The Great Canadian Ratings Report: CFL scoring TDs on television if not on the field

·Chris Zelkovich

This has not been the most memorable season in CFL history, unless you take into account the possibility that the worst team in the West Division is light years ahead of the best in the East. And by ``best" we mean ``not as horrible as the others."

Scoring is down by a touchdown a game, too many games have either been boring blowouts, boring defensive battles (also known as offensive disasters) or just plain boring exhibitions of bad football. Even taking into account the fact that this is an expansion year, which means an entire team's worth of players who would have been deemed not good enough a year ago, games have been less than artistic successes.

Yet despite all of that negativity, the CFL continues to stand apart as the television success of the summer. Attendance at the stadiums may be down, but things on TV are rosier than ever.

Take Sunday's Saskatchewan-B.C. game, which drew more than a million viewers to TSN. That's a pretty impressive number, even if you take into account the instant audience that the Roughriders bring to every game.

This was a good game that went down to the finish, thus keeping viewers from flipping channels, but there really was nothing that significant about it. It was a mid-season game between two teams hacking good seasons.

So how do you explain such a huge audience? The Saskatchewan factor cannot be dismissed, but obviously a lot of other people across the country tuned in. The only explanation is that the CFL brand is strong enough to overcome an uncharacteristically poor summer.

Friday's game between Montreal and Winnipeg easily outperformed the not-dead-yet Toronto Blue Jays. It's no coincidence that the game that went head-to-head with the CFL was the lowest-rated one on the Jays calendar last weekend.

In all, CFL games took four of the top six spots on the weekend even though only two of them were anywhere near entertaining.

Based on history, things will improve on the field in the second half. That could mean some huge audiences for CFL games in the fall.

Rising star? It's not exactly in CFL territory, but Toronto FC and Major League Soccer have a reason to look at the ratings and not cringe. Saturday's TFC-Chicago game drew an average of 157,000 viewers to Sportsnet, a decent number for a summer weekend and a vast improvement on some of the Toronto soccer club's previous numbers.

Maybe a playoff run will help drive those numbers even higher.

Here are the most-watched sports events on English-Canadian television for the past weekend, according to BBM Canada overnight ratings:

1. CFL, Roughriders at Lions, Sunday, TSN: 1,026,000

2. CFL, Alouettes at Blue Bombers, Friday, TSN: 679,000

3. MLB, Rays at Blue Jays, Sunday, Sportsnet: 614,000

4. CFL, Stampeders at RedBlacks, Saturday, TSN: 517,000

5. MLB, Rays at Blue Jays, Saturday, Sportsnet: 505,000

6. CFL, Argonauts at Eskimos, Saturday, TSN: 487,000

7. MLB, Rays at Blue Jays, Friday, Sportsnet: 447,000

8. Soccer, Women's under-20 World Cup final, Nigeria vs. Germany, Sunday, CBC: 300,000

9. Auto racing, NASCAR Sprint Cup, Saturday, TSN: 292,000 (Fox audience not measured.)

10. PGA, Barclays final round, Sunday, Global: 266,000

11. PGA, Barclays third round, Saturday, Global: 237,000

12. MLS, Toronto FC at Chicago, Saturday, Sportsnet: 157,000

13. Soccer, Arsenal at Everton, Saturday, TSN: 150,000

14. Soccer, Leicester at Chelsea, Saturday, Sportsnet: 144,000

15. Auto racing, F1 Belgian Grand Prix, Sunday, TSN: 143,000

16. Soccer, Women's under-20 World Cup, France vs. N. Korea, Sunday, CBC: 140,000

17. Soccer, Newcastle at Aston Villa, Saturday, Sportsnet: 120,000

18. Auto racing, IndyCar Sonoma Grand Prix, Sunday, Sportsnet: 104,000


Open season: The last Grand Slam of the tennis season annually announces the impending end of summer, but this year will be announcing the arrival of Canadians to the big stage. Milos Raonic and Eugenie Bouchard are expected to make some noise. Coverage starts daily at 11 a.m. ET on TSN and its new feeds.

Youth in Asia: You'll be excused if you hadn't heard of the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games, but they do present a high level of competition and feature some up-and-coming stars. The Games started earlier this month and conclude on Thursday. CBC has extensive online coverage and will wrap it up with a highlight show on Saturday (5 p.m. ET.)

Just for kicks: The second leg of the UEFA Champions League’s playoff round goes this week, with the best that Europe has to offer competing for the championship. Arsenal meets Besiktas on Wednesday, 2:30 p.m. ET on Sportsnet. You'll be excused if you have no idea who Besiktas are.

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