Combined viewership of 3.1 million is the net's second most on opening night in 15 years
The Southeastern Conference matchup between North Carolina and South Carolina (above), which kicked off at 6 p.m. ET but featured a lengthy weather delay in the fourth quarter, averaged 3.65 million viewers, according to Nielsen.
And a second SEC contest, in which Ole Miss held off Vanderbilt in a high-scoring affair, drew 2.74 million viewers.
Combined, ESPN had its second most-watched opening night Thursday doubleheader (3.14 million) since 1998. The only night to fare better was a 2009 Thursday doubleheader featuring South Carolina against N.C. State and Oregon at Boise State (3.57 million).
Birmingham was the highest-rated metered market for ESPN on Thursday, averaging a 12.8 rating for both games. Greenville, S.C. was a close second (12.6) followed by Nashville (8.9), Memphis (8.1), Knoxville (7.0), Raleigh-Durham (5.8), Charlotte (5.7), Atlanta (5.4), Greensboro (4.8) and Jacksonville (4.1).