The football amateurs competed with amateur night. The broadcasting pros at ESPN lost.
The Worldwide Leader in Sports broadcast the College Football Playoff (CFP) on New Year’s Eve. Viewers went to parties instead. The network lost 37 percent of its viewership over last year’s games.
“We are committed to this,” Bill Hancock, executive director of the CFP, told USA Today. “Two years does not make a trend. Let’s watch this. Let’s see what happens.”
The schedule dictates for seven of the next ten semifinal matchups in the CFP to take place on December 31. Hancock talks of making football part of the “New Year’s Eve tradition.” But with ESPN pouring more than $7 billion into college-football coffers to broadcast the playoff for its first twelve years, money may talk Hancock out of a reverence toward a tradition not yet established.
While the network competed with the day’s festivities, the games didn’t offer much in the way of competition. Clemson defeated Oklahoma 37-17 and Alabama blew out Michigan State 38-0. Surely the lopsided nature of the contests contributed to the plummeting ratings. But preoccupations with resolutions, “Auld Lang Syne,” sparkling-wine toasts, and ball-dropping countdowns.
The Crimson Tide and the Tigers convene on January 11 to determine the national champion in the second-ever College Football Playoff. With National Milk Day not exerting the pull of National Champagne Day, the 11th of January should offer ESPN a clear playing field for Nielsen success.