== ESPN executive vice president of programming and scheduling Burke Magnus is somewhat polite in assessing how putting two College Football Playoff games on New Year’s Eve will attract viewers.
“It definitely presents a unique challenge,” he is quoted in Adweek.com. “We’re curious to see how it plays out.”
In the New York Times, ESPN’s Ilan Ben-Hanan, vice president for college sports programming, frames it this way: “We realize that New Year’s Eve is not New Year’s Day. We know it’ll be different. But we think the notion of sports and a holiday can exist peacefully.”
As noted, Oregon’s 59-20 win over Florida State in the Rose Bowl followed by Ohio State’s 42-35 win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl drew more than 28 million viewers each with a New Year’s Day airing last season.
This is the first of two consecutive seasons where New Year’s Eve will host the semifinal doubleheader. It’s a system that kind of paints itself into a corner based on when it wants to stage the national championship game, and how the Rose Bowl and its 2 p.m. Jan. 1 kickoff gets in everyone’s way.
On the West Coast, all of this should not be much of an issue — except, as USA Today’s Nancy Armour points out, some of us working today may miss some of it.
“The semifinals are two of the biggest games of the entire college football season, topped only by the title game,” she writes. “They should command attention, not be forced to compete for it.”
In the East, the competition seems more fierce. There will also be a clear message that ESPN’s games are feeding into ABC’s regular New Year’s Eve programming hosted by Ryan Seacrest, which has been promoted heavily during ESPN programming during the bowl season. Sage Steele, the ESPN/ABC NBA studio host, will join Seacrest to try to make it seem more of a group effort.
That’s Disney synergy at work. Again. Trying to sell us on this with a Jimmy Kimmel promo that seems rather awkward just from the concept.
So here’s how ESPN’s coverage of the College Football Playoff semifinal games tonight lays out:
= Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge and Holly Rowe are on the Oklahoma-Clemson Orange Bowl at 1 p.m. (Bill Rosinski, David Norrie and Joe Schad have the game on ESPN Radio/710-AM KSPN). The ESPN studio show includes Rece Davis, Lee Corso, Desmond Howard, David Pollack, Joey Galloway, Butch Davis, George Whitfield, Gene Wojciechowski, Samantha Ponder and Marty Smith.
= Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit and Heather Cox are on the Michigan State-Alabama Cotton Bowl at 5 p.m. (Brad Sham, Danny Kanell and Ian Fitzsimmons have the game on ESPN Radio/710-AM KSPN). The ESPN studio show has Adnan Virk, Joe Tessitore, Herbstreit, Mack Brown, Mark May, Danny Kanell. Tim Tebo, Kaylee Hartung and Tom Rinaldi.
= Also today: Dave Pasch, Brian Griese and Tom Luginbill on the Houston-Florida State Peach Bowl (9 a.m., ESPN)
== The ESPN broadcasting crews for the five New Year’s Day games on Friday:
= Brent Musburger, Jesse Palmer and Maria Taylor are on the Stanford-Iowa Rose Bowl (2 p.m., ESPN)
= Mark Jones, Rod Gilmore and Quint Kessenich have the Northwestern-Tennessee Outback Bowl (9 a.m., ESPN2)
= Sean McDonough, Chris Spielman and Todd McShay are on the Notre Dame-Ohio State Fiesta Bowl (10 a.m., ESPN)
= Bob Wischusen, Brock Huard and Shannon Spake call the Ole Miss-Oklahoma State Sugar Bowl (5:30 p.m., ESPN)
= Mike Patrick, Ed Cunningham and Jerry Punch are on the Michigan-Florida Citrus Bowl (10 a.m., Channel 7)
== Showtime’s “A Season With Notre Dame Football” has a final episode airing Tuesday at 10 p.m. that will focus on its Fiesta Bowl game against Ohio State. The 13 previous episodes are on Showtime On Demand.
== Headline this week in the Houston Chronicle: “UT’s decline drags Longhorn Network with it …After $48 million loss, many questioning wisdom of ESPN’s single-college channel”
== Josh Elliott, a onetime ESPN “SportsCenter” anchor, has gotten out of his NBC and NBC Sports contract to became a free agent again, says the Hollywood Reporter. Speculation has him landing at Fox Sports.
== The NFL’s final week of the regular season as it lays out for the L.A. TV audience:
= All 16 games take place on Sunday, with NBC grabbing 10-5 Minnesota at 10-5 Green Bay for the NFC North Division title as the 5:30 p.m. prime-time game (Channel 4, Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth)
= CBS’ doubleheader includes N.Y. Jets-Buffalo (10 a.m., Channel 2, Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts) and San Diego-Denver (1:25 p.m., Channel 2, Jim Nantz, Phil Simms). So no go on Pittsburgh-Cleveland, New England-Miami, Jacksonville-Houston, Tennessee-Indianapolis or St. Louis-San Francisco (given to CBS).
= Fox’s doubleheader includes Washington-Dallas (10 a.m., Channel 11, Chris Myers, Ronde Barber and Jennifer Hale) and Seattle-Arizona (1:25 p.m., Channel 11, Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and Erin Andrews). So nothing to do with Oakland-Kansas City (given to Fox), Tampa Bay-Carolina, New Orleans-Atlanta, Baltimore-Cincinnati, Philadelphia-N.Y. Giants, or Detroit-Chicago.
== For the record, Alvin and the Chipmunks did better with their movie on Christmas weekend than Will Smith did with “Concussion.” Maybe it was all the action figures.
== College basketball highlights for the weekend:
Aaron Goldsmith and Casey Jacobsen have the Fox Sports 1 assignment for UCLA at Washington Pac-12 Conference opener (Friday, 8 p.m.).
The Pac-12 Network’s JB Long and Dan Dickau call USC-Washington State (Friday, 6 p.m.) with Kevin Calabro and Dan Belluomini doing USC-Washington for the net on Sunday (noon). Rich Burk and Lamar Hurd have UCLA-Washington State for the Pac-12 Net on Sunday (6:30 p.m.).
Steve Quis, Dave Miller and Kelli Tennant are the broadcast team for Loyola Marymount at Pepperdine on TWC SportsNet (Saturday, 5 p.m.)
== Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire have the latest NHL outdoor game — Montreal at Boston from the New England Patriots’ Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., rather than Fenway Park — for NBC (today, 10:30 a.m., Channel 4). Liam McHugh, Mike Milbury, Keith Jones and Jeremy Roenick are on hand at the outdoor studio setup.
== The Pac-12 Net has hired former UCLA All-Americanr gymnast Samantha Peszek, the reigning NCAA all-around champion, as an analyst on coverage of the sport this season.
== How many paid to see the Ronda Rousey-Holly Holm UFC 193 matchup back in November? They still haven’t come up with a number?
== Yes, TWC SportsNet Lakers studio analyst James Worthy was journalistically pleased that the Lakers beat the Celtics on Wednesday:
— HuffPost Sports (@HuffPostSports) December 31, 2015
== And before we official leave 2015, MLB.com has posted the 10 best stories that Vin Scully told on the air during a SportsNet L.A. broadcast that many likely missed out on hearing.
It’s at this link.
Our favorite: Scully talks about his discovery of modified overshifts go back to the 1800s, and his interest in it had nothing to do with this mess (which he wasn’t even around to describe):