The TV trends from the first five years of the College Football Playoff are pretty clear. More people watch the games on New Year’s Day.
The Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl on Saturday night posted significantly lower television ratings than the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl did on Jan. 1, 2018. Per ESPN, Clemson’s Cotton Bowl win over Notre Dame had a 10.3 overnight rating while Alabama’s Orange Bowl win over Oklahoma had a 10.4 rating.
The Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl were the semifinals a year ago. Georgia’s win over Oklahoma had a 14.8 rating while Alabama’s win over Clemson in the Sugar Bowl posted a 12.5 rating.
The semifinals for the 2018 season were Saturday night because the Rose and Sugar Bowls negotiated the rights to be played on New Year’s Day. With the Rose and Sugar Bowls hosting the semifinals once every three years, that means the semis are played before Jan. 1 twice every three years.
The Rose and Sugar hosted the first-ever semifinal games on Jan. 1, 2015. Those games posted ratings of 15.5 (Rose) and 15.3 (Sugar). While the novelty of the first-ever playoff certainly drew in more viewers than normal on the first day of 2015, it’s a no-brainer conclusion that more people are at home and watching football on a traditional holiday for college football than they are on other nights.
The Cotton and Orange Bowls hosted the semifinals at the end of the 2015 season. Those games were played on New Year’s Eve and, as you can imagine, the television audience was significantly smaller than it was on New Year’s Day 364 days before. The Cotton Bowl posted a 9.9 overnight rating three years ago while the Orange Bowl posted a 9.7.
Those ratings were the impetus for the playoff’s move away from New Year’s Eve whenever possible. The 2018 semifinals were played on Saturday (New Year’s Eve was a Saturday in 2015) instead of on Monday. The 2019 semifinals will be played on Dec. 28 instead of on Tuesday, Dec. 31.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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