ATLANTA — Based on viewership, the College Football Playoff has been a mind-boggling success.
According to a release from ESPN, the two national semifinals—the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual and the Allstate Sugar Bowl—were the two highest-rated events in cable television history.
"These record-setting numbers illustrate the enormous fan interest in college football and the wide-ranging appeal of the new College Football Playoff format," said John Wildhack, ESPN executive vice president, programming and production, said in the release.
Next year, and during most seasons of the College Football Playoff, that might not be the case, though.
The Rose and Sugar Bowls are locked in to those New Year's afternoon and night time slots whether they are national semifinals or not (except in years in which Jan. 1 falls on a Sunday), which means that, for the next two seasons and every season in which the Rose and Sugar aren't national semifinals, the semifinals will be played on New Year's Eve.
Here are the future dates and locations of national semifinals for the next two seasons:
- 2015: Capital One Orange Bowl and Goodyear Cotton Bowl on Dec. 31, 2015
- 2016: Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and Vizio Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 31, 2016
Are national semifinals on New Year's Eve a good idea?
Whether it's a good idea or not, they aren't changing.
"We won't be changing," College Football Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock told B/R in December. "We have a 12-year schedule...well, really a six-year schedule, and we may look at it again. The Sugar and the Rose are entrenched in their spots, and that was a part of our deal from Day 1."
Is that a problem?
Next season, it could be. New Year's Eve is on a Thursday in 2015, which means that the first national semifinal will be kicking off when a lot of people are still at work—even those on the East Coast.
That's just fine in the eyes of CFB's power brokers.
"It will be interesting for the next two seasons with the semifinals on New Year's Eve," Hancock said. "It will absolutely change New Year's Eve in this country. When we go to New Year's Eve parties, they better have a television because we're going to have to be watching college football."
How do the bowls feel about that?
It's obviously not ideal, but for the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, it's the norm.
The bowl's exclusive New Year's Eve ESPN time slot is a big reason why it rose from a game that—as Cory McCartney of Fox Sports noted—once had its CBS television contract pulled to one of the top bowl games in college football.
"The last two years, with the LSU vs. Clemson game and the Texas A&M vs. Duke game, we set viewership records on ESPN for non-BCS games," Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl President and CEO Gary Stokan told B/R in December. "With the semifinal games, that viewership number is just going to explode. I think people now are doing more cocooning and not going out as much, so the household viewership numbers will be unbelievable for the semifinal games on the 31st."
It's certainly a risk to stage two of the three biggest annual events of a sport during the afternoon and evening time slots on New Year's Eve, and it is one that not only college football fans, but advertisers, will play close attention to.
If it doesn't work and the ratings don't match what's expected, the Rose and Sugar Bowls will undoubtedly be pressured to move off their exclusive time slots on New Year's Day and New Year's Night.
For four of the next five years, though, semifinals on New Year's Eve will be the reality in college football.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.