Every December, some college football fans mumble the same sort of statement: there are too many damn bowl games. This year, there were 44 (!) bowl games on the slate, including the FCS Celebration Bowl and the College Football Playoff National Championship. One of those games, yesterday’s scheduled Hawaii Bowl, was cancelled.
13 games, including the Celebration Bowl, have already been played through Wednesday, with another two taking place on Thursday (with viewership data delayed until Monday) and one more happening on Saturday as I type this post. Bowl season truly becomes unhinged next week, with at least two games per day from Monday through Saturday.
When you look at the viewership for those 13 bowl games, you can see why there are so many and why ESPN keeps going to the well to create more (the world did not demand Thursday’s Frisco Football Classic between Miami, Ohio and North Texas, but we got it anyway). Of the 13 bowl games, 11 of them have topped a million viewers. The two that didn’t were the Middle Tennessee-Toledo Bahamas Bowl, which started at noon last Friday (the first bowl game of the year) and drew 851,000 viewers, and Monday’s Myrtle Beach Bowl between Old Dominion and Tulsa, which drew 918,000 viewers and started at 2:30 PM.
Every other bowl game has eclipsed the million viewer mark. The ABC bowl game tripleheader on Saturday averaged 2.9 million viewers, including a bowl season high of 3.221 million for the UAB-BYU Independence Bowl. On Tuesday, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl/Frisco Bowl doubleheader averaged 1.217 million viewers, topping the 925,000 viewers that TNT’s NBA doubleheader averaged on the same evening. Wednesday’s Armed Forces Bowl between Army and Missouri brought in 2.569 million viewers on ESPN, more than twice AEW Dynamite’s audience in the same timeslot on TNT.
This year’s bowl games are also doing well when compared to their most recent counterpart – Sports Media Watch notes that nine of the 12 returning bowl games (excluding the brand new LA Bowl) are up in viewership. The three that are down from either 2019 or 2020: the New Mexico Bowl, Cure Bowl (which aired on ESPN2 this year, compared to ESPN last year), and Frisco Bowl (which went head to head with the NFL on Fox after two games were rescheduled to Tuesday evening).
So, why are there so many bowl games? Because they’re still drawing a more than acceptable amount of eyeballs. As long as that’s happening, the amount of bowls isn’t going to take a sizeable cut any time soon.
[Data via ShowBuzz Daily, Sports Media Watch]