ESPN Ends Final Week of 2016 as Most Watched Cable Network

ESPN scored an impressive primetime ratings win for the final week of 2016, blowing out the field with its coverage of college football playoff games.

ESPN averaged a whopping 8.6 million viewers during the week of Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, easily defeating second place Fox News’ average 1.8 million viewers for the week, according to Nielsen.

ESPN was paced by its coverage of the college football playoffs semi-final games, as well as its Dec. 26 Monday Night Football game between the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions. Overall, ESPN programs represented all top 10 most watched shows for the week, led by the Dec. 31 Washington Huskies/Alabama Crimson Tide game and the Ohio State Buckeyes/Clemson Tigers college football playoff games, which both drew 18.3 million viewers, according to Nielsen.

The games compared favorably to last year’s college football semi-final games on ESPN, which generated a combined 34.1 million viewers.

Hallmark completed its two month run of original holiday films by finishing third for the week with 1.7 million viewers, followed by USA’s 1.5 million watchers and HGTV’s 1.4 million viewers. Discovery Channel (1.3 million viewers), History (1.2 million), FX (1.1 million) and Investigation Discovery, Disney Channel and Freeform (all tied with 1.1 million) rounded out the top 10 most watched shows for the week.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.