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The Great Canadian Ratings Report: Opening dud and low expectations cost Jays viewers

Chris Zelkovich
Eh Game

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Only 391,000 tuned in to the Blue Jays' opener against the Rays.

What a difference a year makes.

Way back in 2013, the Toronto Blue Jays started the season as favourites not only to get back to the playoffs for the first time in 20 years but to bring Canada its third World Series. Fans and media alike wondered why the season was even being played.

As students of history will recall, things didn't quite work out that way.

But the anticipation was something we hadn't seen in two decades with TV ratings shooting through the roof. In fact, Opening Day itself drew an average audience of 1.4 million -- a record for Sportsnet and the kind of numbers baseball hadn't seen in, well, 20 years.

Flash forward to 2014 and things aren't looking quite so rosy. Nobody is expecting the current version of the Jays to win anything -- the same people who picked them for first last season have them last this time around -- and that certainly was reflected in the Opening Day audience of 391,000 on Sportsnet.

To be fair, the game was essentially over by the fifth inning so no doubt a lot of fans found something, anything, better to do. This game was on the road in the afternoon compared to last year's home game blessed with a 7 p.m. Eastern start.

A better comparison would be the 2012 opener on an April afternoon in Cleveland. But even that game drew 617,000 viewers on average. But that was an extra-innings thriller that kept the audience right to the end.

The good news is that 1.9 million people tuned in for some of the game and 540,000 hung around long enough to ascertain that this game was pretty much over.

A bad start for the Jays won't cause anyone to panic and neither should low ratings for Game One. The 1.9 million total audience shows the interest is still there, but the Jays are going to have to work for ratings this season.

Despite the disappointing opener, the Jays still have to be feeling better than Toronto FC. The retooled team scored record ratings for its first two games, but couldn't sustain it. Saturday's game against Salt Lake drew only 74,000 viewers to TSN2. It was TSN2, but still … 74,000?

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

1. NHL, Wings-Leafs/Habs-Panthers, Saturday, CBC: 1,946,000

2. NHL, Jets-Kings/Ducks-Canucks, Saturday, CBC: 927,000

3. NHL, Leafs at Flyers, Friday, Sportsnet Ontario: 818,000

4. PGA, Texas Open, Sunday, Global: 421,000

5. MLB, Jays at Rays, Monday, Sportsnet: 391,000

6. MLB, Mets vs. Jays, Saturday, Sportsnet: 388,000

7. Figure skating, world championships gala, Sunday, CBC: 375,000

8. NHL, Rangers at Oilers, Sunday, TSN: 353,000

9. Figure skating, world championships dance short/men's free, Friday, CBC: 327,000

10. Figure skating, world championships dance free/men's free, Saturday, CBC: 307,000

11. Figure skating, world championships women's free, Sunday, CBC: 304,000

12. PGA, Texas Open, Saturday, Global: 269,000

13. Curling, world championship, Canada vs. China, Sunday, TSN: 260,000

14. NHL, Hawks at Senators, Friday, Sportsnet East: 247,000

15. NHL, Flames at Senators, Sunday, Sportsnet East-West: 234,000

16. MLB, Mets vs. Jays, Friday, Sportsnet360: 228,000

17. Auto racing, NASCAR Sprint Cup, Sunday, TSN2: 224,000 (Fox audience not calculated)

18. Soccer, Manchester City at Arsenal, Saturday, TSN: 188,000

19. Figure skating, world championships dance short, Friday, CBC: 184,000

20. Soccer, Tottenham at Liverpool, Sunday, TSN: 179,000

21. NHL, Ducks at Oilers, Friday, Sportsnet West: 166,000

22. Basketball, NCAA Elite Eight, Sunday, TSN: 160,000 (CBS audience not calculated)

23. Curling, world championship, Canada vs. Denmark, Saturday, TSN: 159,000

24. Basketball, NCAA Elite Eight, Saturday, TSN: 154,000

25. Soccer, Chelsea at Crystal Palace, Saturday, Sportsnet: 145,000

26. NBA: Raptors at Magic, Sunday, Sportsnet One: 140,000

THREE TO WATCH

New Jays, old ways? While the 2014 season started off pretty much like the last one did for the Toronto Blue Jays -- no pitching and injury woes -- there's still plenty of hope surrounding the team's home opener. Add in the fact it's against the dreaded New York Yankees and it should be fun -- even if it's just to watch the Opening Day streakers get tackled by Rogers Centre security. Friday, 7 p.m. EDT, Sportsnet.

Hoop dreams or nightmare? The Toronto Raptors have surprised everybody with their incredible turnaround this season, even if you don't include the fact they've made the playoffs for the first time in six seasons. How far they'll go in the playoffs is anybody's guess but they could provide an indication on Friday with a game against the powerful Indiana Pacers. Friday, 7 p.m. EDT, TSN.

Men with brooms: The last big event on the 2013-14 curling calendar is taking place in Beijing and Canada, as always, is one of the favourites. Alberta's Kevin Koe would love nothing more than to come back with a gold medal. The final goes Sunday at 3 a.m. EDT on TSN, with a replay at a more civilized hour of 3 p.m. on TSN2.

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