As soon as the lackluster ratings numbers came out for the College Football Playoff National Championship game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Clemson Tigers, explanations about “what went wrong” have come in fast and furious. The most common of which is the idea that everyone is sick and tired of seeing Alabama win championships.
Colin Cowherd thinks people are bored with Alabama and that’s why ratings are down. https://t.co/o5deSewhTp pic.twitter.com/ZQaqL0Vt1p
— Athlon Sports (@AthlonSports) January 12, 2016
Maybe, but then why did last year’s Alabama – Ohio State game in the College Football Playoff break records? And why was this year’s Alabama – LSU game one of the most-watched during the regular season? And why would this year’s title game still be better than the last three BCS Championship games, two of which featured Alabama? Why would fans suddenly stop caring about watching Alabama when they seem to watch Alabama in big games any chance they can get?
The real answers for why the College Football Playoff title game had a ratings drop off are likely much more obvious and much less “hot take-y.”
NYE Ratings Runoff
The most obvious reason is the correlation to the massively- smaller ratings that the semifinals games received on New Year’s Eve. There were so many less people watching the Alabama – Michigan State and Clemson – Oklahoma games that it’s just common sense to think that less people will be invested in watching the two winners face-off a week later. Those who felt compelled to watch the semifinals stuck around for the championship and some casual viewers joined in but a smaller pool from which to draw from would have made a title game ratings drop-off predictable.
Lackluster Bowl Season
In general, this was a fairly forgettable bowl season and if you think of the December and early January bowls as lead-ins for the National Championship, then it makes sense that interest would have waned by this point. This season’s bowl games featured a lot of blowouts and uninteresting match-ups and it makes sense that a fatigue has set in for college football audiences tired of watching games that are out of reach or just plain boring. While the championship game itself was a good one, plenty of fair-weather fans decided not to bother, assuming this was going to be just another in a long line of tepid bowl finishes.
Online Streaming & Cord-Cutters
Let’s not give this section of the viewing populace too much credit. They already get way more than they actually deserve. It’s still small peanuts compared to television audiences. However, the fact is that while TV ratings were down for bowl games, online streaming was way up. According to ESPN, the six New Year’s bowl games averaged 776,000 unique viewers, up 54 percent from last year. ESPN also said that Alabama – Clemson “ranked as the best game ever on WatchESPN across all major metrics, excluding the 2014 FIFA World Cup.” The game saw a 23% increase in average minute impressions, 38% in unique viewers, and 32% in total minutes compared to the first CFP National Championship. Online viewing is only going to get bigger and the effect it has on television ratings will get more pronounced.
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