The Great Canadian Ratings Report: It’s always hockey season in Canada

·Chris Zelkovich

It's pretty much a given that the World Cup will dominate television ratings, even though the kinds of audiences this year's event has drawn are a pleasant surprise. With CBC averaging 2.1 million viewers per match through the round of 16, audiences are up 43 per cent over the last go-round in South Africa.

Even with more advantageous start times -- five hours later than 2010 -- a 43 per cent jump is impressive.

But if you were asked to predict what sport might come second, surely you would have chosen something that involves the actual playing of a game. There's the CFL, which kicked off its season last week. Then there are the Toronto Blue Jays, who are defying all predictions and hanging on to first place.

But neither could match the sight of pimply-faced teenaged boys walking up to the podium and donning baseball caps and hockey jerseys while smiling for the cameras.

TSN's production of the NHL entry draft last Friday averaged 732,000 viewers. That's 77,000 more than the most-watched CFL opener and 112,000 more than the most-watched Jays game.

While this year's draft ratings were down 23 per cent from last year, the 2013 babblefest was staged on a Saturday afternoon when there's less competition on TV.

If nothing else, that illustrates the power of the NHL in this country. It dominates the ratings from October to June and even makes a strong showing when there aren't even any games being played.

Admittedly, the CFL didn't do much in its first week to keep viewers tuned in. With the exception of the Edmont0n-B.C. game, every one of the openers was a blow-out. Those kinds of games tend to send viewers looking for 'Saved By The Bell' reruns by halftime.

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

1. World Cup

Costa Rica vs. Greece

Sunday

CBC

2,416,000

2. World Cup

Netherlands vs. Mexico

Sunday

CBC

2,157,000

3. World Cup

Brazil vs. Chile

Saturday

CBC

2,076,000

4. World Cup

Colombia vs. Uruguay

Saturday

CBC

1,645,000

5. Hockey

NHL Entry Draft

Friday

TSN

732,000

6. CFL

Eskimos at Lions

Friday

TSN

655,000

7. CFL

Ticats at Roughriders

Sunday

TSN

626,000

8. MLB

White Sox at Blue Jays

Friday

Sportsnet

620,000

9. MLB

White Sox at Blue Jays

Saturday

Sportsnet

469,000

10. MLB

White Sox at Blue Jays

Sunday

Sportsnet

441,000

11. CFL

Alouettes at Stampeders

Saturday

TSN

387,000

12. Tennis

Wimbledon

Sunday

TSN

166,000

13. Auto racing

NASCAR Quaker State 400

Saturday

TSN2

151,000*

14. Tennis

Wimbledon

Saturday

TSN

130,000

15. MLS

Whitecaps at Rapids

Saturday

TSN

119,000

16. UFC

Swanson vs. Stephens

Saturday

Sportsnet360

111,000

17. MLB

Yankees at Red Sox

Saturday

Sportsnet

110,000

* Viewers on U.S. channel not measured

THREE TO WATCH

Wimbledon, eh? The annual strawberries-and-cream tennis tournament at Wimbledon is filled with history, and more history was added on Wednesday when Eugenie Bouchard and Milos Raonic became the first pair of Canadians to advance to the semifinals. Bouchard gets her big test against third-seeded Simona Halep of Romania on Thursday (10 a.m., TSN) while Raonic faces legend Roger Federer on Friday (TBA, TSN.)

Seeing red, and black: Football is back in the nation's capital and although the last attempt at giving Ottawa a quality team didn't work out too well (RIP, Renegades) there are plenty of positive signs surrounding the latest reincarnation, the RedBlacks. The team plays its first CFL regular-season game Thursday in Winnipeg against the so-far surprising Blue Bombers (8:30 p.m., TSN.)

Wheel excitement: This is one sports event that takes a licking and sometimes keeps on ticking. You might think all the doping scandals, combined with all the lying and covering-up, might stain this annual endurance test. But somehow it endures. The month-long trek and travelogue starts Saturday (6 a.m., Sportsnet East, Sportsnet Ontario, Sportsnet One.)

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