Great Canadian Ratings Report: Amid bleak TV sports returns, Blue Jays numbers are one of the few bright spots

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Great Canadian Ratings Report: Amid bleak TV sports returns, Blue Jays numbers are one of the few bright spots
Great Canadian Ratings Report: Amid bleak TV sports returns, Blue Jays numbers are one of the few bright spots

If all else fails, at least Rogers has the Toronto Blue Jays.

With trouble surrounding the Rogers television empire on several fronts -- most notably tanking ratings on the NHL and its City channel --  the Jays are proving to be the cable empire's saviour.

The team set another record by posting the largest home-opening audience in Sportsnet's history on Friday, drawing an average of 1.77 million viewers. That's 23 per cent higher than the Rogers channel's previous high-water mark of 1.44 million, set in 2013. (It also easily outdrew Hockey Night In Canada, an unheard-of happening at this time of the year.)

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While the Jays' on-field performance has been spotty, the TV audiences are strong with a pair of million-plus audiences last week and an average of 1.2 million viewers for the first home series of the season. The first week's numbers are close to double what they were last season, showing that last fall's euphoria hasn't worn off.

This is providing a few warming rays of sunshine in what are becoming exceedingly dark days at Rogers. Heading into the first Canada-free Stanley Cup playoffs in almost half a century, things really couldn't look much worse as far as the TV side goes.

After watching ratings for its flagship Hockey Night In Canada drop more than 30 per cent in the first two years of its record $5.2 billion NHL deal, Rogers is facing a serious financial hit in the playoffs.
Industry sources have estimated that the potential loss of ad revenue in the playoffs will hit at least $10 million this spring -- a time when hockey broadcasters usually make their profits. But with no Canadian teams to stir hearts across the Great White North, the big audiences the broadcasts usually produce won't materialize.

Ratings will still top the sports lists, but they won't be enough to satisfy advertisers. Worse yet, they will face some serious competition from the Jays and the Toronto Raptors. While Raptors ratings have been disappointing (the team's Sunday night game barely beat out Saturday afternoon swimming on CBC), a playoff run should do substantially better and could draw even more viewers away from hockey.

The Raptors drew a few audiences around half a million during their brief playoff run last year, so a second-round appearance should produce even bigger numbers. Assuming the Blue Jays continue to pull in viewers, you could be looking at upwards of 1.5 million people focused on baseball and basketball.

With only so many sports fans out there, something would have to give -- and Canadians would be far more likely to stick with Canadian teams than watching a Panthers-Islanders series.

And that would be bad news for the NHL.

Rogers, of course, would share in some of that ratings (and ad) wealth since it has a monopoly on the Jays and shares the Raptors with TSN. But those properties don't produce the ad bucks that the Stanley Cup playoffs usually do.

Notable numbers: While most ratings (outside of the Blue Jays) are either struggling or dropping, the Masters showed an increase this year -- despite the lack of Canadian content or strong performances from the usual suspects (Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, etc.). Bell Media reports that audiences were up 10 per cent over last year, when Global was the tournament's home. Sunday's final averaged 1.289 million on TSN and CTV (interestingly, TSN outdrew CTV by 120,000 viewers), with another 242,000 watching on French-language RDS. The audience peaked at 2.6 million as winner Danny Willett putted out on the 18th hole. Bell also recorded another 300,000 video views on

Here are the most-watched sports events on English-language television from the last weekend, according to Numeris overnight ratings:

1. MLB, Red Sox at Blue Jays, Friday, Sportsnet: 1,770,000
2. Golf, Masters final round, Sunday, TSN-CTV: 1,289,000
3. NHL, Lightning-Habs/Leafs-Devils, Saturday, CBC-Sportsnet: 1,210,000
4. Golf, Masters third round, Saturday, CTV-TSN: 1,022,000
5. NHL, Jets-Kings/Oilers-Canucks, Saturday, CBC: 933,000
6. MLB, Red Sox at Blue Jays, Saturday, Sportsnet: 913,000
7. MLB, Red Sox at Blue Jays, Sunday,  Sportsnet: 912,000
8. Curling, Men's worlds final, Sunday, TSN: 585,000
9. Golf, Masters second round, Friday, TSN: 445,000
10. Golf, Masters early coverage, Sunday, TSN: 379,000
11. Curling, Men's worlds bronze game, Sunday, TSN: 312,000
12. Curling, Men's worlds 1-2 Page playoff, Friday, TSN: 307,000
13. Curling, Men's worlds semifinal, Saturday, TSN: 298,000
14. NHL, Flyers at Islanders, Sunday, Sportsnet: 256,000
15. Golf, Masters early coverage, Friday, TSN: 192,000
16. NBA, Raptors at Knicks, Sunday, Sportsnet One: 177,000
17. Swimming, Canadian Olympic-Paralympic trials, Saturday, CBC: 173,000
18. Diving, FINA Grand Prix, Saturday, CBC: 155,000
19. Curling, Men's worlds 3-4 Page playoff, Friday, TSN: 149,000
20. Soccer, Manchester City at Tottenham, Sunday, Sportsnet: 133,000

Stanley Cup, American Style: There's nothing like the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs to get Canadians worked up into a lather as they gather in living rooms and bars by the millions to cheer on their home teams. Unfortunately, these Stanley Cup playoffs won't be like that since, for the first time since the other Trudeau was prime minister, there are no Canadian teams in the two-month tournament. Still, there will be good hockey. It all starts with three games Wednesday, beginning with Detroit at Tampa Bay (7 p.m. ET, CBC.)

How sweep it is: With the Leafs out of the playoffs yet again, those who like their sports on the rocks will get a chance to watch Canadian curling's best compete in the Pinty's Grand Slam of Curling Players' Championship, which is making a rare appearance in Toronto. Coverage starts Thursday (Noon ET, Sportsnet.)

On the ball: The second leg of the Europa League kicks off this week with one of the more attractive games involving Liverpool and their manager Jurgen Klopp taking on his former Borussia Dortmund club on Thursday (3 p.m. ET, TSN.)


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