The Great Canadian Ratings Report: November shaping up as a good one for sports networks

Chris Zelkovich
·Chris Zelkovich
Mitchell Marner of the Toronto Maple Leafs scores on James Reimer of the Florida Panthers as Michael Matheson tries to break up the play during the first period at the Air Canada Centre on Nov. 17, 2016 in Toronto. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)
A resurgent Toronto Maple Leafs team has boosted ratings this fall. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

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.

As long as teams like the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers continue to look like contenders those numbers should hold, if not grow.

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:

  1. NHL, Leafs-Habs/Jets-Bruins/Panthers-Sens/Oilers-Stars, Saturday, CBC-Sportsnet: 2,300,000

  2. CFL, East final, Edmonton at Ottawa, Sunday, TSN: 1,178,000

  3. CFL, West final, B.C. at Calgary, Sunday, TSN: 1,049,000

  4. NHL, Blackhawks at Canucks, Saturday, CBC-Sportsnet: 900,900

  5. NFL, Ravens-Cowboys/Bills-Bengals, Sunday, CTV: 687,000

  6. NFL, Pats-Niners/Eagles-Seahawks, Sunday, CTV: 549,000

  7. NFL, Packers at Skins, Sunday, TSN: 298,000 (NBC audience not measured)

  8. NBA, Raptors at Nuggets, Friday, TSN: 297,000

  9. Figure skating, Cup of China, Saturday, CBC: 283,000

  10. NHL, Flames at Red Wings, Sunday, Sportsnet: 270,000

  11. NHL, Penguins at Islanders, Friday, Sportsnet One, Ontario, Pacific: 238,000

  12. NHL, Lightning at Flyers, Saturday, Sportsnet: 226,000

  13. NBA, Raptors at Kings, Sunday, Sportsnet One: 200,000

  14. Figure skating, Cup of China, Sunday, CBC: 194,000

  15. NHL, Canadiens at Hurricanes, Friday, Sportsnet East: 186,000

  16. NHL, Jets at Hurricanes, Sunday, TSN regional: 162,000

  17. NHL, Blackhawks at Flames, Friday, Sportsnet West: 155,000

  18. Tennis, ATP London men’s final, Sunday, TSN: 144,000

  19. Auto racing, NASCAR Xfinity Ford 300, Saturday, TSN: 136,000

  20. 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).