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College football fans get their TV wish
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THE FIRST WEEK of the college football season is still a month away, but the sport has nevertheless grabbed plenty of headlines lately. On July 21 the ACC announced an agreement with ESPN for a digital network that will launch this month, followed by a 24-hour cable channel that will launch in 2019. Then, last Thursday, the College Football Playoff management committee said that, starting this season, all national semifinal games through '21 will take place on either a Saturday or a holiday (table, below); last year's games were on Thursday, Dec. 31.

The latter decision is sure to be a huge hit with fans. The ratings for 2015's semis tanked: Alabama's 38--0 win over Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl drew 18,552,000 viewers, down 45% from the comparable game in '14, while Clemson's 37--17 Orange Bowl victory (above) over Oklahoma averaged 15,640,000 viewers, a 34% decline.

The accompanying negative reaction from viewers who had parties, rather than pigskin, on their mind forced ESPN executives to almost immediately begin exploring options with the CFP for a do-over.

Meanwhile, the forthcoming ACC Network will give fans of the league's 15 schools more chances to watch all season long. When the channel debuts, it will have exclusive rights to at least 40 football (and 150 men's and women's basketball) games per year. The deal will also extend the grant of rights that binds ACC schools together until the end of the 2035--36 school year, all but eliminating any talk of realignment.

But how successful will the network be? Cord-cutters and cord-nevers have become a significant issue recently as younger sports consumers shift away from cable. It will be tough to get a heavy subscriber demand outside of the ACC footprint.

WHAT TO WATCH

Thursday @ 3 p.m., EDT

PGA Travelers Championships (Golf) or Land of the Lost (Syfy)

Will Ferrell is a bigger star than anyone in the depleted post-major field in Connecticut.

Friday @ 7:30 p.m., EDT

Olympics Opening Ceremony (NBC) or The Simpsons (FXX)

Homer on a hunger strike beats athletes on parade.

Saturday @ 4 p.m., EDT

Red Sox at Dodgers (FS1) or Martha Bakes (PBS)

Go with baseball, unless Vin Scully is providing the play-by-play from Martha Stewart's kitchen.

Sunday @ 8 p.m., EDT

Packers vs. Colts (ESPN) or The Last Boy Scout (Reelz)

Both depict versions of pro football you'd be better off skipping.

CFP SEMIFINALS, NEXT FIVE YEARS

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

YEAR

DATES

BOWLS

2016--17

Saturday, Dec. 31

Fiesta, Peach

2017--18

Monday, Jan. 1

Rose, Sugar

2018--19

Saturday, Dec. 29

Cotton, Orange

2019--20

Saturday, Dec. 28

Fiesta, Peach

2020--21

Friday, Jan. 1

Rose, Sugar