It is Deion Sanders’ college football world, and we’re all just living in it – captivated by a reality show that is an irresistible watch all hours of the day or night.
The most telling indication of the Prime Effect, on the heels of Colorado’s late-night, double-overtime victory over Colorado State, isn’t the headline-grabbing viewership number: 9.3 million on ESPN, the high water mark for any college football game this season.
For a full appreciation for Sanders’ resonance nationwide, consider who was still watching a 24-point favorite play a penalty-marred game against a Mountain West team at 2:15 a.m. ET. In short, 8.23 million people, Sports Business Journal‘s John Ourand reported.
That total is more than 1 million viewers larger than the peak audience for any other college football game over the weekend.
To put a finer point on it, Michael Mulvihill, FOX Corp’s president of insight and analytics, tweeted that the 2:15 a.m. audience beat every non-sports primetime show this week except for “60 Minutes,” which, of course, featured none other than Sanders.
If there is a fan saturation point for Deion Sanders – the undisputed industry master in self-promotion and the unbeaten Buffs – we are nowhere close to it.
“Deion is paying a lot of people’s bills right now,” Bob Thompson, the retired Fox Sports Networks president, tweeted. “Seems as though CU has moved from just a game to a reality show with a game as the backdrop.”
If you want a barometer on the current interest in college football – including, but not limited to Coach Prime – look no further than viewership numbers this coming weekend.
Enticing games will reflect sport’s popularity
A glorious buffet of at least seven marquee games figures to draw millions of eyeballs from noon ET through the prime-time window this Saturday. Add those returns to the growing body of evidence that interest in the sport is burgeoning despite sky-is-falling predictions by naysayers.
According to Mulvihill, total viewing of college football across all networks is up 13% through Week 3 to at least a seven-year high with a “monster Saturday coming this weekend.” Credit that to a number of factors.
The SEC is uncharacteristically down from its rarefied perch; more parity exists nationwide. Some dormant blue bloods like Penn State, Texas and Florida State harbor legit College Football Playoff aspirations. And West Coast football is all the rage; the Pac-12, in its last year as we know it, features eight ranked teams.
Consider that +13% year-over-year climb in interest despite an overall lackluster assortment of games last weekend, and despite the most anticipated game, Colorado-Colorado State, kicking off at 10:20 p.m. ET. But not even bleary-eyed viewing could chill scorching-hot interest in anything and everything Deion Sanders-related.
The come-from-behind victory over Colorado State was ESPN’s fifth most-watched college football game on record; the fourth-best regular-season game on ESPN/ABC (excluding conference championships) in six years; and the network’s most-streamed regular-season college football game of all time.
Mulvihill added that he’s not sure there has ever been a live sports event that started after 10 p.m. ET and drew a bigger audience. Viewership peaked with 11.1 million people between 11 and 11:15 p.m. ET.
Coach Prime takes center stage (again) this weekend
Both the Coach Prime reality show and the game itself take center stage Saturday, when 19th-ranked Colorado (3-0) travels to Eugene, Oregon, for a must-see affair against 10th-ranked Oregon on ABC. The viewing numbers, of course, will once again be robust, but Deion Sanders this week has stiff competition in that 3:30 p.m. ET window – and not just on the field.
After the trio of compelling afternoon games, settle in for the battle of the remaining Pac-2: No. 14 Oregon State at No. 21 Washington State at 7 p.m. on FOX. Then at 7:30, it’s No. 24 Iowa at No. 7 Penn State on CBS and No. 6 Ohio State at No. 9 Notre Dame on NBC.
Four networks. A slew of can’t-miss games. All resulting in more proof that interest in the sport is alive and quite well.
And it’s not just the Prime Effect whipping up excitement nationwide – even though Deion Sanders remains what he has been all season: The best story around.