The Canadian sports landscape will undergo yet another tectonic shift on Aug. 25 when TSN launches its new package featuring five national feeds. Much is promised as the top-ranked sports network girds its loins for a pitched battle against the NHL-enhanced Sportsnet.
It will be interesting to see exactly how TSN programs its new babies, especially in light of the fact that more isn't necessarily better either for the network or the viewers. That fact -- or at least a fact in my opinion -- was hammered home this weekend when Sportsnet found itself with too much of a good thing.
On Friday night, it had the Rogers Cup featuring homegrown hero Milos Raonic looking for his second straight tournament victory. It also had the women's draw and a key series between the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays.
The decision was to keep the Blue Jays on the main Sportsnet channel and relegate the Rogers Cup matches to Sportsnet360 and Sportsnet One. It's hard to argue with that choice, since the Blue Jays outdraw tennis.
But the problem was that Sportsnet One and Sportsnet360 (the channel formerly known as The Score) dont have as many subscribers. Add to that the fact that the match with the most potential viewers was on a channel (360) that rarely is home to find the genteel sport of tennis. The farce called WWE, yes. UFC, yes. Tennis? No.
I'm thinking most tennis fans probably didn't even know Sportsnet360 existed.
I know when I was flipping channels on Friday night, trying to see how Raonic was doing, it took me some time to figure out where I could find him. My first thought was CBC, since it was airing the weekend matches. I found the women's tennis on Sportsnet One but went right past Sportsnet360, mainly because my Rogers guide told me that it was WWE night on that channel. (Obviously, somebody didn't get the tennis memo.)
Finding tennis on Sportsnet360 is like finding ballet on the Action Channel.
There's no proof that I was in the majority, but I suspect there were many tennis fans in the same boat. The result was that a night featuring Canada's best male tennis player as well as uber-star Roger Federer attracted a paltry 91,000 viewers.
It's possible that the amount of competition (the Jays, a CFL doubleheader and women's soccer) hurt ratings, though the tennis crowd usually isn't that much into those sports. But considering that Raonic and fellow Canadian Eugenie Bouchard drew huge audiences at Wimbledon a month ago, it's more likely that the channel had a lot to do with the poor showing.
That's one of the potential pitfalls in Rogers' master plan for its massive NHL package. Games are going to be shown on channels such as City and FX, hardly known destinations for hockey nuts.
Here are the most-watched English-language sports events on Canadian television the past weekend, according to BBM Canada overnight ratings:
1. MLB, Tigers at Blue Jays, Sunday, Sportsnet: 753,000
2. MLB, Tigers at Blue Jays, Friday, Sportsnet: 671,000
3. MLB, Tigers at Blue Jays, Saturday, Sportsnet: 584,000
4. CFL, Ticats at Lions, Friday, TSN: 576,000
5. CFL, RedBlacks at Stampeders, Saturday, TSN: 484,000
6. CFL, Eskimos at Alouettes, Friday, TSN: 454,000
7. Soccer, Women's under-20 World Cup post-game, Friday, CBC: 428,000
8. PGA, PGA Championship final round, Sunday, TSN: 375,000 (CBS audience not measured)
9. PGA, PGA Championship third round, Saturday, TSN: 288,000 (CBS audience not measured)
10. Soccer, Women's under-20 World Cup, Canada vs. Finland, Friday, CBC: 265,000
11. PGA, PGA Championship second round, Friday, TSN: 255,000
12. MLS, Sporting KC at Whitecaps, Sunday, TSN: 208,000
13. Tennis, Rogers Cup finals, Sunday, CBC: 178,000
14. Tennis, Rogers Cup semifinals (afternoon), Saturday, CBC: 148,000
15. Tennis, Rogers Cup semifinals (evening), Saturday, CBC: 133,000
16. Tennis, Rogers Cup quarterfinals, Friday, Sportsnet360: 91,000
THREE TO WATCH
Jays of hope: Canadian baseball fans are experiencing something they haven't felt in two decades: the thrill of a playoff race as the Blue Jays continue to stay in the hunt for a post-season spot. Fans are obsessing on the key questions of the race: Is their pitching good enough? Will Adam Lind and Edwin Encarnacion return to form? What suit will Gregg Zaun wear tonight? Their playoff readiness will be tested on a western swing that finds them in Seattle, Chicago and Milwaukee this week. They continue their series against the wild-card rival Mariners on Tuesday (10 p.m. ET, Sportsnet.)
Soccer to them: Those suffering international soccer withdrawal ever since that big tournament in Brazil will finally have that huge hole in their life filled when the English Premier League kicks off its 2014-15 season on Saturday. Sportsnet has a triple-header starting with Manchester United taking on Swansea at 7:30 a.m. ET. TSN and TSN2 have games starting at 10 a.m. ET.
Death on the track: The race for NASCAR's Sprint Cup is a pretty tight one, but the standings likely won't be the focus when the Michigan 400 is run this weekend. Like it or not, NASCAR will be dealing with the fallout of last weekend's tragedy involving Tony Stewart , who may or may not be in the race. Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (TSN, Fox.)