The Great Canadian Ratings Report: MLS not sharing in World Cup love

Chris Zelkovich
The Eh Game

Since the eyes of the world will be on Brazil and the World Cup starting this week, you have to wonder how all this attention on soccer's biggest event will affect Major League Soccer in this country.

Wonder no more, as it will have no effect. You might think TV audiences would diminish, but it's doubtful they'll be affected at all -- mainly because they're pretty much near bottom as it is.

As has been the case since the second week of the season, Canada's MLS teams rank pretty much at the bottom of the television ratings with two games last weekend barely beating the 100,000 mark. Those were not exceptions.

Though Toronto FC benefited from the off-season hype to open the season with a record audience (352,000) on TSN, things have gone downhill since then. Either fans didn't like what they saw or they found something better to do.

Worse yet for MLS owners in this country, maybe they just don't care.

Despite having several big-name stars -- Jermain Defoe, Michael Bradley and Dwayne DeRosario -- TFC has rarely even topped the 100,000 mark in ratings since the opener.

It's all a bit of mystery. The productions are usually entertaining, thanks to plenty of passionate fans in the stands, and two of the Canadian teams (Toronto and Vancouver) are competitive.

Maybe all those soccer fans who will be glued to their TVs and computers for the next month have tried the MLS version of the game and decided they prefer the international version.

On the other hand, several other sports fared much better. The Toronto Blue Jays almost hit the million mark on Friday, the team's biggest television audience since the much-hyped 2013 opening day.

The Grand Prix of Canada was a big hit, too, with TSN pulling in 248,000 viewers on TSN and another 481,000 on French-language RDS. In all, more than 2.2 million people watched all or some of the race on the two networks. That didn't include those who chose to watch on NBC.

As for the Stanley Cup finals, NBC is enjoying a great series so far with ratings up significantly over last year. Saturday's game not only won the evening for NBC but set a Game 2 record. In Canada, fans have found the series a little less compelling.

So far, CBC has averaged 2,419,000 viewers through three games of the New York-L.A. final, down slightly from last year. That's not bad considering that last year's final was a lot more competitive and went to six games. The longer the series goes, the higher the ratings.

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

1. NHL

Rangers at Kings

Saturday

CBC

2,617,000*

2. NHL

Kings at Rangers

Monday

CBC

2,176,000

3. MLB

Cardinals at Blue Jays

Friday

Sportsnet

998,000

4. MLB

Cardinals at Blue Jays

Saturday

Sportsnet

791,000

5. MLB

Cardinals at Blue Jays

Sunday

Sportsnet

586,000

6. Horse racing

Belmont Stakes

Saturday

TSN

349,000*

7. NBA

Heat at Spurs

Sunday

TSN

298,000*

8. Auto racing

Canadian F1 Grand Prix

Sunday

TSN

248,000*

9. Tennis

French Open men's final

Sunday

TSN

234,000*

10. Auto racing

NASCAR Pocono 400

Sunday

TSN2

215,000*

11. PGA

St. Jude Classic final round

Sunday

Global

212,000

12. Tennis

French Open women's final

Saturday

TSN

166,000*

13. Auto racing

F1 Canadian Grand Prix qualifying

Saturday

TSN

164,000

14. UFC

Henderson vs. Khabilov

Saturday

Sportsnet360

136,000

15. PGA

St. Jude Classic third round

Saturday

Global

132,000

16. Soccer

Vancouver at Philadelphia

Saturday

TSN

116,000

17. MLB

Red Sox at Tigers

Sunday

TSN2

110,000

18. Soccer

San Jose at TFC

Saturday

TSN

109,000

19. Auto racing

Indy Car Firestone 600

Saturday

Sportsnet

59,000

* U.S. network ratings not measured.

THREE TO WATCH

Tennis, anyone, eh? It's not hard to get caught up in the excitement surrounding Canada's new tennis stars. Led by Eugenie Bouchard and Milos Raonic, Canada is making a lot of noise and attracting plenty of attention. Eugenie Bouchard's semifinal match last Thursday morning at the French Open drew an average audience of 536,000 to TSN and RDS -- an amazing number for that time of day. Raonic returns to the court this week at the Gerry Weber Open. Daily coverage starts at 6 a.m. EDT on Sportsnet One.

Tee time: With Tiger Woods still recuperating from back surgery, the eyes of the American networks will be on Phil Mickelson, who will try to tame Pinehurst No. 2 at the U.S. Open. Mickelson has never been camera-shy but will be thrilled to have the focus on his golf game instead of his financial dealings. Coverage starts Thursday at 9 a.m. EDT on TSN .

Cup runneth over: So apparently there's this soccer tournament in Brazil and apparently a lot of people will be watching. The month-long madness begins Thursday at 4 p.m. EDT on CBC.

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