Boise State’s thrilling 33-30 win over Virginia Tech has made the Broncos the toast of the college football world and a legitimate contender for a BCS Championship bid. Kellen Moore’s 13-yard pass to Austin Pettis in the waning seconds of Monday night’s game also helped ESPN deliver one of its largest college football audiences in its 31-year history.
The Broncos-Hokies Labor Day battle served up 9.89 million total viewers, per Nielsen live-plus-same-day ratings data, making it ESPN’s second most-watched NCAA football telecast––a distinction that is particularly impressive, given that it includes all bowl game coverage. Monday night’s delivery trails only ESPN’s telecast of USC’s 18-15 victory at Ohio State, which drew 10.6 million viewers on Sept. 12, 2009.
Going back in the annals, the Blacksburg nailbiter ranks as Bristol’s third most-watched non-NFL telecast to date. On Sept. 7, 1998, 10.6 million viewers tuned in to watch Mark McGwire tie Roger Maris’ single-season homerun record. Last year’s USC-Ohio State game stands as the network’s second largest delivery.
Last year, ESPN served up its biggest audience ever, drawing 21.8 million viewers with its Oct. 5 presentation of Monday Night Football. Appearing in Vikings motley for the first time against his former Packers squad, QB Brett Favre led his charges to a 30-23 victory, and handed ESPN the all-time record for the most viewers drawn to a single telecast on basic cable.
For the week ended Sept. 5, ESPN finished second among all ad-supported cable nets, averaging 2.36 million viewers in prime time. The sports net won the two top demos outright, drawing 1.18 million adults 25-54 and 1.09 million viewers 18-49.