What should have been a sleepy ratings Sunday before Labor Day — no NFL games, no big scripted or unscripted TV events — was set aflame by a barnburner of a college football game, thanks to a two-overtime victory by the Notre Dame Fighting Irish over the University of Texas Longhorns.
ABC’s telecast of Sunday evening’s Notre Dame-UT game garnered 10.46 million total viewers and a 3.0 in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic, according to early Nielsen estimates.
Of course, that’s not a patch on most NFL games, which regularly double or triple that demo rating. But the NFL has long been far more popular among TV audiences than its college counterpart, and college is starting to see some gains.
This was the second-highest preliminary rating for a kickoff weekend game on ABC, with a 7.0 household rating. The champ continues to be a Miami-Florida State game that brought in a 7.2 household rating, on Sept. 5, 2005, though the total viewer number for that game ended up being 9.65 million. Last year’s Ohio State-Virginia Tech Labor Day match-up, with Ohio State ranked number one in the country, drew 10.59 million total viewers.
Notre Dame and UT played each other on the same weekend last year, but on a Saturday, for far less successful ratings results — a preliminary 2.6 household rating, versus a 7.0 for Sunday’s game.
The 2015 game, it should be noted, was a 38-3 blowout, with Notre Dame running circles around Texas. Sunday night, Notre Dame and the Longhorns traded blows all the way through two overtime periods, ending with a Longhorn win, 50-47.
Those ratings don’t take into account out-of-home viewing, likely high on a holiday weekend involving a sport that many people watch in bars, not at home.
No one else on the broadcast guide stood a chance against the Fighting Irish-Longhorn hurricane.
NASCAR on NBC drew 4.34 million total viewers and a 0.8 in the demo. A new episode of “Big Brother” on CBS notched 5.22 million viewers and a 1.3 in the demo, understandably down almost 33 percent from the previous week (did we mention it’s a holiday weekend?).
CBS’ “BrainDead” also limped along to 2.33 million viewers and a 0.3 in the demo, down 600,000 total viewers from its “Madam Secretary” repeat lead-in.