College football opening night on ESPN up slightly, despite weather delay

Kevin C. Cox

The lightning delay during the North Carolina-South Carolina game likely hurt ratings.

ESPN's premiere of college football remained a pretty big draw nationally, despite the popularity of the NFL in local markets. However, a weather delay in the early game did harsh the buzz a bit.

The network's truncated broadcast of North Carolina vs. South Carolina drew 3.65 million viewers. That was down a bit from last year's opener, South Carolina vs. Vanderbilt, which drew 4.12 million viewers. The game was delayed, and eventually moved to ESPNews in most of the country, due to lightning. The weather delay held people's attention for the most part, however, with 3.14 million sticking around for studio programming from 8:47-9:15 p.m. ET.

For the most part, people stuck around for the late game. It was the first SEC conference game of the season, Vanderbilt vs. Ole Miss, and it scored 2.74 million viewers. That was up from the late game last year, a non-conference meeting between BYU and Washington State that started an hour later than the Vandy-Ole Miss game. That telecast averaged 2.18 million viewers and also dealt with airing against the last night of the Republican National Convention. Of course, those games also didn't feature competition from either Fox Sports 1 (Utah vs. Utah State) or ESPNU (Bowling Green vs. Tulsa and Rutgers vs. Fresno State).

Overall, ESPN averaged 3.17 million for their opening night of college football coverage, up just barely from the 3.15 million for last year's first evening of games. Numbers from Fox Sports 1 and ESPNU are unavailable as of this posting.

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