TV viewers tune into OSU football, a big reason Mike Gundy is bullish on its future

TV viewers tune into OSU football, a big reason Mike Gundy is bullish on its future

Someday, perhaps as soon as Gundy’s 3½-year timeline, OSU might seek the prestige and security that comes in an NFL Lite superconference. Here's how the Cowboys are positioned.

Guerin Emig

By Guerin Emig

| Aug 31, 2023, 4:59pm CDT

Guerin Emig

By Guerin Emig

Aug 31, 2023, 4:59pm CDT

Last year’s Oklahoma State-TCU football game nearly doubled the television viewership of the Oklahoma-Kansas game on the same date. The 2022 OSU-Kansas State game had almost five times the number of viewers as OU-Iowa State did the same date.

Two Cowboy talking points as Bedlam rancor intensifies on OU’s way out the Big 12 Conference door? Definitely.

But think bigger picture here. Bypass final Bedlam Nov. 4 and consider a new college football frontier where it isn’t realignment that rules the day but consolidation. A day where ESPN, Fox and other media players pay programs the most money instead of conferences.

OSU coach Mike Gundy has considered this NFL Lite model featuring the top 30-35 teams regardless of conference affiliation.

“I think it will be more than that,” Gundy said as the Cowboys opened preseason camp, “but I think we’re going in that direction.”

Care to put an over/under on when? Five years?

“Three and a half,” Gundy said. “But you know who has to agree on it — TV. Go ask them. They’re the ones making the decisions.”

Sure feels like it.

Technically, BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston voted to move into the Big 12 this year, same as Utah, Arizona, Arizona State and Colorado voted to do the same next. This was all predicated on television money, however, gaining as many millions as these schools could for the sake of some prestige but mostly for security.

Someday, perhaps as soon as Gundy’s timeline, OSU might seek the prestige and security that comes in an NFL Lite superconference.

So how are the Cowboys positioned for that?

“We’re in. OSU is in,” Gundy asserted last week. “OSU’s viewership… Our history of winning over the last 18 years… We sell out…

“I would be shocked, if it happened in three years, if we’re not in.”

Gundy has taken care of the winning. OSU owns more double-digit victory totals (7) than single-digit ones (6) since 2010, has more Big 12 championships (1) than Texas (0) over that span, and is only two years removed from a Fiesta Bowl conquest of Notre Dame, the program’s signature victory.

Athletic director Chad Weiberg has handled the ticket-selling and marketing. He forecasts that seats and suites will be filled at Boone Pickens Stadium this fall.

But isn’t it interesting that Gundy started with viewership?

With TV entities setting the college football market with their billion-dollar contracts, isn’t it telling?

Let’s follow the head coach’s lead. Let’s peek at viewership numbers from the 2022 season.

According to the Sports Media Watch database, 3.38 million Fox viewers watched OSU play at Kansas State last Oct. 29. The Cowboys outdrew FS1-banished OU that day. The Cowboys outdrew everyone else in the Big 12 plus games featuring superbrands Notre Dame, Nebraska and Oregon.

Oct. 22, 4.46 million ABC viewers watched OSU host Texas. College football’s only higher-rated game that day was Clemson-Syracuse (4.75 million).

Oct. 15, 2.14 million ABC viewers watched OSU play at TCU. The Cowboys doubled OU’s rating against Kansas on ESPN2 that day, while beating Auburn-Ole Miss for ninth among all college games.

OSU’s Oct. 8 game against Texas Tech finished just outside college football’s 10 highest-rated that day with a 1.63 million number, but it did come in comfortably above fellow FS1 games Kansas-TCU (1.3 million) and Nebraska-Rutgers (1.15 million).

The Cowboys’ Oct. 1 game at Baylor attracted 2.41 million viewers to rank eighth, barely behind OU-TCU (2.47 million) while outdrawing games involving superbrands USC, Ohio State, Penn State, Texas and Oregon.

Can TV ratings be spun to reflect favorably, or unfavorably, depending on the angle? Absolutely. Here’s one: OSU’s 2022 viewership against Texas and in Bedlam last Nov. 19 (3.06 million), reflected the Longhorns’ and Sooners’ brands more than the Pokes’.

And here’s where Weiberg and Gundy counter: Check out our numbers against K-State, TCU and Baylor. Consider our comparatively solid showing against Texas Tech, and against Kansas Nov. 5 when our FS1 telecast outdrew Iowa-Purdue and UCLA-Arizona State on the same outlet.

“Any way you slice it, we are positioned well there,” said Weiberg, as big a proponent of TV viewership as Gundy. “Those ratings, rankings, whatever you want to call it, we consistently pop up. It’s because we’ve had success here the last 15 to 18 years, and the fan base is committed. We’ve just got to keep doing that.”

“Obviously when we talk about conference realignment television viewership is a big factor,” Sports Media Watch founder Jon Lewis said. “Does Oklahoma State generally end up in the biggest TV games? Not necessarily… But they did about 2.4 million (viewers) against Baylor and 2.1 million against TCU. That’s a good sign because Baylor and TCU aren’t necessarily huge profile programs. OSU and Kansas State was 3.3 million. Those are all healthy numbers…

“They’re not a blue chip program in terms of ratings, but they’ll certainly get by with them.”

Could the Cowboys get all the way to Gundy’s NFL Lite with those ratings? He can help by winning. Weiberg and his administration can assist by promoting.

They can attest that if you build it, people will watch.

In terms of college football’s future, and OSU’s place in it, they advise that we stay tuned.

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Guerin Emig is a columnist for the Sellout Crowd network. Read his work at selloutcrowd.com and guerinemig.com. Reach out with feedback and/or ideas at [email protected] or (918) 629-6229. Follow him on Twitter at @GuerinEmig and Instagram at @guerin.emig. .

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