The college football bowl season starts on Saturday, and if we include the college football playoff championship game, there are now 41 bowl games that will be competed in by 80 schools. That includes a whopping 20 teams that do not have a winning record.
The reason there are so many bowl games has little to do with demand, as many of these games will be played in half-empty stadiums and will receive poor ratings on television. The real reason gets back to who has the most invested in the bowl games: ESPN and its parent company, Disney.
Of the 41 games, 38 will be broadcast by ESPN or one of its sister networks, ABC and ESPN2. Meanwhile, the reason ESPN is willing to pay to broadcast as many bowl games as possible is that live programming is what makes ESPN the king of cable, and the bowl games fill empty time slots.
It is interesting to note that the newcomers to the 24-hour sports network universe (Fox Sports 1, CBS Sports, NBC Sports) are not involved in the bowl game business despite their own time slots needing to be filled. That simply means that the number of bowl games will likely continue to grow.
- Cork Gaines/Business Insider