TV ratings: Viewers were ready for college football

One football player tackling another.
Notre Dame quarterback Tyler Buchner, left, is sacked by Ohio State defensive tackle Michael Hall Jr. during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game on Sept. 3 in Columbus, Ohio.
(David Dermer / AP)

ABC’s first “Saturday Night Football” game of 2022 drew the largest prime-time audience since the concluding game of the NBA Finals and the most viewers for a regular-season college football game on ABC since 2017.

Ohio State’s 21-10 victory over Notre Dame averaged 10.531 million viewers, the most for a prime-time program since the Golden Warriors’ title-clinching 103-90 victory over the Boston Celtics, also on ABC, averaged 13.993 million viewers, according to live-plus-same-day figures released Wednesday by Nielsen.

The audience was the largest for a regular-season college football game on ABC since Sept. 2, 2017, when Alabama’s 24-7 victory over Florida State averaged 12.335 million.


On its first full week of season, college football accounted for four of the top 20 prime-time programs, including Florida State’s 24-23 victory over LSU Sunday on ABC, which averaged 7.554 million viewers, second among prime-time programs between Aug. 29 and Sunday.

The week’s only other prime-time program to top 6 million viewers was the 121-minute “America’s Got Talent” episode Aug. 30, which averaged 6.363 million viewers. The NBC talent competition’s 61-minute episode Aug. 31 was fourth for the week, averaging 5.478 million viewers.

The two prime-time college football telecasts put ABC at the top of the network rankings for the sixth time in the 14 full weeks of television’s summer season and the first time since the week of July 18-24, averaging 4.19 million viewers.

ABC’s biggest audience for a non-sports program was for “The Bachelorette: The Men Tell All,” which was 13th for the week averaging 3.315 million viewers.

NBC finished second, averaging 2.63 million, and CBS averaged 2.56 million viewers to finish third after back-to-back first-place finishes. CBS’ popular “60 Minutes” was in fifth place, averaging 5.124 million viewers for an edition with three previously aired segments that were updated for Sunday’s broadcast.

Fox averaged 1.64 million viewers for its 16 hours, led by Thursday’s Penn State-Purdue college football game, which averaged 3.512 million viewers, 11th among the week’s broadcast and cable programs.

The CW averaged 340,000 viewers. Its biggest draw was the 8:30 p.m. Sunday rerun of “World’s Funniest Animals,” which averaged 599,000 viewers, 150th among broadcast programs. Its overall ranking was not available.


The 20 most-watched prime-time programs consisted of four college football games — two on ABC and one each on Fox and ESPN; two episodes of “America’s Got Talent”; “60 Minutes”; ESPN’s coverage of what is likely Serena Williams’ final tennis match; NBC’s “Password” and “American Ninja Warrior”; three episodes of the CBS alternative series “Big Brother”; reruns of the CBS series “FBI,” “Young Sheldon” and “The Neighborhood”; ABC’s “The Bachelorette: The Men Tell All” and “Press Your Luck”; and two editions of the Fox News Channel political talk show “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

Williams’ 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-1 third-round loss to Australian Ajla Tomljanovic in the U.S. Open Friday averaged 4.561 million viewers, most among cable programs and sixth overall.

The combination of its U.S. Open and college football coverage enabled ESPN to end Fox News Channel’s 12-week streak as the top-ranked cable network in prime time, averaging 2.577 million viewers. Fox News Channel was second, averaging 2.098 million.

MSNBC was the only other cable network to average more than 1 million viewers, averaging 1.358 million.

The cable top 20 consisted of two nights of U.S. Open coverage and two college football games on ESPN; 11 Fox News Channel weeknight political talk shows — five broadcasts of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” four of “Hannity” and two of “The Ingraham Angle”; one edition each of the MSNBC news and opinion programs “The Rachel Maddow Show” and “All In With Chris Hayes”; USA Network’s coverage of Sunday’s Cook Out Southern 500 NASCAR race; and the 8-9 p.m. and 9-10 p.m. segments of USA Network’s professional wrestling program “WWE Raw.”

“Me Time” was Netflix’s most-watched program, with viewers spending 56.56 million hours watching the Kevin Hart-Mark Wahlberg comedy in its first full week of release, according to figures released Tuesday by the streaming service.

Viewership was 4.7% less than the 59.23 million hours the previous week when it was available for three days and was Netflix’s second most-watched program.

The limited series “Echoes” was Netflix’s most-watched television program for the second consecutive week, with viewers spending 36.58 million hours watching the mystery thriller’s seven episodes, 46.6% less than the 68.49 million hours the previous week, their first full week of release.