Wednesday, January 11, 2012

There are 24.2 million TV sets in SEC country

I was planning to expand on this much more eloquently but got beaten to the punch by somebody smarter than me who's definitely worth reading since he said a lot of the things I intended to say.

Anyway ... the ratings were awful for the BCS championship game: 24.2 million people watched, which seems decent in a vacuum but represents by far the worst number ever for a title game. Some people are blaming the switch to ESPN/cable, but that actually happened last year, when about 27 million people (about 11 percent more) watched the Auburn-Oregon game. The actual ratings, which are calculated kinda weirdly, were down 14 percent from last year and 24 percent from 2009. That's bad.

And on a directly related note:
The Rose, Orange, Sugar and BCS Championship all sank in the ratings this season, with West Virginia's 70-33 rout of Clemson in the Orange Bowl drawing just a 4.5 rating, making it the lowest-rated game in BCS history.
That's a trend with little to no relation to the switch to cable, especially when you consider that bowl attendance (which is ridiculously exaggerated anyway) is at a 33-year low. Interesting quote:
It's why Tina Kunzer-Murphy, executive director of Las Vegas' Maaco Bowl and chair of the Football Bowl Association, says BCS and other bowl administrators "have to look at what's going on" in the postseason. "Can you tweak it? Can you make some changes?"
IMO, there are two big-picture problems. The first (and the bigger of the two) is that bowls have reached a saturation point, both in terms of volume and time. There are so many bowls spread out over so much time that general fan interest has waned by mid-January and shifted to the NFL/NBA/whatever, especially when the title-game matchup isn't something with a ton of national appeal (anything other than a Texas-USC hypefest, basically). The second problem, which is systemic, is that none of the games other than the last one mean anything and therefore aren't going to attract the casual football fan unless there's some other compelling storyline. There's really only one way around that.

The combination has led to the aforementioned plummeting ticket sales and ad rates (via viewership), which in turn has created a tipping point: The BCS as we know it is about to end.

This is from the New York Times:
Interviews with conference commissioners, athletic directors and television industry officials revealed that change to the current structure of college football’s postseason was imminent.
And this is from The Sporting News:

Years from now, this BCS National Championship Game won’t be remembered so much for Alabama’s utter domination of LSU as it will the beginning of radical change in college football. A national playoff is coming, everyone.

It’s only a matter of what it looks like.

“It gets done,” a high-ranking BCS official told Sporting News Monday evening.

It'll get done because the bowl execs who were plundering the system at the expense of everybody (including the schools) can no longer plunder to any significant benefit, which means nobody's benefiting financially when there really should be a Scrooge McDuck-esque pile of cash for everyone to swim in courtesy of a playoff. This is to say nothing of the general frustration that's been building for years among the non-BCS schools and has now spread to everybody outside of the SEC because of its self-fulfilling prophecy of dominance. Whether that frustration would have been sufficient for major change without the ratings/attendance stuff is hard to say but is now irrelevant.

Upshot: There will be some sort of four-team playoff starting in 2014. Even Jim Delany (!!!) is ready to accept this, which is basically a sign of the college football apocalypse. Everybody who matters is on board. A plus-one is by far the most likely scenario, but there are apparently a bunch of other ideas (although none have been explained publicly) that are gonna get kicked around by the conference commissioners this summer, at which point a consensus will be reached and the internet will explode with exhilarating satisfaction.

It's happening. Commence speculation about the logistics.


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