It is now almost a near legendary year for ACC football, the 2016 season, where the ACC was the best football conference in the country.
When critics beat up the ACC for poor ratings, and lack of national interest in recent years they are looking at it from a shortsighted point of view. This year the ACC has 5 teams ranked in the preseason Coaches poll top 20. That’s where you want to start, but you obviously need to remain there.
How does that translate into ratings throughout the season?
We’ll let’s look at that memorable 2016 season using SportsMediaWatch to look up those ratings, and focus primarily on conference games.
Interesting here Virginia and Oregon with an 11 PM start time, still drew nearly 1.6 Million viewers. That’s pretty solid when you consider any possible ACC/Pac 12 scheduling agreements. There isn’t much on television drawing those numbers at 11 PM EST.
Now move that up to 10 PM at the latest 1030 PM if an agreement happens.
Louisville vs Syracuse on Friday as Lamar Jackson started creating nationwide highlights. That was one of the highest-rated ESPN2 games in the month of September.
Remember this game? A top 10 matchup with Florida State and Louisville at noon? It outrated Ohio State/Oklahoma and Michigan State/Notre Dame that week and was the second highest-rated game of the weekend.
The instant classic between Louisville and Clemson was one of the highest-rated games of the year, and pulled in a whopping 9 Million views, blowing away games like Wisconsin/Michigan and Georgia/Tennessee. Both teams were in the top 5, with Heisman candidates at QB.
There was a Florida State/Miami matchup with both teams ranked in the top 25. That was the second highest-rated game of the week. Also notice as the ACC had higher-ranked teams, they received more national TV slots on ABC.
Clemson is thick into the playoff chase at this point and faced a 4-1 NC State team. This was the third highest-rated game of the week.
Louisville still in the playoff chase themselves drew nearly 2 Million on a Friday night against Duke.
This week featured several high-profile games around the rest of the country like Alabama/Texas A&M and Ohio State/Penn State, but Louisville/NC State still check as the 6th highest rated game of the weekend.
Again the highest-rated game of the weekend was an ACC matchup as Clemson/Florida State topped the weekend’s ratings. This was another top 10 matchup.
How do you think a typical ACC game would do opposite the CBS game of the week Georgia/Auburn? It would probably get hammered, but not this year as Clemson/Pitt finished effectively tied with that game.
What was the highest-rated Thursday night college football game that wasn’t during a holiday? It was an ACC/AAC matchup. This game ended Louisville’s playoff hopes, but they were 9-1 and in the top 5 coming in.
Judging by what we’ve seen here. The ACC doesn’t have an interest problem, it has a quality problem. Where would the ACC be had they continued this level of play beyond 2016? That said the 2022 season is set up for some high-profile games in the conference.
If you bring quality, the viewers will come, and when the viewers come, revenue options become far more possible than when you are staring at a season of mediocre matchups.
It can happen for the ACC. 2016 proved it.