Could the Egg Bowl get more national exposure being played on Black Friday?

The Egg Bowl between Mississippi State football and Ole Miss is being moved off of Thanksgiving and onto Black Friday for 2024. Could the move bring more eyeballs to the game?
Mississippi State's Shawn Preston Jr. (7), with the support of Daijahn Anthony (3), reaches to intercept an Ole Miss pass to WR Dayton Wade (19) during the first half of the Egg Bowl at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Miss., Thursday, Nov. 23, 2023.
Mississippi State's Shawn Preston Jr. (7), with the support of Daijahn Anthony (3), reaches to intercept an Ole Miss pass to WR Dayton Wade (19) during the first half of the Egg Bowl at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Miss., Thursday, Nov. 23, 2023. / Barbara Gauntt/Clarion Ledger / USA

On Thursday, kickoff times for the first three weeks of the 2024 college football season were announced as well as times for other prominent games on the schedule. Amidst all the scheduling news was the announcement that the Egg Bowl rivalry between Mississippi State football and Ole Miss would be changing dates.

The 2024 installment of the Egg Bowl is moving to Black Friday after being slated for Thanksgiving night each of the last seven seasons. The game, which takes place in Oxford this year, will kickoff at 2:30 pm CT on ABC. This is the first time the rivalry is being played on one of the four major networks since 2014 when it aired on CBS.

The news has been met with mixed reactions from fans of both Mississippi State and Ole Miss. Some are glad to no longer have the game impacting their holiday plans, making it easier to attend. Others are disappointed to no longer have the game garnering the "national spotlight" that came with being the standalone college football game on Thanksgiving night.

But is it possible the move to Black Friday could actually get more attention on the game?

The biggest argument for playing on Thanksgiving was that by being the only college football game available, the programs and rivalry would get more national exposure. People love to watch football on Thanksgiving, and being the lone college game is sure to draw viewers.

Ideally, once you get those viewers watching, your brand as a college program will grow which should, in turn, help your program grow.

But there's one massive hurdle: the NFL. The NFL dominates Thanksgiving (and every day it plays on) with its highest rated regular season games coming on that day. Most tune-in for the Lions and Cowboys games played annually, but as you can expect, the primetime game gets plenty of eyeballs too.

Last year's 49er's-Seahawks Thanksgiving primetime game averaged 26.9 million viewers. And the Egg Bowl can't compete with that.

Over the last three year's, the Egg Bowl has averaged about 2.2 million viewers while occupying ESPN's Thanksgiving night timeslot. That's a bit more than what the game would typically average when played on a Saturday, but it's still pretty mediocre viewership compared to CFB's biggest regular season games despite being the only CFB game available to watch.

That's because most CFB regular season games that are in the spotlight don't contend with the NFL, and despite CFB's popularity, the average sports fan is going to tune-in to watch the NFL over CFB 10 times out of 10. CFB diehards will undoubtedly go for the Egg Bowl, but Joe Schmo that's just looking for football will go with the pros. It doesn't help that the NFL primetime Thanksgiving game is on NBC as opposed to ESPN.

The viewership and exposure edge that's meant to come with playing on Thanksgiving night no longer exists for college football. But there's a chance playing on Black Friday might provide some of those benefits.

The 2:30 pm CT ABC timeslot on Black Friday has averaged over three million viewers the last three years, and that average is dragged down by 2023's game between UTSA and Tulane that saw 1.72 million viewers. The 2021 and 2022 games featuring power conference teams both saw over 3.6 million tune-in.

That's a good bit more than what the Egg Bowl has seen playing Thanksgiving night. Being on ABC and not having a NFL game on a major network certainly helps, even when you're not the lone CFB game being played.

On the surface, it seems like there's no question playing on ABC on the afternoon of Black Friday is more desirable from an exposure standpoint than Thanksgiving night on ESPN. Unfortunately, it can't be that simple, as there is a pretty big caveat that could make that entire point void.

See, the NFL can't just sit back and let CFB have fun. The most powerful sports league in this country will take a mile whether you gave them an inch or not. They know that if they're on, people will watch, and people will gladly ignore whatever else is available to them.

It's why the NFL has taken over Christmas Day, it's why they are playing more frequently on Saturdays in December, and it's why they've moved into, you guessed it, Black Friday.

Last season, the NFL barged into what had long been a day reserved for college football and maniacal shoppers with a game smack-dab in the middle of the afternoon. The NFL made it's Black Friday debut with a meeting between the Dolphins and Jets, which kicked off at 2:00 pm CT and streamed exclusively through Amazon Prime Video.

The game averaged 9.6 million viewers, more than doubling any CFB game played that day. The fact that it was only available through subscription-based streaming certainly limited its ratings, but it's still the NFL. And it still won when going head to head with CFB like it always will.

Dolphins-Jets aired at the same time as UTSA-Tulane on ABC. I definitely think that game was hurt by being played between a pair of Group of 5 programs. Power conference teams would've gotten more of a draw. But there's no doubt they lost some eyeballs to the NFL.

As you can expect, the NFL will be back on Black Friday in 2024 at the exact same time, once again on Amazon Prime Video. But this time, the defending Super Bowl champions are taking the field.

Yes, the Egg Bowl will be battling for viewers with Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs as they take on the Raiders. Now from an ease of accessibility standpoint, the Egg Bowl has a big edge being on ABC as compared to Amazon. And being a rivalry between SEC teams that's turned into a beloved game by CFB sickos everywhere helps too.

But the reality is, most sports fans will be locked-in on the Chiefs-Raiders. Heck, it could be the Raiders and Panthers, and that's still where most would go. That's just the grip the NFL has on American sports fans.

So is there any real benefit for Mississippi State and Ole Miss to play this game on Black Friday as opposed to Thanksgiving when it comes to exposure?

Maybe. The biggest thing helping the Egg Bowl by far in this instance is where the games are being shown. With Thanksgiving, you're on ESPN while your competition is on NBC. NBC wins that battle by a lot. On Black Friday, you're on ABC while your competition is on Amazon Prime Video.

The network advantage flips in favor of the Egg Bowl. That doesn't mean you'll get more viewers. I've already said you won't. But there are still people out there that can access ABC but don't have Prime Video and won't add it just to watch the NFL. There will be some who will put on the Egg Bowl who may have otherwise watched the NFL simply because it's a game they can watch easily. The inverse was true when the Egg Bowl was on Thanksgiving.

As long as the NFL's Black Friday game is on Prime Video, it's not going to be nearly as detrimental to you as going up against the NBC Thanksgiving night broadcast. Now you do have to factor in that there are other CFB games happening, so there's some take as well. But overall, I think there's some chance we see the Egg Bowl get better ratings on Black Friday than it did on Thanksgiving.

But maybe last year's UTSA-Tulane ratings, which were lower than Thanksgiving Egg Bowls, was a sign of what's to come. I think the Egg Bowl outperforms it simply by being a SEC rivalry, but it could just be that trying to gain exposure opposite the NFL, even Prime Video games, is totally pointless.

Of course, the vast majority of State and Ole Miss fans couldn't care less about the ratings. They just want to be able to attend the game, and moving to Black Friday seems like it should invite better attendance than Thanksgiving games would.

The 2024 Egg Bowl will likely serve as a test run for how the rivalry is slotted in the future.