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TV By the Numbers: College Football Scores Watch-Time, Impressions Wins for Week One

Graham Mertz #5 of the Wisconsin Badgers looks to pass during the first half against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Camp Randall Stadium on Sept. 4, 2021 in Madison, Wisconsin.
(Image credit: Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Below is a snapshot of TV by the numbers for the week of Aug. 30-Sept. 5, shining a spotlight on the most-watched shows and networks using glass-level data from Vizio’s Inscape, and top shows and networks by TV ad impressions with insights via iSpot.tv.

Most-Watched Shows and Networks

Via Inscape, Vizio’s TV data product with glass-level insights from a panel of more than 17 million active and opted-in smart TVs. Data is linear, live TV only and includes all episode types (new and reruns). Rankings are by percent share duration (i.e., time spent watching).

College football’s official return for week one made its usual splash on TV, as fans around the country tuned in to catch their schools in action. For the week of Aug. 30-Sept. 5, college football was the No. 1 thing on TV by watch-time, with 5.23% of all minutes watched. 

Keeping with a sports-focused trend for the week, the 2021 U.S. Open (tennis) lands at No. 2 with 1.10% of watch-time. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is No. 3 at 1.02%, followed by golf’s 2021 Tour Championship (0.93%) and Good Morning America (0.85%) to round out the top five. 

While college football surges to the top spot this week, it isn’t the only programming to make a major leap. Both the U.S. Open and Tour Championship are week-over-week newcomers among the top 50 shows by minutes watched, as are No. 13 NCIS: New Orleans, No. 20 Yellowstone and No. 24 SpongeBob SquarePants. America’s Got Talent also jumps — from No. 39 by watch-time during the week of Aug. 23-29 to No. 23 for Aug. 30-Sept. 5.

ABC World News Tonight with David Muir is No. 25 on the week, with 0.36% of minutes watched, as news programs continue to pepper the rankings (including seven of the top 25 by watch-time this week).

Most-watched shows on TV by percent share duration Aug. 30-Sept. 5

College football powers ABC to the top spot by watch-time for Aug. 30-Sept. 5, with 7.47% of minutes watched. Along with Saturday game action throughout the afternoon and evening, ABC also had Sunday night all to itself with the marquee Notre Dame vs. Florida State game, which went into overtime before the Fighting Irish came away with the win.

NBC is No. 2 by watch-time for the week, with 5.78% of minutes watched. Fox News is No. 3 with 5.14%, followed by CBS (5.04%) and Fox (4.91%). The latter network also benefited from college football’s return as a boon to Saturday watch-time — and the same goes for ESPN at No. 6, with 2.87% of watch-time.

ESPN2 experiences the most significant jump in week-over-week watch time, moving up from outside the top 50 networks from Aug. 23-29, to No. 21 for Aug. 30-Sept. 5, largely on the strength of (surprise!) college football. The Discovery Channel closes out the top 25 networks for the week, with 0.99% of minutes watched.

Most-watched networks on TV by percent share duration Aug. 30-Sept. 5

Top Shows and Networks by TV Ad Impressions

Via iSpot.tv, the always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company. Rankings are by TV ad impressions, for new episodes only. 

College football scored big-time in terms of TV ad impressions for the week of Aug. 30-Sept. 5. With games airing across numerous networks over the course of the holiday weekend, college football delivered nearly 5.7 billion impressions in the timeframe, which is more than five times the next-highest figure for any other programming. 

Good Morning America is No. 2 for the week, with 1.1 billion TV ad impressions, followed by Today (834 million), The Young and the Restless (772 million) and Major League Baseball (694 million). 

While sports fans' attention is beginning to shift to football, there’s still an ample number of TV ad impressions to be had with other sports programming. As noted above, baseball continues to be a major source of impressions as MLB teams are in the thick of the playoff race. The PGA’s 2021 Tour Championship and tennis’ U.S. Open are also among the top 15 programs by TV ad impressions for Aug. 30-Sept. 5.

Beyond sports, news also remains a fixture, accounting for 12 of the week’s top 25 programs by impressions.

TV shows by TV ad impressions Aug. 30-Sept. 5

ABC sprints to the No. 1 spot in this week’s ad-impressions-by-network ranking, with 7.01 billion from Aug. 30-Sept. 5 (and over 38% of those came from college football). Fox News is second on the week, with 5.11 billion TV ad impressions, followed by NBC (4.10 billion), CBS (3.61 billion) and CNN (2.52 billion). For CBS, over 32% of impressions were delivered during daytime programming during the timeframe.

Once again, thanks largely to college football, Fox saw 168% more TV ad impressions week-over-week, while ESPN2 was up 146%, Fox Sports 1 climbed 82% and ESPN jumped 17% during the Aug. 30-Sept. 5 timeframe.

Galavision is the No. 25 network in the weekly TV ad impressions ranking. It’s one of four Spanish-language networks to appear (joining No. 9 Univision, No. 10 Telemundo and No. 18 UniMás).

TV networks by TV ad impressions Aug. 30-Sept. 5