November 30, 2023 by Mitch Metcalf
As NCAA College Football heads into its weekend of Conference Championships, let’s take stock of how massive the audience is for football at all levels.
In an average week each fall, there are 348 million viewing hours across various NFL games, a little more
than one hour viewed per week for every single person in the U.S.
College Football (mostly on Saturday but also to some extent earlier in the week) adds up to 199 million viewing hours per week. With almost three times as many college games televised as NFL games, the average college game has an audience of under 1 million people. And the top game this season so far
(Michigan-Ohio State on FOX with over 19 million viewers) was less than half of the top NFL game so far this season (Dallas-Washington on CBS with almost 42 million viewers). But these are still really significant numbers.
Football, both professional and college, adds up to 547 million hours per week, accounting for almost two-thirds of sports viewing on television and one-eighth of all linear TV viewing (all metrics on the rise).
If the NCAA had the equivalent of a Premier League with the top 30 or 40 schools instead of a Division I that looks like the entire baseball farm system (AAA teams playing the AA or A teams most weeks), the top-tier college numbers would be eye-popping and filled with meaningful contests. Of course, such radical change is not in the cards. A big improvement will be an 8- or 10-game playoff format rather than the still-flawed 4-team lottery, which was a quantum leap from the 2-team BCS system. Change comes slowly, especially with the NCAA.
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