ESPN and ESPN2 were each up double digits in average 24-hour audience for the first quarter, which ended this past weekend, according to Nielsen. In addition, the total average audience of ESPN’s six measured networks (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, ESPN Classic, ESPN Deportes) was up nine percent.
ESPN was up 11 percent, averaging more than a million viewers at any time – 1,033,000, up from 931,000. The quarter got off to a tremendous start with the new College Football Playoff semifinals and championship drawing the three largest audiences in cable television history, topped by the 33,395,000 viewer average for the National Championship Game, won by Ohio State over Oregon. January was also boosted by the addition of an NFL wild card playoff game and the return of the NFL Pro Bowl.
ESPN2’s average audience was up 10 percent, at 282,000 viewers, up from 257,000. In addition to the network’s highest rating in history for the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day (a 3.8 for Wisconsin’s overtime victory over Auburn), its weekday studio programming continued to perform strongly (Mike & Mike, First Take, His and Hers, and SportsNation) while the Australian Open and college basketball also contributed to the gains.
The total combined average audience for ESPN’s six measured networks was 1,468,000 people, an increase of nine percent over 2014 (1,346,000).