Category Archives: BCS/Playoffs

ESPN made its college football playoffs bed.

And now it gets to lie in it.

Despite the efforts of the College Football Playoff committee and some media outlets downplaying the financial hit ESPN took by being forced to televise the two national championship semi-final games on New Year’s Eve, media buyers say the network owes upwards of $20 million in ad makegoods for ratings shortfalls for the two games.

ESPN may have gotten a bit greedy when setting its ratings estimates and offering higher guarantee levels to advertisers for the two games, knowing audiences might not flock to their TV sets, despite the optimism of the CFP committee. However, advertisers are concerned about next season’s potential audience levels for the games, which will also be televised on New Year’s Eve. Even if the ratings guarantees by ESPN are set lower, advertisers would prefer the games be moved to New Year’s Day or even on consecutive primetime nights, exclusive of New Year’s Eve, when more people would likely watch.

But CFP committee officials are on record as adamantly supporting the continued airing of the playoff series games on New Year’s Eve as scheduled, which will occur in seven of the remaining 10 years of the 12-year original deal. And that position has been taken even after the 36% combined ratings decline for the two games was disclosed.

So ESPN is caught between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, it has to keep its mouth shut and parrot the CFP’s belief that ratings will get better in subsequent New Year’s Eve telecasts, even though privately they believe that to be nonsense. It can’t been seen criticizing its long-term partner publicly. On the other hand, ESPN has to hear the wrath of its advertisers who saw their ad dollars spent on the severe under-delivery of the guaranteed audience for the two games.

There’s greed involved?  I’m shocked, shocked to learn that.  And before we get to next year’s telecasts, ESPN has to worry about Monday night.

Fast forward to Monday night’s college football championship game with many buyers not sure that the ratings will match last year’s record numbers. This time, unlike the New Year’s Eve debacle, it would not be because of when the game is airing, but because of the two teams participating.

While Clemson enters that game undefeated and ranked first in the nation, and Alabama is rated second in the polls, neither is from a major market. While Alabama might have more of a national following. Clemson has virtually none, although many may tune in to see if Clemson can complete its season undefeated.

But buyers are still concerned that shelling out as much as $1.3 million per 30 second spot might not get them the ratings they were guaranteed. And much like for the two semi-final games, ESPN did not leave much money on the table.

Last year’s game drew 33.4 million viewers and an 18.2 household rating, making it the most watched program in the history of cable. Buyers say in order for ESPN to bump up its asking price from $1 million per 30 for last year’s championship game to $1.3 million this year, it had to sizably increase its ratings guarantees.

None of which is apparently the concern of Baghdad Bill and his bosses, something that’s making some of the natives a bit restless.

Media buyers are sympathetic to ESPN’s situation and are also appalled and angry at the attitude of the NCAA and the College Football Playoff committee and the public comments being made by their executives.

The CFP’s Hancock told The New York Times this week, “We don’t make decisions based on television numbers. I don’t have a TV number that influences my measurable for success.”

Talk about a slap in the face to his media partner ESPN which is now some $20 million in the hole because of Hancock’s arrogance, after the network paid the CFP $600 million for the TV rights of the bowl games, including the two New Year’s Eve semi-finals.

One buyer is hoping that ESPN, which tried to get the committee to change the date away from New Year’s Eve this season to no avail, reapproaches the committee and makes another attempt for next season.

“If I were ESPN, I would have another conversation with the CFP and I would walk into that meeting with some of the major bowl sponsors and advertisers to demand the date be changed,” the buyer says.

Yeah, that’s gonna work like a charm.

One competing exec whose network carries both college and NFL games, sympathizes with ESPN, but says there is not much that can be done if the CFP sticks to its position.

“You do these long-term TV rights deals hoping that if an issue comes up that things can be altered, but if the content provider refuses, the network is stuck,” the exec says. “It’s like getting married and hoping you can change your partner. Most times you can’t.”

I think I detect a faint undertone of glee there.  Not that I can blame whoever that is for a little gloating.  He’s got good news for us fans, too.

The exec says ESPN, in addition to the units it held back in the college championship and NFL wild card games, can find ways to slip in extra commercials in during replay and injury timeouts, although even those are usually pre-sold with advertisers on a list.  [Emphasis added.]

Yay for us!

So how does the long game play out here?  Well, if this is what ESPN has to look forward to…

Meanwhile ESPN, despite its “partnership” with the CFP, finds itself alone on the island with no help from the committee or its leadership.

As Hancock told USA Today this week, “Let’s see what happens. We’re confident that every year will be different and over time these games will be ingrained into a part of the New Year’s Eve tradition.”

And while it waits for that to happen, ESPN can lower its ratings guarantees, charge less for its ads, and not cover the $600 million TV rights fee it is paying the CFP.

… the odds are that no broadcast partner is going to warmly embrace the next CFP opportunity in the same way that Mickey has.  So if down the road Hancock’s bosses want to keep the money rolling in , there’s really only one way to sweeten that pot.


Filed under BCS/Playoffs, ESPN Is The Devil, It's Just Bidness

Use the Force, dope.

There are no words.

Remember, this guy gets paid to say shit like that.


UPDATE:  The full quote –

If he was misinterpreted, it’s because he’s not someone who gets the benefit of the doubt.


Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Blowing Smoke

Because, in the end, it was all about academics.

The NCAA and another day of making it up as they go along.

