More Data On The Most-Watched Games

ESPN.Last week, I wrote a bit about the most-watched ultimate games on ESPN3 over the last four years in the context of college’s viewership advantage.

I reached out to USA Ultimate Director of Communications Andy Lee to try to get some more information about the list for better context. Although Lee was unable to share actual viewership numbers themselves, he was able to send over some data about the relative position of each game.

Take a look at the tables below. The percentage in the right hand column shows how many more viewers that game had relative to the one below it (i.e. Harvard v. UNC had 36.3% viewers than UNC v. Oregon, which had 0.4% more viewers than Harvard v. Minnesota). The tables and some commentary follows.

Men’s Division

YearEventDivisionGameTeamsPercent More
2016College ChampionshipsCollegeSemifinalHarvard v. North Carolina36.3%
2015College ChampionshipsCollegeFinalNorth Carolina v. Oregon0.4%
2016College ChampionshipsCollegeFinalHarvard v. Minnesota23.1%
2014U.S. OpenClubSemifinalIronside v. Revolver15.2%
2014National ChampionshipsClubSemifinalIronside v. Ring of Fire4.5%
2013National ChampionshipsClubFinalRevolver v. Sockeye0.8%
2016College ChampionshipsCollegeSemifinalPittsburgh v. Minnesota1.0%
2015National ChampionshipsClubFinalRevolver v. Sockeye3.9%
2014U.S. OpenClubFinalRevolver v. Johnny Bravo3.0%
2014National ChampionshipsClubFinalJohnny Bravo v. Ironside1.4%

There appears to be a pretty substantial gap between those top three college games and the bulk of club games below them. It’s certainly interesting to see that Harvard v. UNC had such an advantage over the two Memorial Day finals; I do wonder if the word about John Stubbs going absolutely beast mode against UNC in the first half had people texting their friends to tune in. It was an insane performance in a great overall game.

After those top four games (which includes a classic rivalry game between Ironside and Revolver), viewership was very stable. It does seem plausible that interest in college has been steadily growing: note that college games from 2013 and 2014 are not represented at all in this top 10.

Mixed Division

YearEventDivisionGameTeamsPercent More
2014U.S. OpenClubSemifinalDrag'n Thrust v. Wildcard93.0%
2014U.S. OpenClubFinalDrag'n Thrust v. Polar Bears3.5%
2016National ChampionshipsClubFinalSlow White v. Metro North1.0%
2013National ChampionshipsClubSemifinalThe Ghosts v. Drag'n Thrust11.6%
2015National ChampionshipsClubFinalDrag'n Thrust v. Mixtape4.3%
2014National ChampionshipsClubFinalDrag'n Thrust v. Seattle Mixed3.7%
2015National ChampionshipsClubSemifinalDrag'n Thrust v. Slow White4.1%
2014National ChampionshipsClubSemifinalDrag'n Thrust v. CLX16.9%
2015U.S. OpenClubFinalSeattle Mixtape v. Ellipsis1.4%
2013National ChampionshipsClubFinalPolar Bears v. Drag'nThrust0.0%

So Drag’N Thrust v. Wild Card in the 2014 US Open semis almost doubled up the viewership of the next closest game. Odd. Really odd. I had to do some sleuthing.

I looked up the day of that game: July 5th, 2014. I searched online for other sports on TV that day. Bingo. World Cup.

WatchESPN was the go-to spot for World Cup action and people stumbled across that US Open game at halftime of Argentina/Belgium or before Netherlands/Costa Rica.

Once you remove that outlier, viewership looks pretty stable for Mixed ultimate.

Women’s Division

YearEventDivisionGameTeamsPercent More
2016College ChampionshipsCollegeFinalWhitman v. Stanford14.2%
2015College ChampionshipsCollegeFinalOregon v. Stanford6.6%
2014U.S. OpenClubSemifinalFury v. Riot23.5%
2015National ChampionshipsClubFinalBrute Squad v. Riot3.7%
2015U.S. OpenClubFinalFury v. Riot11.2%
2016National ChampionshipsClubFinalBrute Squad v. Riot12.4%
2014U.S. OpenClubFinalRiot v. Brute Squad3.5%
2013National ChampionshipsClubFinalFury v. Scandal2.6%
2016U.S. OpenClubFinalRiot v. Brute Squad6.7%
2013College ChampionshipsCollegeFinalOregon v. Carleton College1.0%

Again, interest in college ultimate looks to be swelling in recent years. It hasn’t hurt that some of the best games of the year happen deep in the bracket at the College Championships. That Fury/Riot game from 2014 US Open may have been helped out by the World Cup bump, but it’s also a must-watch game (as was this year’s National Championships semi between the two teams).

  1. Charlie Eisenhood
    Charlie Eisenhood

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

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