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Monday, July 15, 2024

CFP and NFL Will Play on the Same Day: Breaking Down the TV Schedule

  • Dec. 21 will bring a jam-packed day with three CFP games and two NFL matchups.
  • This is the first time the CFP will be going head-to-head against the NFL.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

This year, College Football Playoff games for the first time will go head-to-head with the NFL. 

The CFP has announced its broadcast schedule for the expanded, 12-team postseason, setting up a Saturday clash in late December that will feature five major, overlapping football telecasts. With three first-round CFP games and two NFL Week 16 matchups, here’s the slate for Dec. 21 (all Eastern Time):

  • Noon: CFP Round 1, TNT Sports
  • 1 p.m.: Texans-Chiefs, NBC
  • 4 p.m.: CFP Round 1, TNT Sports
  • 4:30 p.m.: Steelers-Ravens, Fox
  • 8 p.m.: CFP Round 1, ABC/ESPN

A New Approach

Until this season, CFP semifinal and championship games had fallen on days without NFL games. But the expansion to 12 teams, and the addition of a quarterfinals and first round, made it impossible not to overlap with the NFL, which is seemingly on a mission to overtake as many game broadcast windows as it can. 

Previously, the NFL was said to have been trying to convince the CFP committee to move one of its three Saturday games to Friday, Dec. 20, according to Puck. Clearly, whatever efforts the NFL made weren’t enough. In 2025, the CFP has the same first-round schedule planned: one game Friday night, Dec. 19, and three games Saturday, Dec. 20, which is also the NFL schedule’s Week 16—a spot the league will no doubt continue to want to play games on Monday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday.

By the Numbers

Last year, the NFL’s Week 16 slate included a late-afternoon and prime-time matchup that were the most-watched sports telecasts of the day. The Steelers-Bengals game at 4:30 p.m. ET drew 14.29 million viewers on NBC, before the Bill-Chargers at 8 p.m. ET attracted a streaming audience of 7.33 million on Peacock. There are no CFP games to compare that against, but Utah-Northwestern in the Las Vegas Bowl did draw 3.09 million viewers on ABC that same Saturday night.

It should be noted that the two NFL games will be on broadcast TV, while the first two CFP games will be on cable. After Round 1, the CFP will have exclusive game windows on ESPN in the quarterfinals, semifinals, and final that won’t face viewer competition from the NFL.

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