ESPN enjoyed its best first quarter ever, not only averaging more viewers than any previous January-March, but posting its highest rating on record for the quarter, according to Nielsen (records go back to 1992; the first quarter was December 27, 2010 – March 28, 2011). In fact, ESPN set new highs for its 24-hour rating each of the three months.
ESPN averaged a 0.9 rating in the first quarter, representing an average of 1,076,000 viewers (P2+), up 17 percent from 2010, the previous record. ESPN averaged 854,000 households in the quarter, a new high, up 14 percent from last year’s previous best. The network was boosted by the addition of the Bowl Championship Series and larger audiences for the NBA, as well as continued ratings growth for SportsCenter.
The network also set new first quarter records for ratings, P2+ and household impressions in prime time. ESPN was the top-ranked cable network in delivery of men 18-49 and 25-54 in both total day and prime time.
The BCS was a sensation in its first year on ESPN. The title game between Auburn and Oregon is the most-watched program in cable history with an average audience of more than 27 million viewers, and the five BCS games are ESPN’s biggest five audiences (excluding NFL games) in its 31-plus-year history. The BCS boosted ESPN to its most-watched day (January 1) and most-watched week (December 27, 2010 – January 2, 2011) in history.
The combined 24-hour average audience for ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, ESPN Classic and ESPN Deportes was a new first-quarter record of 1,236,000 households, up 11 percent from 2010, the previous record.