Not content with just setting multiple records on the field during Saturday’s Iron Bowl slugfest, Alabama and Auburn shattered several all-time marks off the field, as well.
ESPN’s first broadcast of the game in seven years averaged 13,529,000 viewers and posted a 7.4 rating, which is ESPN’s most-watched and highest-rated regular season college football game ever, per ESPN PR Mike Humes. That viewership number makes the 2014 Iron Bowl the most-watched game of the season on any network.
The shootout that ensued in Alabama’s 55-44 win over Auburn Saturday was great drama – helped along by the voice of Brent Musberger – and held viewers and the in-stadium crowd in rapt attention for the entire game.
In Birmingham, the Iron Bowl garnered a 51.8 rating, which is a massive average for a single market, and is the highest ever single-market rating in ESPN history. Birmingham regularly wins the highest rated market in college football, and will be at the top again this season.
Last season’s game had a staggering 57.3 rating in Birmingham with an 82 percent share, which means 82 percent of metered televisions in the Birmingham area were all tuned to that game.
This year’s contest didn’t achieve the truly massive numbers of last season’s Kick-Six game, which posted an 8.6 overnight, but that was on network television (CBS), not cable.
ESPN also set a record for online viewing with 475,000 total viewers and 119,000 average audience per minute on WatchESPN, the company’s over-the-top online streaming service. That, too, is a regular-season record.
ESPN didn’t know it would have the Iron Bowl this season until a few weeks beforehand. CBS can only broadcast a certain allotment of games from a single school and chose to use its final game with Alabama for the Alabama-Mississippi State game, which posted a 6.6 overnight rating.
With Auburn’s season having taken a turn for the worse, it was unclear whether this year’s Iron Bowl would have the same impact as it did last year. It ultimately wasn’t as highly rated, but we learned that regardless of either team’s record, Alabama vs. Auburn is good for business.