This Labor Day, the number one college football team in the nation, the Ohio State Buckeyes, took on the Virginia Tech Hokies to close out the first weekend of college football for this year’s regular season. This matchup came in at 144% over last year’s Labor Day matchup, and gave ESPN the highest overnight rating for an opening weekend college football game since 2010 across all networks, even though ESPN is a cable TV channel and many games are on broadcast networks like CBS.
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Additionally, the much anticipated matchup is the most-streamed college football regular-season game on WatchESPN of all time. Across all devices, the Ohio State victory had an average minute audience of 194,000 users and a total of 708,000 unique viewers on WatchESPN, accumulating 41,900,000 million minutes viewed throughout the game. Each category is an increase from the November, 29, 2014 Iron Bowl featuring Auburn at Alabama — which held the previous best in each category — by 63%, (119,000 users) 49%, (475,000 unique viewers) and 43% (29,300,000 live minutes), respectively.
Many have discussed a lessening of ESPN’s power in the cable TV universe, but as long as the channels has marquee sporting events carried live, there will always be a place for it. That they had a record number of people streaming the game also shows that they are willing to adapt, and that live rights for sporting events are still a big deal.