Griz-Bison game reached nearly 1 million homes
Close to 1 million households tuned in to watch the Montana Grizzlies knock off the four-time defending national champions from North Dakota State on Saturday.
Television viewership data released Tuesday showed that 981,000 households had their TVs tuned to the ESPN game, the network’s FCS Kickoff event. That’s good for a 0.7 Nielsen rating, or 0.7 percent of all households in the United States.
Those numbers were much higher in certain areas of the country, though perhaps the ones leading the way wouldn’t even be in the time zone you’d think.
The Birmingham, Alabama market led the nation with a 2.4 rating while football-starved Columbus, Ohio checked in at 1.8. Columbus is home to the FBS defending national champs from Ohio State, so you know they love their football.
Also in the top five were Nashville (1.6), Atlanta (1.5) and Oklahoma City (1.5). Tulsa, Oklahoma (1.4), Minneapolis/St. Paul (1.4), Meyers, Florida (1.3), Jacksonville Florida (1.2) and San Diego, California (1.1) rounded out the top 10.
The game was the fourth-most viewed sporting event of the day Saturday behind that evening’s NFL preseason game between Pittsburgh and Buffalo on NFL Network, a premier boxing match on ESPN that night and NBC Sports Network’s coverage of the NASCAR XFINITY series.
The FCS Kickoff is in its second year of airing one college football game from Division I’s second tier the Saturday before the rest of the country gets underway. No other D-I college football games were played this past weekend.
In an interview earlier this week with the Missoulian, Big Sky Conference commissioner Doug Fullerton said last year’s Kickoff game between Eastern Washington and Sam Houston State, a 56-35 victory for the Eagles in Huntsville, Texas, drew a 0.5 rating.
That’s on par with what the network typically sees for college football bowl games later in the season, Fullerton said. The commissioner had hoped this year’s game would see a bigger jump, but improvement is still improvement.
“ESPN was pleased, which pleases us,” Big Sky Communications Director Jon Oglesby wrote via email.
The Grizzlies beat the Bison, the preseason No. 1 team, on a last-second touchdown run by Joey Counts on fourth down. The score was 38-35.
“It was a great result, it was a great atmosphere, it made for great TV, and great drama,” said Montana Director of Athletics Kent Haslam. “It also gave us the chance to showcase the entire university through the lens of a college football game, that no doubt will help our entire institution build our brand world wide.”
This FCS Kickoff game did not produce Montana’s largest TV audience though. The instant classic FCS semifinal in the snow between the Griz and Appalachian State in 2009 drew a strong 1.87 rating, with 1,857,000 households tuning in. However that was also a game that benefited from prime time placement during late-season football fervor.