TSN banking on Women's World Cup of soccer

·Chris Zelkovich
TSN is hoping that Team Canada can go far in this year's Women's World Cup.
TSN is hoping that Team Canada can go far in this year's Women's World Cup.

It wasn't that many years ago that women's soccer was pretty much a basement-dweller as far as popularity went.

Barely a decade ago, women's soccer in Canada was drawing television audiences comparable to darts. It was so far down the list Canada's national women's team drew less interest than our men's soccer team.

But all that changed with the arrival of Christine Sinclair and an impressive program that caught the imagination of Canadians. The last World Cup drew more than a million viewers for the final between Japan and the U.S., while Canada's opening game against Germany averaged 662,000. Then there was the 2012 Olympics, when Canada's game against the U.S. averaged an impressive 3.7 million viewers (many Stanley Cup finals haven't matched that) while a total of 10.5 million Canadians watched some of the match.

The only event that caught the attention of more Canadians was Usain Bolt's victory in the 100 metres.

That kind of popularity certainly caught TSN's eye when it outbid the competition to win the rights to the 2015 Women's World Cup, which opens Saturday. The fact that the games are being held in Canada only adds to TSN's hopes that this event could break all records for women's soccer.

What with Sportsnet gaining on them and maybe even surpassing them at the top of Canada's specialty channel rankings, the event could provide a much-needed boost to TSN.

That's why TSN has gone all out for the World Cup, adding even more bells and whistles to what is already a record amount of coverage offered by FIFA. 

FIFA is offering what it calls its ``biggest and most advanced broadcast production for a women’s football tournament." While FIFA isn't exactly near the top of any lists of the most trusted organizations in the world, it appears to be telling the truth on this one.

It will supply a minimum of 20 cameras per match, which is what fans are treated to during events like the Champions League. The big games -- Canada's opener against China tomorrow (6 p.m., CTV, TSN Radio) -- will get an extra two cameras -- six more than the number used during the last World Cup four years ago.

That arsenal will include a helicopter-cam and a cable-cam to supply overhead views.

While more cameras don't necessarily mean better coverage -- networks like to show off their toys too often -- it should ensure that nothing is missed. All controversial plays should get plenty of coverage.

As if that weren't enough, TSN has created its own studio as well as a team of 14 broadcasters and analysts. It also has produced 40 Cup-related features to air during the tournament's 52 games. All games with be on TSN or CTV.

The usual suspects will supply the game coverage, including FIFA favourites Dave Woods, Martin Fisher, Kevin Keatings and John Roder. That will guarantee plenty of British accents.

Supplying a more Canadian sound will be Luke Wileman and Jason deVos, who will handle all of Canada's games.

While the tournament will likely be a ratings success, the degree of that success depends on how well Canada fares. The team is ranked eighth in the world, so it has a shot. And having home-field advantage, with huge crowds spurring them on, won't hurt.

But, as the last Women's World Cup final showed, even an early Canadian exit won't kill interest.