College Championships ESPNU Ratings Decline

No signs of audience growth.

ESPN has been a presence at USAU events for the past six years. Photo: Brian Canniff —

For the second consecutive year, the College Championships finals were broadcast live on ESPNU on Memorial Day. After capturing the highest ratings since 2013 last year, the numbers regressed back to the unimpressive levels of the previous three years. Ultimate’s cable viewership has not made any ratings gains over the six years since USA Ultimate signed their ESPN3 contract.

Here’s a historical look at ultimate’s ratings (in thousands)1:

Show20132014201520162017 (Live)2018 (Live)
Men's Final861841457041
Women's Final586138414946

It is worth noting that ultimate’s appearances on cable television (particularly the US Open final on ESPN2) do push the sport out to new viewers who would not be likely to tune in to an online-only broadcast. Some tiny percentage of households simply has their televisions tuned into ESPNU or ESPN2.

Still, there is no evidence from the annual ESPNU ratings that new fans are being drawn in to watching ultimate by having occasional games available on cable television.

  1. Note that previously the finals aired on the Wednesday after Memorial Day in primetime; the Finals in 2017 and 2018 were streamed live during the afternoon on Memorial Day 

  1. Charlie Eisenhood
    Charlie Eisenhood

    Charlie Eisenhood is the editor-in-chief of Ultiworld. You can reach him by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter (@ceisenhood).

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