The Great Canadian Ratings Report: Cup final could still be a hit for CBC

Chris Zelkovich
The Eh Game

Although the CBC's dream of bowing out as proprietors of Hockey Night In Canada with a bang likely expired along with the Montreal Canadiens, there is some reason for optimism with the Stanley Cup final on the horizon.

Had the Canadiens made it to the final round, there's no telling how high the ratings could have gone. The final game of Montreal's conference final against the New York Rangers last Thursday broke the 4 million mark. A trip to the championship by Montreal almost surely would have meant breaking the 5 million mark for some if not all games.

With the Canadiens on the golf course, that isn't going to happen as many viewers traditionally lose interest once the last Canadian team has left the building and headed to the nearest pro shop.

But all is not lost for the public network. Game 7 of the Western Conference final between L.A. and Chicago on Sunday night averaged 3 million viewers -- an impressive audience for an all-American match-up. In fact, that topped the average for last year's Boston-Chicago final by more than 300,000 viewers.

Admittedly, there's nothing more compelling than a Game 7 -- especially when it goes into overtime. But the Hawks and Kings produced pretty solid ratings throughout their series, hanging around the 2 million mark. That growth could continue through the final, assuming it's competitive and creates some good story lines.

While hopes are high in Canada, they're soaring south of the border. An East-West final between two big markets could produce record audiences, again assuming the series isn't over in four games.

Game 7 set an overnight ratings record for NBC Sports Network with 4.17 million viewers, producing a larger audience than any game in the network’s brief history, including Stanley Cup Final games.

That was no one-off, either. Through three rounds, the playoffs are the most-watched in 17 years in the U.S. NBC, NBCSN and CNBC have combined to average 1.187 million viewers up 11 per cent over last season. That's the highest average since Fox, ESPN and ESPN2 combined to average 1.237 million in 1997.

The potential downside to all of that is that ratings were driven in large part by Chicago, where almost one-quarter of all households watched Game 7. With the 'Hawks gone, either New York or L.A. fans will have to get crazy about their teams to keep those ratings rolling.

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

1. NHL

Canadiens at Rangers

Thursday

CBC

4,084,000

2. NHL

Kings at Blackhawks

Sunday

CBC

3,088,000

3. NHL

Blackhawks at Kings

Friday

CBC

1,939,000

4. MLB

Royals at Blue Jays

Friday

Sportsnet

598,000

5. MLB

Royals at Blue Jays

Sunday

Sportsnet

549,000

6. MLB

Royals at Blue Jays

Saturday

Sportsnet

480,000

7. NBA

Spurs at Thunder

Saturday

TSN

259,000

8. PGA

The Memorial final round

Sunday

Global

230,000

9. Auto racing

NASCAR FedEx 400

Sunday

TSN

206,000*

10. PGA

The Memorial third round

Saturday

Global

192,000

11. MLB

Rays at Red Sox

Saturday

Sportsnet

175,000

12. NBA

Pacers at Heat

Friday

TSN

145,000

13. Soccer

Whitecaps at Timbers

Sunday

TSN

109,000

14. Tennis

French Open

Sunday

TSN2

97,000

14. Soccer

Crew at Toronto FC

Saturday

TSN

97,000

*Fox audience not measured.

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