Monday, August 3, 2015

COLUMN: Why The 2015 College Football Playoff Semifinals Could Be A Ratings Disaster

As hip-hop mogul Jay-Z once said, "Men lie, women lie, numbers don't."

If last season’s dismal ratings for the Fiesta Bowl (4.6 final rating and 7.4 million viewers down 30% in ratings and 34% in viewership from in 2014) and the Orange Bowl (5.0 final rating and 8.9 million viewers, down 25% in ratings and 22% in viewership from last season) on New Year’s Eve are any indication of what is to come in 2015, then buckle up for a ratings disaster with the College Football Playoff semifinal games (Cotton and Orange) being played on New Year’s Eve at 4 and 8 p.m. Eastern Time.

To go back to the prior paragraph for statistical evidence, the Fiesta Bowl suffered its worst ratings since 1985, while the Orange Bowl had its second lowest rated game since 1993.

Why go away from a winning formula given the College Football Playoff semifinals delivered with a huge splash on New Year’s Day with Alabama/Ohio State (Sugar) and Oregon/Florida State (Rose) are the second and third most-watched programs in the history of cable with a 15.2 final rating and 28.3 million viewers and 14.8 and 28.2 million, respectively as of this writing.

Albeit part of the group of six games under the College Football Playoff umbrella, the disturbing part about is the worst may be yet to come.

Despite a request from ESPN back in February to move its semifinal games (Cotton and Orange) from Dec. 31, 2015 to Jan. 2, 2016, the powers that be in the CFP committee will keep the games on New Year’s Eve at its 4 and 8 p.m. time slots.

Think of this as this equivalent of Roger Goodell deciding for kicks and giggles deciding to have the National Football League conference championship games played on Christmas Eve at 4:25 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. ET. 

No matter how big the NFL is in the United States, ratings would be sacrificed to a certain extent because of the casual fans likely having more of a desire to make last-minute runs for Christmas gifts, having family gatherings, etc., before watching two games.

Of course that’s an example, but with the biggest college games of the season outside of the National Championship game coming on NYE, this will likely lead to the parting of the football sea between hardcore and casual fans.

There is no disputing the majority of the hardcore football fans will tune in to the semifinal games in the waning hours of 2015, even if that means sacrificing social plans for the potential planted kiss at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve spilling into New Year’s Day (Heck, count me in as one of the fans that will be watching football over going out).

The bigger problem is the CFP committee’s backhanded, nonchalant message being sent out by kind of admitting that the casual fan will watch no matter what. 

Unless fans have decided magically that ditching an unforgettable night with friends or significant others at a bar or house party is more important than a game they hardly care about, then the College Football Playoff would have done something that no other entity has attempted to do and that is overtake the millions of Rockin’ New Year’s special you see on over-the-air and cable networks.

If I decided to bet the house in Las Vegas, I would say this year’s semifinals will not come close to the rousing success of last season, only because of sheer ego and stupidity of the CFP committee believing on the current formula of rotating the games on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 will work and that is a shame, but hey there’s no crying in football.

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Follow Geno Green on Twitter @GenoSportsguy.