ESPN needs better branding for their bowl season

Today is the 29th of December. It is not New Year’s Eve. It is not New Year’s Day. So how can a bowl game played today be a New Year’s Six game?

Multiple times during ESPN College Gameday, it was mentioned that the Peach Bowl is a New Year’s six bowl game. I am not sure which of the Gameday crew said it. But I heard it more than once. And it is being said during the game.

Why?

ESPN/ABC/Disney has a strangle hold on the bowl game season. ESPN/ABC/Disney televises 35 of 40 bowl games this year including the championship game which technically is not a bowl game. CBS/CBSSN has 3 bowls and FOX/FS1 have 2 bowls. Let us face the facts; ESPN/ABC/Disney owes the bowls. But they do not own reason or logic about the bowls.

The New Year’s Six bowl games used to be the biggest games of the season. The six bowl games are the Peach, Orange, Cotton, Rose, Fiesta, and Sugar. Until 1998, one of these six bowls games usually served as de-facto National Championship game. They were the ones to watch for.

But conference commitments also spoiled the chance to see the top ranked teams a chance to play one another. This created minor havoc with different news organizations awarded championships to different teams in the same season. This disorder was prior to the decade long “computer glitch” that was the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) and current “pick any 4 as long as Alabama is one of them” College Football Playoff (CFP). This system has helped to pick a match up that crowns a champion. But some fans and reporters, a bunch in Central Florida where UCF has a 25-game winning streak, argue that the system still has flaws.

But why are ESPN/ABC/Disney determining what bowls are “New Year’s” bowls? Simple, they control the current bowl system. They are doing it because they can. Fans are not being considered in that valuation. The corporations that both run and sponsor the bowls are a crucial part of the valuation for who are “New Year’s” bowl games.

Does anyone gain by bad branding? I don’t think so. The real problem is, ESPN/ABC/Disney isn’t losing. Neither are the bowls or their sponsors losing in this. It took over a decade and a half for the BCS to be replaced by the CFP. And there are many who still don’t like the CFP. This is what happens when only one entity in ESPN/ABC/Disney are determining how the bowls played.

What is the significance of calling something it obviously is not? Keeping some semblance of the magnitude of the former system. A system fans did not like. No matter though, ESPN/ABC/Disney is really placating the corporations that both run and sponsor the bowl games. They have to know that the CFP is the main attraction for the bowl season. Plus, there is little to no competition from the major multi-sports channels of CBS, ABC, and FOX.

The Peach Bowl is a good game featuring a marquee worthy match-up. #10 Florida vs #7 Michigan. 2 solid/top ten programs that were both in contention for their division, both finished second in the east division of their conference. This matchup is a game to watch for football fans across the country.

But in an era where the CFP is the ultimate goal, the other bowls have decreasing importance. More players are sitting out bowls to decrease the possibility of injury and focus on getting ready for the NFL draft. Why keep an antiqued system? It was flawed. Worse they are not getting closer to an actual system that determines a true champion. Just a system that respects rankings of a committee. We the fans don’t even know how many games the committee watches though. Saying they are experts doesn’t make it so.

I digress that point and get back to the Peach Bowl. Doesn’t a matchup of the #7 vs. #10 garner enough attention? If not, why?

Michigan has claimed 11 national championships, with the last in 1997. Florida has claimed 3 national championships, with the last in 2008. These are powerhouse programs. Isn’t that enough to draw in viewers.

Moreover, the only other bowl game on currently is the Belk Bowl. It is on ABC, another Disney owned channel. It pits to unranked teams in Virginia vs. South Carolina. Isn’t the Peach Bowl the choice for non-alumni/fans of the Cavaliers and Gamecocks?

I don’t know what the official attendance is, but Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium looks pretty full. The stadium sounds loud in support of both teams. Probably more Gator fans representing in orange. But the Wolverine fans “travel well” so I bet plenty of Maize and Blue will be in the crowd.

The Peach Bowl has two power conference and storied programs. It is a lead in to the CFP semifinal games. It is a solid match up. And it along with the other two “bowl games” are not on New Year’s Eve or Day.

Why not move these games than? It is a hypothesis I call captive audience. Christmas day is one of the top captive audience days. The NBA has filled that day with games. In England; the most important programs are the Christmas episodes, sometimes of shows that aren’t even in production at the time. Back here in the States; the NFL has a hold on Thanksgiving captive audience.

NCAA football has established that in the fall and winter Saturdays are their captive audience day. Putting these games on Saturday make them easy to find. And it takes advantage of their captive audience. Plus, more people are off wok on Saturday as opposed to both New Year’s Eve and Day which are a Monday and Tuesday respectively.

The Semifinals would dominate any other bowl put up against it. Today, ABC is not going to try and compete with it. Opting instead to show X Games, whose audience is usually different from die hard football fans. The only competition ESPN/ABC/Disney will offer are the alternate broadcasts of the command center and coaches film room or college basketball. ESPN/ABC/Disney can’t risk making their other bowl game broadcasts less important. If they did, they would not be able to generate revenue for commercials. It could lead to a lack of sponsorship. And they don’t have any real competition from CBS, ABC, and FOX.

Lastly, this way ESPN/ABC/Disney can keep rotating the semifinals and championship game to maximize revenue for the corporations. They need to have strong corporations backing both the operation and sponsorship of the bowl system. Without it, well I am sure the colleges themselves would like to make money from an additional (potentially/hopefully) two games. But than you must figure out who hosts. I am sure plenty of schools would step up to be a Neutral site. But once again, I digress. No one is looking at these types of solutions because the one entity in charge does not even see the problem.

This is an odd choice for ESPN/ABC/Disney to make to “decree” there are six New Year’s bowl games. And it goes against good reason to even claim it. In the end, I am still watching though.

About drphlgoode

Just an Average Joe
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