- Tony Gutierrez/AP
The second year of the College Football Playoff did not go as well as the first.
After a successful first year, the CFP committee took a gamble by airing the semifinals on New Year’s Eve this past season. It didn’t go well.
Ratings were predictably low on a night when most people aren’t staying in and watching football, with both games reportedly suffering a multimillion-viewer drop from 2014.
As a result, ESPN was reportedly going to owe $20 million in free ad space because of the low ratings. As John Consoli of Broadcasting & Cable wrote in January, ESPN may have gotten “a bit greedy when setting its ratings estimates and offering higher guarantee levels to advertisers for the two games, knowing audiences might not flock to their TV sets.”
Now, it looks like they’re forcing the CFP to make a concession. As Barrett Sallee of Bleacher Report noted on Thursday, after this year’s games, seven of the next nine playoff games have been moved off of New Year’s Eve.
— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) July 28, 2016
This is a big change from January, when the CFP committee was reportedly “adamant” about keeping the games on New Year’s Eve. But ESPN, which paid big money to broadcast the games, likely had a hand in changing these dates if it had to give away $20 million in make-goods.
It’s unclear if the date is solely to blame for the bad ratings – it also could have been because of a poor matchup or fewer intriguing players. Nonetheless, the College Football Playoff is a new tradition, and it’s a lot to ask people to stay in for – or even stay tuned into – a game on a night when many people aren’t just sitting around.
It looks like ESPN and the CFP don’t want to make that request as often in the future.