Grey Cup blowout produces big ratings drop for TSN

·Chris Zelkovich

There's nothing like a blowout to kill television ratings.

A one-sided Grey Cup game produced a 17 per cent drop in audience for TSN on Sunday, with the game averaging 4.5 million viewers. On the other hand, it was the most-watched sports program of the year and the fourth-largest Grey Cup audience ever, according to preliminary overnight data from BBM Canada.

And it could have been headed for a record had the Saskatchewan Roughriders not been so dominant so early. Audience levels peaked at 5.5 million in the second quarter, dropped to 4.2 million during the half-time show, and never recovered.

With the game all but decided after 30 minutes, a lot of viewers decided to go elsewhere. Still, more than 2 million viewers hung around to watch the post-game celebrations -- a number that made it the second most-watched sports event of the week. Only the early Hockey Night In Canada games (2.3 million) did better.

Overall, more than 11.5 million viewers, or approximately one-third of the country, watched some part of the game on TSN and on French-language RDS.

The audience compares with the one from 2011 when an average of 4.6 million viewers watched the B.C. Lions beat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Comparing it with last year's game isn't quite fair.

Last year's audience of 5.4 million was the largest since the new ratings system debuted in 2009. That game, the 100th Grey Cup, was the beneficiary of a lot more hype created by a year-long celebration. It also was a much closer game and with the Toronto Argonauts involved it drew a lot more interest in Southern Ontario.

Despite the decreased number, it was a successful year for the CFL as it heads into a new television deal with TSN. Ratings were up 4.3 per cent during the regular season and the CFL scored some impressive playoff audiences.