A report by Nielsen Media Research found that the Southeast has some of the strongest concentrations of college football fans, but the Big 10 was the conference that drew the most viewers during the 2015 season.
An average of 8.5 million viewers tuned in for the top 10 nationally television regular season Big 10 games, edging the 8.1 million viewers which watched the top 10 SEC games. Those two conferences were significantly ahead of the rest of the country, though, with the ACC at 6.1 million viewers and the Big 12 and Pac-12 at 5.0 million and 4.5 million, respectively.
“The highest percentage of college football fans lie in the Southeast and Midwest,” the report reads. “Specifically in Alabama, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Georgia, Northern Florida, Iowa and Louisiana. The Northeast and Southwest have an expectedly lower college football fan penetration.”
As Zach Barnett of FootballScoop notes, the issue for the SEC’s national viewership has less to do with fans in the Southeast and more to do with SEC powers like Alabama not drawing interest from major media markets.
“SEC country is watching the Playoff regardless,” Barnett writes. “But they’re not breaking into the New York and Los Angeles markets like USC, Notre Dame and the Big Ten powers.”
The 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship drew an average of 25.7 million viewers and the Cotton Bowl semifinal between Michigan State and Alabama was the second-most viewed game of the season with an average of 18.6 million viewers.