The World Wide Leader in Sports has announced that the 2021 College Football Season was the network’s most-streamed season in history. Cord cutters flocked to watch all of the action on the gridiron with 3.9 billion minutes of live college football games streamed across ESPN networks and select MVPD access points. Compared to 2020, the 3.9 billion minutes were a 37% increase and an 8% increase from 2019.
Beyond streaming, ESPN, ABC, and ESPN2 all reached record multi-year highs during the 2021 college football season. Compared to 2019 and 2020, the three networks averaged 1,976,000 viewers this season, which was a 19% increase from 2020 and a 2% increase from 2019. ABC had its most-watched season in four years after averaging 4,042,000 viewers, a 25% increase from 2020, and a 2% increase from 2019. The network aired the most-viewed game on 16 of 42 Saturday windows, which was more than any other network. ESPN and AB combined reigned supreme with the top game in 20 of 42 Saturday windows. 53% of live game minutes viewed across nationally-rated networks were viewed across ESPN networks.
It has been reported that Disney has considered spinning-off ESPN and its family of networks due to cord cutting, but the ESPN networks were the top two most-watched networks for college football on cable for the first time since 2015. On cable, ESPN averaged 1,733,000 viewers in 2021, up 16% from 2020 and on par with 2019. This year was ESPN2’s most-watched season since 2018, which was 65 rise from 2020 and a 27% uphill swing from 2019. On average, games on ESPN2 recorded 643,000 viewers this season.
The regular season may be over, but college football bowl season is quickly approaching and ESPN’s networks will air 41 bowl games. It remains to be seen if YouTube TV and Disney will be able to reach an agreement that will allow subscribers to stream the upcoming bowl season on ESPN, ESPN2, and ABC.