New Year's Eve College Football Playoff viewership down significantly from Jan. 1, 2021

·2-min read

New Year's Eve had a negative impact on the TV ratings for the College Football Playoff semifinals once again.

Friday's semifinal games between No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Cincinnati and No. 2 Michigan and No. 3 Georgia drew significantly fewer viewers than the semifinals after the 2020 season. Those semifinals — the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl — were played on New Year's Day. 

Alabama's win over the Bearcats drew 16.6 million viewers across all of ESPN's platforms and was down approximately 2.5 million viewers from the Crimson Tide's win over Notre Dame a season ago. Georgia's win over Michigan was viewed by 17.2 million viewers and was down just over 2 million viewers from Ohio State's win over Clemson in the Sugar Bowl in the same time slot last season. 

The playoff was implemented in 2014 with the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl refusing to budge from New Year's Day. As the semifinals rotate among six bowls, the semifinals are only held on New Year's Day once every three years when they're played in Pasadena and New Orleans. 

The first New Year's Eve playoff games happened in 2015 and viewership fell precipitously from the inaugural semifinals on Jan. 1, 2015. The first semifinals drew over 28 million each. The games on Dec. 31, 2015, drew over 15 million and 18 million respectively. 

The semifinals were held on New Year’s Eve again after the 2016 season after the playoff announced in July that the semifinals after the 2018 season would get moved to Dec. 29 to avoid New Year’s Eve.

Because they’ve been the only semifinal games on New Year’s Day, the Rose and Sugar Bowls are the only semis that have drawn over 20 million viewers — no non-New Year’s Day playoff game has broken 20 million. And it's unlikely that next year's playoff games will come close to that mark no matter who's playing. The Fiesta Bowl and Peach Bowl semifinal games are scheduled for Dec. 31, 2022. 

Hopefully playoff expansion will permanently push the semifinal games to New Year's Day in the future.

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