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The 2017 College Football Playoff will still be on New Year’s Eve, but it’ll start earlier

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A slight tweak to the Playoff's controversial time slotting.

Bill Hancock, the executive director of the College Football Playoff.
Bill Hancock, the executive director of the College Football Playoff.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The College Football Playoff will start on New Year's Eve for the second year in a row in 2017. But games will start earlier than last year, when they drew criticism for inconveniencing viewers and harming television ratings.

The Playoff's two semifinal games will start at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. ET on Dec. 31, according to a report from USA Today's George Schroeder. That's a slight bump forward from the 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. kickoffs for last season's Orange Bowl and Cotton Bowl semifinals, respectively, but will still certainly overlap with a lot of New Year's Eve festivities.

Playoff executive director Bill Hancock tells Schroeder the movement of the game times is not a permanent change – and that he's still committed to playing these games on New Year's Eve and not the more traditional New Year's Day. This year, New Year's Eve happens to fall on a Saturday.

"We looked at the landscape and we're confident it will let more fans watch the games," Hancock said. "In looking at the data, we found that ending the games earlier would let people watch the games and still enjoy their New Year's Eve festivities."

Hancock said the changes were only for the 2016 season and that there are no plans to move the semifinals from New Year's Eve, as they're scheduled seven of the next 10 years.

"This is a one-time deal," Hancock said. "We haven't talked about the remaining nine years (of the contract). We had the opportunity because it was a Saturday to do this. ... We always want to make the games available to more fans. We also will honor the traditions of college football."

This year's Playoff ratings marked a sharp decline from the inaugural event the year before. Both semifinals scored below a 10 overnight rating, after their counterparts the year before were each over 15.

The issues here weren't hard to foresee. The 4 p.m. Orange Bowl was problematic because it intersected with a lot of people's work schedules, and the 8 p.m. Cotton Bowl was problematic because people were out partying and not necessarily watching football. It surely didn't help that both games were blowouts. Moving up from a 4 p.m.-8 p.m. to a 3 p.m.-7 p.m. window could wind up helping one problem and not the other.

The 2017 Playoff semifinals are the Fiesta Bowl and Peach Bowl.