Will college football playoffs change New Year’s Eve?

Andy Uhler Dec 31, 2015
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Will college football playoffs change New Year’s Eve?

Andy Uhler Dec 31, 2015
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New Year’s Eve finds people stocking up on champagne and confetti and figuring out where they’ll watch the Times Square ball drop. Or, maybe where they’ll watch the college football playoffs. ESPN is trying to promote the idea that college football playoffs in the Orange Bowl and Cotton Bowl today will start a new New Year’s Eve tradition. But “new tradition” is an oxymoron and could be a tough sell to advertisers looking for eyeballs.

Ratings for last year’s inaugural college football playoffs were huge. Both semifinals saw more than 28 million viewers. But those games were on New Year’s Day, and what do Americans do on New Year’s Day? They watch football.

“People like to watch the New Year’s Eve broadcasts on New Year’s Eve,” said Rick Porter, editor of TV By the Numbers. “The thing I’m going to be most curious about is if the games being on will affect the prime-time portion of the New Year’s Eve telecasts.”

ABC’s got some pretty big names lined up to perform on their “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” show. It starts at 8 p.m. EST. So does the second semifinal game, between Alabama and Michigan State.

Bob Dorfman, executive creative director at Baker Street Advertising, said some households could be in for a remote control battle.

“Yeah, you’ll probably have multiple screens going in those kind of families,” he said. “Some people are in one room watching ‘New Year’s Rockin’ Eve’ and other people are in the other room watching football.”

What does this mean for advertisers? It’s expensive to buy ads for these games, and the games being on New Year’s Eve could give them pause, especially if the audience is going to be split. But Amie Sheridan, a sports and marketing professor at Saint Joseph’s University, said buyers know who they’re targeting.

“So I guess the question is: ‘Which shows are appealing to which audiences? What’s on that’s appealing to that male 25-54 demographic?”

Is college football going to change how people celebrate New Year’s Eve? It’s too early to tell. But ESPN is betting that before people are cheering the ball drop in Times Square, they’ll be cheering for another touchdown in the fourth quarter.

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