Hardcore college football fans across the country undoubtedly will be tuned in for the College Football Playoff. But what about casual fans outside SEC, ACC and Big 12 country?
With the Pac-12 and Big Ten not represented in the four-team playoff, a TV sports viewership analyst said interest could be tempered on the West Coast, upper Midwest and Northeast.
The campuses of Clemson, Georgia and Alabama are in close proximity in the Southeast — Clemson and Georgia are just 75 miles apart. Oklahoma is the outlier, a good day’s drive west of Alabama.
“I think it’s too regional this year,” said Jon Lewis, editor of Sports Media Watch. “That hurts in every sport — unless it’s the Super Bowl.”
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That said, Lewis expects a potential loss of viewership could be offset because the semifinals will be played on New Year’s Day, the traditional college football holiday. The last two years the semifinals were on New Year’s Eve, when the games competed with parties and other celebrations.
An additional boost might come from the Alabama-Clemson semifinal in the Sugar Bowl being a rematch of the last two national championship games.
But, Lewis said, “I still think the numbers are going to be well short of the first year of the playoff.”
In 2015, the inaugural playoff semifinals matching Oregon-Florida State and Ohio State-Alabama each drew better than 28 million viewers on ESPN, according to the Nielsen company. The Oregon-Ohio State title game had 33.4 million.
Viewership the last two years ranged from 15.5 million to 19.8 million for the New Year’s Eve semifinals, and the Clemson-Alabama title games drew 26.7 million in 2016 and 26 million in 2017.
Los Angeles sports radio host Petros Papadakis acknowledged the regional flavor of the playoff — “I hope Oklahoma can at least strike a blow for the people west of the Mississippi,” he joked — but said he didn’t think it would put a damper on fans’ enthusiasm nationally.
“Call me crazy, but I think we’ve reached a point in our society where football fans put football on,” Papadakis said. “If there is live football and it’s a big game that’s on, people are watching. … I really do feel like the College Football Playoff is transcendent like the Super Bowl, where people are just going to watch because it’s championship-level football.”
Still, Lewis said it can’t be…