You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

College Basketball Season Opens Strong for ESPN

Michigan State's victory over Kentucky is the net's second biggest non-conference game ever

ESPN is off to a great ratings start in college basketball, with Thursday’s marquee matchup of the country’s top two teams — Kentucky and Michigan State — drawing 4 million viewers.

The first telecast of the State Farm Champions Classic doubleheader attracted the second largest audience ever for a non-conference game on ESPN, according to Nielsen, behind only the 5.28 million who watched Memphis take on Tennessee in another matchup of top-ranked teams in February 2008.

Tipping off at 10:19 p.m. ET, the game between No. 4 Duke and No. 5 Kansas, averaged 2.98 million viewers. Combined the two games averaged 3.51 million viewers to make it the most popular Champions Classic — ahead of both last year (2.50 million) and 2011 (2.51 million).

In the local markets, the first game did a 20.3 rating in Louisville and an 8.6 in Detroit. And in the late game, Kansas City was the highest-rated market (13.5), followed by Raleigh-Durham (7.8) and Greensboro (7.6).

In adults 18-49, the first game did a 1.4 rating, and the nightcap a 1.3. The only cable program to rate higher in men 18-49 was FX’s “Sons of Anarchy.”

ESPN recently announced it will continue to televise the neutral site Champions Classic with Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Michigan State for three additional years. The early-season event has matched four of the winningest programs against each other since 2011.

More TV

  • Disney-ABC TV Chief on Weinstein's Victims,

    Disney-ABC TV Chief Ben Sherwood on Weinstein's Victims, Shonda Rhimes' Exit

    ESPN is off to a great ratings start in college basketball, with Thursday’s marquee matchup of the country’s top two teams — Kentucky and Michigan State — drawing 4 million viewers. The first telecast of the State Farm Champions Classic doubleheader attracted the second largest audience ever for a non-conference game on ESPN, according to […]

  • Bill OReilly Roger Ailes Sexual Harrassment

    Bill O'Reilly, Roger Ailes Still Loom Over Fox's Business (Analysis)

    ESPN is off to a great ratings start in college basketball, with Thursday’s marquee matchup of the country’s top two teams — Kentucky and Michigan State — drawing 4 million viewers. The first telecast of the State Farm Champions Classic doubleheader attracted the second largest audience ever for a non-conference game on ESPN, according to […]

  • RuPaul

    RuPaul Reveals the Queens Competing in 'RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars' Season 3

    ESPN is off to a great ratings start in college basketball, with Thursday’s marquee matchup of the country’s top two teams — Kentucky and Michigan State — drawing 4 million viewers. The first telecast of the State Farm Champions Classic doubleheader attracted the second largest audience ever for a non-conference game on ESPN, according to […]

  • Donald Trump

    SAG-AFTRA Supports 'Unencumbered Press' After Trump's License Revocation Threat

    ESPN is off to a great ratings start in college basketball, with Thursday’s marquee matchup of the country’s top two teams — Kentucky and Michigan State — drawing 4 million viewers. The first telecast of the State Farm Champions Classic doubleheader attracted the second largest audience ever for a non-conference game on ESPN, according to […]

  • Brent Briscoe Dead: 'Twin Peaks' and

    Brent Briscoe, 'Twin Peaks' and 'Parks and Recreation' Actor, Dies at 56

    ESPN is off to a great ratings start in college basketball, with Thursday’s marquee matchup of the country’s top two teams — Kentucky and Michigan State — drawing 4 million viewers. The first telecast of the State Farm Champions Classic doubleheader attracted the second largest audience ever for a non-conference game on ESPN, according to […]

  • 'Magnum P.I.' Reboot in Development at

    'Magnum P.I.' Reboot in Development at CBS From Peter Lenkov With Production Commitment

    ESPN is off to a great ratings start in college basketball, with Thursday’s marquee matchup of the country’s top two teams — Kentucky and Michigan State — drawing 4 million viewers. The first telecast of the State Farm Champions Classic doubleheader attracted the second largest audience ever for a non-conference game on ESPN, according to […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content