The national interest in the Colorado Buffaloes’ football team under new head coach Deion Sanders continues to grow. The team’s spring game Saturday, with Chris Fowler, Robert Griffin III, and Quint Kessenich (seen above interviewing Sanders during the broadcast) on the call, averaged 551,000 viewers on ESPN.
That’s an impressive number for a college football scrimmage. As per Jon Lewis at Sports Media Watch, that’s the second-largest audience for any spring game in seven years. Some of that is about being on the main network, of course; while ESPN aired almost three dozen spring games this year across its various linear and streaming platforms, this was the only one on the main ESPN channel (and only one other one, Georgia’s last week, aired on ESPN2.)
But this isn’t the only time main ESPN has aired spring games. They aired USC’s spring game (the first with new head coach Lincoln Riley, so some similarities to the Sanders situation this year) last year. And they’ve aired many more spring games in the past, including all of Alabama’s, Georgia’s, and Clemson’s in 2018. This might be the first time the main ESPN network has aired a spring game for a program that went 1-11 the preceding year, though.
How did this audience compare to the rest of the week’s sports ratings? Well, it trailed all the NBA playoff games except the three on NBA TV, as well as Fox’s NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series races (but not the ARCA Series), all but four of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs broadcasts (two of which were on ESPN2), national MLB broadcasts on ESPN and Fox, PGA Tour coverage on CBS, LPGA Tour coverage on NBC, two XFL games (on ABC and ESPN), two USFL games on Fox, WWE Friday Night Smackdown on Fox, Sunday afternoon PBA World Championship bowling coverage on Fox, and a bunch of soccer broadcasts.
But this spring game beat two XFL and two USFL games, the aforementioned ARCA Series, NASCAR qualifying, and much more. And the 247,000 viewers it got in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic was a solid number, ahead of some of those broadcasts with higher overall ratings. Those included bowling, the Xfinity Series, and all the golf broadcasts.
So this was certainly a decent mid-tier sports event this week. And it drew one of the best spring game ratings in a long while. And it will be worth keeping an eye out this fall to see if the network interest in scheduling Sanders’ Buffaloes prominently continues, and if that continues to pay off with viewers.
[Sports Media Watch; photo from Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports]