The fall of 2016 may be grabbing headlines for a lot of negative stuff, but it’s shaping up as a pretty good one for Canadian sports networks.
Basically, everybody who broadcasts hockey to football to basketball to soccer is having a strong autumn.
Since hockey rules, we’ll start with Hockey Night In Canada, which saw ratings take a huge dive last season as every Canadian team hit the skids — some of them right out of the gate. Unofficial ratings for the prime-time games this season are averaging just over 2 million, up about eight per cent over the first six weeks of the 2015-16 season. The late game (758,000 average) is off three per cent, but overall that’s a gain for Rogers.
Last weekend’s CFL division finals each topped the million mark but were seven per cent lower than last year’s finals. But the West final this year was basically over in the second quarter, which no doubt sent a lot of viewers scrambling for something more interesting to watch. In light of the previous week’s 14 per cent increase, though, the CFL and TSN will take that into Sunday’s Grey Cup game.
Besides, it can console itself with the realization that Sunday’s games drew almost double the audience that watched comparable NFL offerings. So much for the alleged wisdom that the CFL should never go head-to-head against its American counterpart.
Despite taking a thumping from the CFL and despite a double-digit drop in ratings south of the border, the NFL is doing fine in Canada. Bell Media reports that overall NFL ratings are up six per cent this season (similar to the CFL’s regular-season jump), with a 26 per cent increase among those aged 18 to 34.
It’s too early to do year-to-year comparisons on the Toronto Raptors, but there are encouraging signs there. Friday’s game in Denver averaged 297,000, well above last year’s average of 225,000. Even Sunday’s game, which started around the same time many in Toronto were heading to bed, averaged 200,000.
It looks as if the goodwill created by last season’s playoff run hasn’t worn off, which is good news for both Rogers and TSN.
The MLS is also enjoying a good fall, thanks to two Canadian teams advancing in the playoffs. Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact topped the 200,000 mark early in their run and Tuesday’s playoff game, along with next week’s second leg in Toronto, should exceed that by a fair bit.
Here are the most-watched sports events on English-language television from the past weekend, according to Numeris overnight ratings:
NHL, Leafs-Habs/Jets-Bruins/Panthers-Sens/Oilers-Stars, Saturday, CBC-Sportsnet: 2,300,000
CFL, East final, Edmonton at Ottawa, Sunday, TSN: 1,178,000
CFL, West final, B.C. at Calgary, Sunday, TSN: 1,049,000
NHL, Blackhawks at Canucks, Saturday, CBC-Sportsnet: 900,900
NFL, Ravens-Cowboys/Bills-Bengals, Sunday, CTV: 687,000
NFL, Pats-Niners/Eagles-Seahawks, Sunday, CTV: 549,000
NFL, Packers at Skins, Sunday, TSN: 298,000 (NBC audience not measured)
NBA, Raptors at Nuggets, Friday, TSN: 297,000
Figure skating, Cup of China, Saturday, CBC: 283,000
NHL, Flames at Red Wings, Sunday, Sportsnet: 270,000
NHL, Penguins at Islanders, Friday, Sportsnet One, Ontario, Pacific: 238,000
NHL, Lightning at Flyers, Saturday, Sportsnet: 226,000
NBA, Raptors at Kings, Sunday, Sportsnet One: 200,000
Figure skating, Cup of China, Sunday, CBC: 194,000
NHL, Canadiens at Hurricanes, Friday, Sportsnet East: 186,000
NHL, Jets at Hurricanes, Sunday, TSN regional: 162,000
NHL, Blackhawks at Flames, Friday, Sportsnet West: 155,000
Tennis, ATP London men’s final, Sunday, TSN: 144,000
Auto racing, NASCAR Xfinity Ford 300, Saturday, TSN: 136,000
Auto racing, NASCAR Sprint Ford 400, Sunday, TSN: 119,000 (NBC audience not measured)
THREE TO WATCH
U got it: The Laval Rouge et Or and Calgary Dinos have met four times in Canadian university football playoff games since 2008 with the same result: a Laval victory. But the Dinos believe this could be their year to break the jinx as the 55th Vanier Cup is played in Hamilton (12:30 p.m. ET, Sportsnet and Sportsnet One).
Vroom at the top: The Formula One season comes to an end with plenty on the line as Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton vie for the 2016 championship title at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (7:55 a.m. ET, TSN3 and TSN5).
The old Grey cup: Has it really been 104 years since Earl Grey decided that having a tea named after him wasn’t enough and started this Canadian football championship thing? (For the record, the tea was named after a previous Earl Grey, but who’s counting?) The Calgary Stampeders are favoured over the Ottawa Redblacks, but this being the CFL anything can happen (6 p.m. ET, TSN).