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“By the Numbers”: Three-Part Look at College Football on ESPN Networks – Part 1

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By the Numbers: Part 2
By the Numbers: Part 3

Total Games, Most Appearances, Most-Viewed Games, Thursday & Saturday Data, & More

College football has been a cornerstone of ESPN’s programming since the network’s launch in 1979 and televised live on ABC every year since 1966. ESPN’s commitment to the sport has grown to include multiple weekly games across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN3, ESPNEWS, ESPN Radio and ESPN Mobile as well as daily studio programs highlighted by College Football Live, the Saturday morning College GameDay Built by The Home Depot, and content across ESPN.com, ESPN The Magazine, espnW and more.

ESPN will provide a “by the numbers” look at historical information across its platforms over three consecutive days from August 20-22.

  • Part one, today, includes total amount of live and exclusive games across ESPN platforms, coverage growth over the years and teams that have appeared most frequently on ESPN
  • Part two, Wednesday, Aug. 21, provides figures on ESPN’s Thursday night series, including total games and team information; production facts; memorable moments that happened on ESPN networks; and ESPN commentator credentials
  • Part three, Thursday, Aug. 22, looks into ESPN’s ratings history with the most-viewed games and top 25 rated markets for the 2012 season

The home for college football
In 2012, ESPN carried 306 regular-season Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) games exclusively on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN3 – nearly 200 more than every other national network combined (CBS, FOX, NBC, FX, NBC Sports Network and CBS Sports Network).

ESPN will once again lead the way in 2013 as the only network to cover home games from all 10 FBS conferences and BYU as well as road games featuring Notre Dame, Navy and Army.

The beginning and the totals…
ESPN, which offered a significant schedule of taped games from 1979 to 1983, first began televising live regular-season games in 1984 following a Supreme Court ruling allowing conferences and universities to negotiate their own television rights.

  • Total Games: Since 1984, ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN3 and ESPN Classic have combined to provide exclusive live coverage of 4,614 regular-season games from the FBS and Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). Specific by network:
  • ABC and ESPN: 1,585 on ABC and 1,306 on ESPN since 1984
  • ESPN2: 825 since its launch in 1993
  • ESPNU: 506 since its debut in 2005
  • ESPN3: 357 since it began exclusive game coverage in 2005
  • ESPN Classic: 35 overall

In addition to extensive television coverage, ESPN Radio has broadcast more than 100 regular-season games since 2007. Additional historical details and growth:

  • First Live Game: ESPN’s first live regular-season game telecast in 1984 showcased BYU kicking off its National Championship season with a 20-14 victory over Pittsburgh on September 1.
  • Growth: Coverage across ESPN platforms has grown significantly since the first year for each, including:
  • ESPN’s schedule has increased from 28 games in its first year to at least 61 game telecasts every season since 2007, peaking at 73 in 2011.
  • ABC has expanded to include the 2006 debut of Saturday Night Football, the highest-rated and most-viewed college football series among all networks last season, which launched with Notre Dame defeating Georgia Tech 14-10 on September 2.
  • ESPN2 has steadily increased from a single matchup in its first year (Lehigh over Lafayette 39-14) to 49 telecasts in 2012.
  • ESPN3 has grown from eight exclusive games in 2005, its first season of exclusive coverage, to 124 matchups in 2012. The national network will surpass last year’s record high, beginning with approximately 60 contests in the first month of the 2013 season.
    • Reverse Mirror: In 2007, ESPN introduced the innovative coverage in which one of two games is televised regionally on ESPN or ESPN2 to markets receiving another game on ABC. Since then, ESPN has offered 36 reverse mirror windows with ABC while ESPN2 has provided 35.

Big Teams, Big Games
ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU have combined to televise games involving 188 different teams from the FBS and FCS since 1984, showcasing many top matchups through the years.

  • Variety: ESPN has televised 138 different teams while ESPN2 has covered 139 programs.
  • 1 vs. 2: ABC has televised six of the eight regular-season matchups between the No. 1-and No. 2-ranked teams since 1988
  • Most Frequent: Auburn (75) and Miami (Fla.) (73) are the two teams to have played more than 70 games on ESPN. Florida State and Virginia Tech are tied for third with 68 ESPN telecasts each. The top 15 is rounded out by Penn State (66), Wisconsin (65), Michigan (64), Ohio State (62), West Virginia (62), LSU (59), South Carolina (58), Pittsburgh (57), Clemson (56), Georgia Tech (55) and Alabama (54).

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