“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,” B&C’s John Consoli writes.
CFP executive director Bill Hancock remained optimistic about the decision to move the 2015 semifinals to New Year’s Eve despite the low ratings, noting that he’d only judge the outcome in combination with ratings of the four games ESPN aired on New Year’s Day. (Advertisers tend to purchase packages that cover multiple games.) The New Year’s Day ratings, however, also dipped, leading to an overall decline of 13 percent, according to the New York Times. Even then, however, Hancock remained relatively upbeat.
“That decline, frankly, is not much of a surprise and it’s modest,” Hancock told the Associated Press (via ABC News) on Jan. 2, referring to all six bowl games over the two-day period. “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. 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.”
Buyers, however, don’t buy that explanation and don’t want to wait for further analysis.
“[Hancock is] just plain wrong,” one anonymous buyer told B&C.
ESPN, which reportedly tried to lobby with the CFP to keep the semifinal games on New Year’s Day, has been coy about what exactly it plans to do to make good with its bowl advertisers. The network did say (via B&C), however, “contingencies are put in place to protect advertisers” in cases like these.
“The specifics of those deals vary and we work with our advertisers to make them whole in the event of a shortfall.”
ESPN may have to get used to unhappy customers, as the 2016, 2018, 2019 and all future CFP playoff games that aren’t played in the Rose or Sugar bowls, which are contractually tied to New Year’s Day, are slated to be played on New Year’s Eve. And CFP officials have made it clear that this is just the way it is now, bad ratings or not.
“We don’t make decisions based on television numbers,” Hancock told the New York Times this week. “I don’t have a TV number that influences my measurable for success.”
ESPN declined to comment to the Times regarding that statement.