The College Football Playoff is looking at alternatives to showing its semifinal matchups on New Year’s Eve.
CFP executive director Bill Hancock, in an interview with SEC Country, said the playoff committee is looking at a potential change in scheduling after seeing a sharp decline in viewership between the first two years of the semifinal matchups. The inaugural games were featured on New Year’s Day, while the second playoff aired on New Year’s Eve.
“We will be exploring whether there is a better way for those semifinals,” Hancock said. “This is a first-world problem, because millions of people watched the semifinals on New Year’s Eve — and just not as many millions watched as the year before. So I’ve wondered if the viewership of this year’s games had happened the first year — I think we would’ve been thrilled. But what happened was the bar was set so high the first year and we fell short of the bar. My point is, if what we got this year, we’d gotten that the first year, we would’ve been thrilled.”
In the meantime, Hancock said the games will be moved back an hour (from 4 p.m. to 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET, respectively) so viewers will be able to watch the games and plan their normal New Year’s Eve festivities. But airing the games on New Year’s Eve will remain the same for this season.
“Moved it up an hour, and that will help, and then the next year back to New Year’s Day,” Hancock said. “So we have time, but we will be thinking about whether New Year’s Eve is the right way to go. What are the alternatives? Which I don’t want to get into. And what might be best to give us the possibility of more fans being able to watch the games.”
The potential move from New Year’s Eve airings makes sense, considering the severity of viewership decline between the first and second years of the playoff games.
The Orange Bowl between Clemson and Oklahoma, for example, had only 15.64 million viewers; the Rose Bowl matchup between Oregon and Florida State the year prior had 28.16.
The Michigan State-Alabama Cotton Bowl had only 18.55 million viewers this season, a significant decrease from the 28.27 million viewers who tuned in to watch the Ohio State-Alabama Sugar Bowl game from the inaugural CFP.
Ultimately, Hancock said, the playoff committee is committed to getting as many viewers as possible — not the New Year’s Eve culture.
“I think the bigger priority,” Hancock said, “is finding a date when the most people can watch the games.”