than the combined total of its cable news rivals MSNBC, which was second for the week, averaging 1.218 million viewers, and CNN, seventh for the week averaging 861,000.


ESPN was third among cable networks, averaging 1.217 million viewers, followed by HGTV (1.054 million), TLC (961,000) and Hallmark Channel (862,000).

Fox News Channel had each of the 12 top-ranked prime-time cable programs, topped by the Monday edition of political talk show “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” which averaged 4.312 million viewers, seventh overall.

“Outer Banks” was the most-streamed program in the first full week its second season was available, with viewers watched 2.1 billion minutes of the 20 episodes of the teen mystery from Aug. 2-8, including its 10-episode second season, which was released by Netflix July 30.