Hayes: Key takeaways from the 12-team Playoff format TV schedule
Stop panicking, everyone. There’s no such thing as a looming college football vs. the NFL television ratings war.
It’s good football vs. bad football. Always has been, and will be.
So just because the College Football Playoff will now go head to head with the NFL for television viewers with the expanded 12-team format that begins in 2024, it doesn’t mean the college game will soon be diminished or dwarfed by the behemoth that is the NFL.
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Or as one industry source told me, “Nobody wants to watch blowouts.”
At either level of play.
So while it’s easy to point to last year’s Playoff National Championship Game and the 17.2 million viewers — the worst national championship rating since the first BCS National Championship Game in 1999 — and get squirrelly about going head to head with the NFL, understand that’s the rock bottom evaluation.
The average audience for the 3 Playoff games last season was 20.3. The average audience for an NFL regular season game in 2022 was 16.7.
Again, this is about who is playing — and what’s on the line.
The Georgia-Ohio State Peach Bowl Playoff semifinal game drew 21.7, and any other national championship matchup that didn’t include TCU would’ve driven greater numbers. Had Michigan and Ohio State played in the national championship game, one industry source told me, “it might have had a 50 percent larger number than (it had) a month earlier.”
Michigan’s regular-season win at Ohio State last year drew 17.1, the largest audience for a 2022 college football regular-season game.
Again, this is about particular games, and what they mean in the grand scheme for both college football and the NFL — and the competition for viewers for the first round of the CFP. There will be no other Playoff games where college and NFL games go head to head.
The first-round games in the 2024 Playoff will be Friday, Dec. 20 (1 game), and Saturday Dec. 21 (3 games: early afternoon, late afternoon, evening).
Last season in the NFL, during what would be the first round of the college Playoff, there were clear indicators of what a college vs. NFL television matchup could look like.
The Thursday game (49ers-Seahawks) on Amazon stream drew 10.3. The Saturday game — and this is the direct competition for the Playoff in 2024 — isn’t as dominating as you’d think, despite 2 of the games affecting the race for the NFL playoffs.
The Dolphins-Bills (11.06), Ravens-Browns (8.9) and Colts-Vikings (7.06) didn’t significantly move the needle. While some industry experts will say those 3 games combined will siphon viewers from the college Playoff, it’s still about the importance of the game and if it can build excitement/anticipation prior to the event.
That’s what the Playoff is banking on, and that’s what it driving the idea of going head to head with the most successful sports television entity in the history of American sports. That’s also what will drive the next Playoff contract.
For the final 2 seasons of the current Playoff contract (2024-25), the first round games will be on campus. The rest of the Playoff will be played through specific games in the bowl system.
But when the new contract is complete — format and media rights are still being negotiated — there could be significant changes. More specifically, there could, and more than likely will, be more campus games.
If the CFP is banking on generating excitement in the 2 weeks between Championship Weekend and the 1st round of the Playoff (and beyond), a critical factor will be campus games. Better environments, better storylines (see: teams from the south playing in the cold/snow), better TV.
Not only that, there’s a growing concern that the 4 teams that earn first-round byes deserve a home Playoff game, instead of playing their first Playoff game at a neutral site. USC playing at Tuscaloosa or Athens is a much greater draw — greater anticipation, storylines and potential for media coverage — than the teams playing in the Peach Bowl.
The final 2 years of the current Playoff deal will be a test run of sorts. If the 1st round campus site games do well, and the quarterfinals at neutral bowl sites aren’t appreciably better, the decision will be easy. The quarterfinal games will be moved to campus sites.
Understand this: The NFL plays Saturday games in the regular season because the TV windows are available. Now, for a week at least, they’ll have football competition — elite games, football competition — on those days. Does the NFL eventually move back to Sundays — not because they don’t want to compete with the college Playoff, but because Sunday is their brand day? The NFL could also simply skip that 1 week of Saturday games.
Either way, it’s not necessarily about competing with NFL games — it’s about the quality of college Playoff games vs. NFL regular season games.
It’s good football vs. bad football. Always will be.
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Hayes telling people not to panic. What next?
Was anybody on here “panicking”? I don’t think fans care who watches what. That’s a problem for the media and the NCAA to worry about.
My thoughts exactly
Uhhhh so I’m supposed to care if the ratings aren’t the best? Listen, I’m just glad that the expansion allows a team like TN to maybe get in the playoffs. It’s a win for me.
Like everything else, it will be market driven. Personally, I like CFB better than the NFL, but that’s just me. If the numbers favor one league over another, adjustments will be made. The almighty dollar rules.
There is nothing about a hypothetical ‘nfl vs college’ that merits this excuse for an article. As far as the the ‘expert comments’ about blowouts, that’s just smoke. A lot of us watch both, but most fans predominantly watch one or the other. If the nfl game is a dud, a playoff game might get a few extra viewers, and vice versa. Remember all you media types making a big deal about prime exclusively covering thursday games? Well, we now know you don’t know anything.
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As a far greater college football fan than the NFL I don’t really care. I’m just glad they’re finally getting it right with a legitimate 12-team playoff system.
Spot on Booches94
Waiting for a 24-team playoff.
12 seems like a bit much I think 8 might b a better number but, 12 it is
Are you calling NFL “bad football”?