Colorado’s 43-35 double-overtime victory over Colorado State on Sept. 16 was ESPN’s most-watched late prime-time game on record. Here’s what you need to know:
- The game, which kicked off at 10 p.m. ET, drew 9.3 million viewers, the network announced. Its peak was 11.1 million viewers between 11 p.m. and 11:15 p.m. ET.
- Colorado versus Colorado State was ESPN’s most-streamed college football regular season game of all time and ESPN/ABC’s fourth-best regular season game (excluding conference championships) in the last six years.
- Colorado State led 28-20 with just over two minutes remaining in regulation, but Buffaloes quarterback Shedeur Sanders led a seven-play touchdown drive and successful two-point conversion to send it to overtime. Sanders then threw two touchdown passes to Mikey Harrison in extra time for the win.
- No. 19 Colorado is 3-0 entering its matchup with No. 10 Oregon on Saturday. The Buffaloes will be without star receiver and defensive back Travis Hunter, who was hit illegally by Colorado State safety Henry Blackburn during the first quarter of the game and is expected to miss multiple weeks.
The Athletic’s instant analysis:
Making sense of the wild viewership numbers
The 9.3 million number is just astonishing. The typical late-night Pac-12 game on ESPN gets closer to one million viewers than nine million viewers. Also, it’s not like Colorado was playing USC. It was facing a Mountain West team.
It speaks to the magnitude of the Deion Sanders story. There is no way to quantify this, but I would imagine a lot of people who tuned in to this game had never watched a Colorado football game in their lives, and may not even be regular college football fans. The Hollywood and celebrity component of Colorado football has drawn in a much wider audience. — Mandel
Colorado becomes event programming
The Colorado Football content machine continues to help all sports media — including The Athletic. But no one is benefitting more than ESPN and Fox. Not only was Colorado-Colorado State the most-watched college football game by about four million viewers (Georgia-South Carolina averaged 5.4 million viewers on CBS), the game drew an almost unheard-of number for a college football game starting in such a late window (10:20 p.m. ET kickoff).
Mike Mulvihill, the president of Insight and Analytics for Fox Sports, said he was not sure there has ever been a live sports event that started after 10:00 p.m. ET and drew a bigger audience. “Possibly Mayweather-Pacquaio PPV but you can’t prove it,” he wrote on X. Both “College GameDay” and Fox’s “Big Noon Kickoff” were both in Boulder last Saturday and Fox’s pregame show centered around Colorado for the first three weeks of its season. Colorado has become event programming for the networks on GameDay and multimedia content in between those games. At some point, this fervor will recede but Deion Sanders & Co. has already helped pay a lot of bills for sports media giants — Deitsch
(Photo: Ron Chenoy/USA Today)