The Great Canadian Ratings Report: TSN's multi-channel universe good for tennis

Early results probably aren't enough to assess whether TSN's five-channel strategy is working, but based on the first week things are looking pretty rosy.

Using most of those feeds to air endless hours of U.S. Open tennis has boosted audiences 24 per cent over last year, according to overnight ratings. Of course, there are two provisos here.

One is that with more hours, you're bound to get more viewers. The other is that a strong Canadian contingent is helping to raise the numbers regardless of how many channels they're on. Eugenie Bouchard's (final) match against Ekaterina Makarova on Monday drew an average audience of 755,000 viewers to TSN and French-language RDS -- a huge audience by Canadian tennis standards.

That accomplishment is due more to Bouchard's popularity than having five feeds. The audience would have been just as big had TSN not launched those extra channels.

The same goes for Milos Raonic, whose marathon late-night exit against Kei Nishikora the same night averaged 448,000 viewers on TSN and RDS.

While tennis fans are no doubt pleased by all the extra coverage, it hasn't all been roses and sunshine. When fans tuned in to the TSN channels to watch Canadian Vasek Pospisil in doubles on Monday, they were sent to TSN's website. Instead of tennis, three of the TSN feeds showed the same CFL football game.

Why? Well, it turns out there was no commentary available on the doubles match so TSN ruled it unworthy of television. I'm not sure that was the right call. It might actually have been novel to watch a tennis match the way God meant it to be watched -- with only the game sounds as background.

It'll be interesting to see how TSN handles that issue when the big curling events are being played. But if there's one game that probably doesn't need commentary -- especially with the players miked -- it's curling.

The CFL didn't need the extra feeds to produce its usual weekend of big audiences. Sunday's Saskatchewan-Winnipeg game broke the million mark and Monday's Labour Day game in Calgary drew a 15 per cent larger viewing audience than the 2013 game with Edmonton.

On the other hand, maybe Toronto FC needs as many feeds as it can get. Its game against New England on Saturday was seen by only 22,000 viewers on Sportsnet360.

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

1. CFL, Blue Bombers at Roughriders, Sunday, TSN: 1,144,000

2. CFL, Eskimos at Stampeders, Monday, TSN: 885,000

3. CFL, Argonauts at Ticats, Monday, TSN: 796,000

4. Tennis, U.S. Open, Bouchard vs. Makarova, Monday, TSN/RDS: 755,000

5. MLB, Yankees at Blue Jays, Sunday, Sportsnet: 594,000

6. MLB, Yankees at Blue Jays, Friday, Sportsnet: 579,000

7. MLB, Yankees at Blue Jays, Saturday, Sportsnet: 576,000

8. CFL, RedBlacks at Alouettes, Friday, TSN: 485,000

9. Tennis, U.S. Open, Raonic vs. Nishikora, Monday, TSN/RDS: 448,000

10. Auto racing, NASCAR Sprint Cup, Sunday, TSN: 244,000 (Fox audience not measured)

11. PGA, Deutschebank Championship third round, Sunday, Global: 241,000

12. Martial arts, UFC 177 prelims, Saturday, Sportsnet360: 137,000

13. Soccer, EPL various games, Sunday, TSN: 121,000

14. Soccer, EPL various games, Saturday, TSN: 107,000

15. Soccer, Crystal Palace at Newcastle, Saturday, Sportsnet: 98,000

16. Athletics, Nanjing Youth Olympics, Saturday, CBC: 95,000


The real deal: After a month of boring pre-season games that featured the occasional starter, the NFL season gets going for real this week. The defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks host the Green Bay Packers in the opener (Thursday, 8:30 on NBC and TSN ET) with a full weekend slate to follow.

Labour Day, the Sequel: If there’s one thing better than the CFL’s Labour Day Classics, it’s the rematches that follow. There are two this weekend, with Calgary and Edmonton cracking heads in the Battle of Alberta II (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET) and Saskatchewan taking on Winnipeg (Sunday, 4 p.m. ET). All games TSN. Here’s the best news: neither game involves teams from the East.

Le Tour de Alberta: Okay, it’s the Tour of Alberta, but this still is Canada’s largest professional cycling race. Featuring an international competition field of 118 traversing the province’s most scenic locales, the five-stage event kicked off Wednesday and continues through Sunday on Sportsnet One.