Notre Dame’s home football opener will not be televised in 2021.
Instead, the Irish’s 3:30 p.m. ET matchup against Toledo on Sept. 11 will be exclusively streamed on Peacock Premium . Membership for the service is $4.99 per month.
Who is going to watch that now? This is a big question for 2021.
It’s also a look into what could be the future of football viewership, and one of college football’s biggest brands will offer a glimpse of that. Should college football fans be rooting for this to fail?
Probably not, because it’s going to happen no matter what. Online streaming is the future, and the NFL is heading in that direction, too. This move is inevitable, but college football still needs to be available for the casual viewer, too.
Notre Dame, of course, has been a partner with NBC since 1991. The current contract with the television network runs through 2025, and it’s a good bet this won’t be the last exclusive stream involving an Irish home game.
Is it worth the risk? That depends on how many subscriptions the game generates. Here’s a look at Notre Dame’s TV ratings from the 2020 home schedule:
Notre Dame 2020 home game TV ratings
Source: Sports Media Watch
That game against South Florida was televised on the USA Network because it conflicted with NBC’s coverage of the rescheduled U.S. Open. The drop-off, however, is more than noticeable. It’s the only game that did not have more than 2.5 million viewers. That was acceptable last year, and it did not hurt that the Notre Dame-Clemson matchup was the most watched regular season game in 2020.
The 2021 season is different. NBC has rights to Notre Dame’s home games against Toledo, Purdue, Cincinnati, USC, Navy and Georgia Tech. Fox gets the matchup with Wisconsin at Soldier Field.
With that light home schedule, it might be OK to try streaming to see how many subscribers it generates, at least for a week.
This has happened in the past with pay-per-view . Remember the Oklahoma-Army thriller from Sept. 22, 2018? That game was on pay-per-view for $54.99, and the Sooners won 28-21 in overtime. What if the Rockets-Irish game turns into one of those unexpected barnburners and people can’t find it? At least the $4.99 stream will be easier to afford.
Accessibility will be even more crucial. The Peacock streaming service has been criticized throughout the Summer Olympics in Tokyo , so the Notre Dame-Toledo game will be scrutinized for how accessible and watchable it is.
In this case, the game will mean less on the field than the results off it. This could offer a blueprint for other streaming services to negotiate with other conferences as college football continues to forge toward more realignment and playoff expansion.
The fact that Notre Dame’s home opener isn’t on TV tells you so.
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