When the release came out from the Big East that the top-5 tilt between Villanova and Xavier had been the most watched FS1 regular season game ever at 538,000 viewers (and a 0.2 rating), it was immediately spun as a negative by most pundits.
And I get it. Those are not eye popping numbers by any stretch of the imagination, and would even be considered as “bad” if it was on ESPN. The 9th lowest rated game on ESPN last year drew 542,000 viewers, out of 144.
As another example, Marquette’s game at Wisconsin this year drew 512,000 viewers. And that was at noon on a Saturday on ESPN2, not prime time by any means.
But it is silly to compare a still-in -its-infancy FS1 to ESPN. Heck, it’s not even accurate to compare it to ESPN2, yet. Both are staples in the average viewers queue and are what FS1 should be hoping to measure up against one day, not what it measures up to today.
To put this in more numeric terms, ESPN averaged 1.38 million viewers per game last season. ESPN2 averaged 420,747. FS1’s average? 104,862. Fair or not, FS1 is still only a competitor of NBCSN, ESPNU and ESPNNews.
And while FS1’s numbers are definitely trending up this season for both college basketball and overall content, it is still not anywhere close to either. So long story short, yes, 500k isn’t a lot to ESPN or ESPN2.
But it’s a ton for FS1. And that matters.
FS1 had never shown a top 5 matchup the last 3 years. Heck it had only shown 8 previous games this season with two ranked teams. So this was going to be an important barometer. If the ratings stayed relatively flat for this, a must watch game for hoop-heads, it would have been a tremendous indictment on the network and the conference. Even two of the top teams in the country couldn’t get people to care.
But they did.
FS1 was averaging 124,727 viewers a Big East game this season. This blows the average out of the water.
In 2014-’15, the most watched Big East regular season game was Georgetown vs. Marquette, with a grand total of 233,000 viewers. This more than doubles it.
In 2013-’14 the most watched Big East regular season game was Georgetown vs. St. John’s, with a grand total of 395,000 viewers. This beat it handily, and then some.
This matchup sets a new standard for what a great regular season game can get on FS1. With the Big Ten rights up for sale soon, it demonstrates what two small, private, regional universities can draw. Change the name on those jerseys to Indiana and Michigan State, and the ratings ceiling, would easily be doubled.
Wednesday was a great night for the Big East. And an even better one for FS1.