HOOVER, Ala. — Perhaps to the chagrin of advertisers and TV producers, the new year once again will be brought in with a pair of College Football Playoff games.
The Peach Bowl and Fiesta Bowl will kick off at 2 and 6 p.m. Central time New Year’s Eve, a date that seemed to be detrimental for the CFP semifinals’ TV ratings last season.
What’s uncertain is how long the semifinals will stay locked in a dance with the New Year’s holiday.
“We pledged after this year’s games (that) we will be looking at the semifinal schedule and will continue to do that,” CFP executive director Bill Hancock said Monday at SEC media days. “We don’t feel any rush to make a decision now, tomorrow or any time in the relatively near future.”
Last year’s semifinals were the first to be scheduled for New Year’s Eve, leading many to speculate that ratings would take a dip as people went to celebrate the holiday. That was confirmed when the ratings came back, showing viewership declined by more than a third in just the second year of the CFP.
“The issues are what day is the best to allow the most number of people to watch the games and, yes, we were disappointed with the viewership,” Hancock said. “We may have had a bit of a sophomore slump with New Year’s Eve, I don’t know. But certainly the date was a factor.”
Hancock wasn’t buying that the ratings drop was entirely because of the date. Some of the novelty had worn off in the second year of the playoff, and the semifinals weren’t as competitive, either.
“All the talk about what happened is speculative,” he said. “But it’s a first-world problem. Any other event would love to have the viewership we had.”
While Hancock and the CFP committee have their hands tied this year in regards to the date, he sounded hopeful a change in game times would help eliminate some of the ratings woes. Kickoff times were moved up an hour for both semifinals, likely eliminating any conflict with midnight, when viewers would be celebrating the holiday. The games also will be played on Saturday instead of Thursday.
With this season’s semifinals locked in for New Year’s Eve and next season’s set for New Year’s Day, the earliest semifinal scheduling Hancock has to worry about is after the 2018 season.
“I feel fortunate we have time to make the right decision on this,” he said. “We will take our time and we’ll make a decision.”