Next up, it’s either ask the NCAA for a waiver of the 20-hour rule, or just get the school to change its academic schedule.  As long as it’s for the good of the kids, you know…


Filed under Academics? Academics., BCS/Playoffs, The NCAA

Bill Hancock, you’re such a kidder.

If anybody out there seriously believes this drivel

Then Hancock added: “We don’t make decisions based on television numbers. I don’t have a TV number that influences my measurable for success.”

… please contact me.  I’ve still got a fantastic investment opportunity involving ocean front property in Hahira to discuss with you.  But it won’t last long!


Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Blowing Smoke

‘You know what, it’s not working.’

Shorter Bill Hancock:  with regard to that rather alarming decline in viewership for the semifinals, we’d prefer to panic at a time of our own choosing.


Filed under BCS/Playoffs

“Airing the College Football Flayoff semifinals on New Years Eve was a flop.”

Boy, I like to think I blast Bill Hancock and his masters for their arrogance, but’s Richard Deitsch turns in a masterful performance here with his analysis of where things stand after the CFP’s significant drop in ratings on New Year’s Eve.

But College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock would not budge–you can’t spell hubris without the ‘H’ in Hancock–and there appears to be no immediate plans to change course based on what Hancock told the Associated Press on Saturday. “It’s too soon to know how much was due to the lopsided games or how much what I think we all thought would be an inevitable decline from the excitement of the first year or the semifinals on New Year’s Eve,” he said. “I suspect it’s a combination of those three, but I don’t have any idea what the weighting is. ESPN is studying the numbers and we’ll learn a lot more in the next few months.”

… The predicted increased ratings from Year 3 and 4 will change the narrative only briefly until the numbers sink again for Year 5 and beyond. But this isn’t just about ratings. Holding a primetime playoff game on New Years Eve is arguably the most viewer-unfriendly option in all sports for a major property. Given Hancock’s job is to bring his playoffs to the biggest audience, most CEOs who lost 40 percent of their customers would be out the door faster than Usain Bolt. As my colleague Pete Thamel wrote last week, the semifinals can’t be held on its logical place, New Year’s Day, because those time slots are, until 2026, already allotted to the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl. “If there is one thing we’ve learned over the years about the conference commissioners who run college football, it’s that they care little about the greater good of the game if it means losing dollars from their own wallets,” Thamel wrote.

Deitsch advises the suits analyzing the situation to give up on changing viewer habits on December 31st.

I’m happy to save the TV research wonks some time: You will never change the paradigm of New Years Eve when it comes to how Americans celebrate. The arrogance of Hancock and his Power Five conference commissioner cronies knows no bounds as they are preventing many Americans from watching one of the signature sporting events of the year.

What should be even more depressing for ESPN, Hancock and the commissioners to consider is the market data for the playoff games.

1. The top 10 rated TV markets for Cotton Bowl (Alabama-Michigan State): 1. Birmingham (48.1), Greenville (21.3), Knoxville (21.2), Nashville (21.1), Atlanta (20.2), Detroit (20.0), Columbus (19.7), Jacksonville (15.9), Memphis (15.9), and New Orleans (15.7).

1a. The top 10 rated TV markets for Orange Bowl (Clemson-Oklahoma): Birmingham (35.6), Greenville (29.6), Oklahoma City (29.4) Tulsa (27.9), Knoxville (18.5), Atlanta (17.8), Columbus (17.6), Nashville (15.8), New Orleans (14.4), and Charlotte (14.2).

Take out Detroit and Columbus, whose audiences were interested in Michigan State’s fate and all you’re left with are viewers in the South/Sun Belt.  No big West Coast or northeastern markets show up.  If the strategy behind the CFP is to translate college football’s regional passion into a more generically national one – presumably because that’s where the money is – it’s failed to resonate so far.

But as Deitsch’s piece indicates, nobody’s backing down.  And why should they?  They’ve spent all this time believing they’re the smartest people in the room.  This is hardly the place for that mindset to change.

What bugs me is that eventually the pressure behind the lagging ratings will cause the geniuses to panic, just as they did when they abandoned the BCS.  These aren’t people who do panic well.


Filed under BCS/Playoffs, ESPN Is The Devil

Your tradition. Their money.

I’m sure Mickey is taking this news well.

Viewership for Thursday’s two College Football Playoff semifinal games was down drastically when compared with last season, a clear indication that ESPN paid a price for the games’ move to New Year’s Eve.

ESPN had hoped to turn New Year’s Eve into a new sports holiday to showcase the semifinal games, much as Thanksgiving has become for the N.F.L. and Christmas Day for the N.B.A. The network aggressively marketed the advent of the semifinals in a promotional campaign, but the effort apparently did not succeed.


Clemson’s 37-17 victory over Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, which started at 4 p.m. Eastern, was seen by an average of 15.6 million viewers, a 45 percent decrease from the 28.2 million for the 2015 Rose Bowl, the semifinal game played in the comparable time slot on Jan. 1.

The second semifinal, Alabama’s 38-0 rout of Michigan State, averaged almost 18.6 million viewers in prime time, down 34 percent from the nearly 28.3 million for the Sugar Bowl last season.

That’s a total drop of about 15 million viewers.  Yeah, I’d call that pretty apparent.

As for what the steward of the game has to say about this, well, it’s about what you’d expect.

These guys don’t do retreat very well.  Unless there’s a lot of money at stake.  Which, ultimately, there will be.  Anybody wanna bet on how this gets resolved?


Filed under BCS/Playoffs, ESPN Is The Devil