"The Game" returns to Fox after cancellation in 2019
By Sam Woiteshek
November 29, 2021
Photo Credit: UMich Alumni LinkedIn
The annual matchup between Michigan and Ohio State, commonly referred to as “The Game,” is always one of the biggest television draws in college football. In each of the past five matchups, there have been over 10 million viewers, including 16.8 million viewers for the infamous 2016 “J.T. Was Short” game. With “The Game” at the top of every University of Michigan students’ mind this past weekend, let’s take a look at how meaningful it is in terms of money.
Fox Sports pays a reported $240 million per year to the Big Ten Conference for rights to broadcast “The Game.” The network’s deal with the Big Ten is the most expensive in college football. On the other hand, Fox Sports’ going rate for a 30-second commercial in its 2019 broadcast was $219,367 per ad. In 2020, with “The Game” canceled, the company lost $18.5 million in ad revenue, but expects to bounce back with this year’s matchup.
Early numbers are suggesting that viewership for this year’s contest was around 14-15 million, with a rating of 9.1. Both would be the highest of the 2021 college football season and second highest in the history of the rivalry, falling second to the 2016 game.
Senior Vice President in Production at Fox Sports, Gary Hartley, remarks, “Michigan-Ohio State is an ‘A’ game for us. Regarding ‘A’ games: we [Fox Sports] designate certain games at the beginning of the season for the most coverage and senior broadcast teams, which get the most national broadcast. In general the higher the ratings, the greater the value.”
After Michigan's first win against Ohio State since 2011, many are saying the rivalry has, in a sense, been renewed. It will be interesting to see how this year's game will impact ratings for years to come.