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Conrad: Ohio State not the only winner in college football playoff

Faculty | Jan 20, 2015 |
Mark Conrad

Mark Conrad

How did the first college football championship games, which ended with Ohio State standing alone after defeating Oregon 42-20 on Jan. 12, do when it came to its format, ratings and merchandise?

We turned to Mark Conrad, an associate professor of law and ethics and director of the sports business concentration at the Gabelli School of Business, to weigh in on whether the new system was a success. We asked him four questions for the four quarters of football.

It turns out that Ohio State wasn’t the only winner.

Q. Most people seem to think that the college football playoff system will be a huge revenue generator all around. Is there an estimated figure for the economic impact of the semifinals and championship game?

It is still early, but it is safe to easy that ESPN was a big winner, with significant ratings that broke records for the largest cable TV audiences in the history of the media. According to ESPN, the three games averaged 33 million viewers and garnered an astounding 18.2 rating from Nielsen. That is stratospheric. These ratings constituted a 26 percent increase over last year’s BCS National Championship game.

Q. How big of a bonanza is this for ESPN, which is televising all the games?

ESPN paid over $7 billion for rights for the next 10 years. With ratings like this, that amount may have been a bargain.

Q. Did the NCAA get it right with this format? Or will further tweaking be needed?

I think that the tweaking may be to increase the format to 8 teams. That may not happen tomorrow, but it’s a good bet it will sometime in the next 3 – 4 years. If so, my guess is that the ESPN deal would have to be amended.

Q. How much will merchandising affect the bottom line? Who will be the big winners when it comes to sales of shirts, sweats, hats and other paraphernalia? Will it be the colleges or the retailers? Both?

We will have to see – I have not read any reports as of yet, but if you sell Buckeyes merchandise, you are probably doing quite well.

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