The Great Canadian Ratings Report: Jays of summer stirring up interest

Chris Zelkovich
Chris Zelkovich
Toronto Blue Jays' Melky Cabrera congratulates Jose Bautista after Bautista drove Cabrera in with a two-run home run against the Baltimore Orioles during the second inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, in Toronto. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Fred Thornhill)

While Rogers has invested most of its future in the NHL, the communications giant's own baseball team is a big part of its strategy. If the team's a winner, Rogers rakes in millions from fans at the ballpark, millions from viewers at home and millions from those who actually watch baseball games on their cellphones. (My guess: people with really good eyes.)

When the team loses, as it has for most of the past two decades, things don't look so good.

But Rogers is getting a pretty good idea of what a contending ball club can do for TV ratings. With the Jays stumbling but still in the hunt for a playoff spot, Sportsnet put up some pretty gaudy numbers last week.

On Tuesday, for a game against the even more stumbling Boston Red Sox, the Jays averaged 1,090,000 viewers. That's an impressive number for a late-July midweek evening.

Things continued in that vein all weekend. As a result Jays games took three of the top four spots despite being swept by the Houston Astros, and managed to outdraw three CFL games -- a summer rarity in this country.

Tuesday's game against first-place Baltimore continued that trend, drawing an average of 700,000 viewers -- basically what the average CFL game drew last year.

If the Jays can stay close, those numbers will go up even more in September.

Although viewing on holiday weekends tends to slide a bit -- Monday was a holiday in many parts of the country -- this one provided some much-needed good news for Major League Soccer.

Saturday's match between Canadian rivals Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact averaged 143,000 viewers -- a vast improvement on Toronto FC's recent showings. Having the game on TSN rather than TSN2 or Sportsnet One certainly helped, but if enough viewers liked what they saw those numbers could grow.

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

1. MLB, Blue Jays at Astros, Friday, Sportsnet: 832,000

2. MLB, Blue Jays at Astros, Saturday, Sportsnet: 724,000

3. CFL, Lions at Stampeders, Friday, TSN: 656,000

4. MLB, Blue Jays at Astros, Sunday, Sportsnet: 528,000

5. CFL, Roughriders at RedBlacks, Saturday, TSN: 516,000

6. CFL, Argonauts at Alouettes, Friday, TSN: 514,000

7. PGA, Bridgestone Invitational final round, Sunday, Global: 430,000

8. Auto racing, NASCAR Sprint Cup, Sunday, TSN: 288,000 (Fox ratings not measured)

9. PGA, Bridgestone Invitational third round, Saturday, Global: 256,000

10. Commonwealth Games, highlights, Saturday, CBC: 203,000

11. Commonwealth Games, highlights, Sunday, CBC: 179,000

12. NFL, Bills vs. Giants, Sunday, TSN: 169,000 (NBC ratings not measured)

13. MLS, Toronto FC at Impact, Saturday, TSN: 143,000

14. Commonwealth Games, highlights, Friday, CBC: 130,000

15. Tennis, Citi Open final, Sunday, Sportsnet360: 87,000

THREE TO WATCH

For love and money: Despite the early, and rather unexpected, departure of local heroine Eugenie Bouchard there are still plenty of Canadian hopes at the Rogers Cup. But most now sit on the men's and doubles side, most notably in Citi Open champion Milos Roanic. Daily coverage starting at 11 a.m. ET on Sportsnet. CBC has the semifinals starting at 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday and the finals starting at the same time Sunday.

Just for kicks: The best young female soccer players in the world are in Canada for the FIFA women's under-20 World Cup. The host nation is showcasing some great up-and-coming talent and could be in the mix for a medal. Coverage started Tuesday and is being shared by Sportsnet and CBC -- just like tennis. And the NHL. Is there are trend here?

a If, as many have suggested, Rory McIlroy is the heir apparent then he will get a great opportunity to show it this week coming off great performances at the British Open and Bridgestone Invitational. He will lead the field at Louisville's Valhalla Golf Club with coverage starting at 1 p.m. ET Thursday on TSN.