The Great Canadian Ratings Report: Can tennis help keep TSN on top?

Chris Zelkovich
The Eh Game

When the NHL decided it preferred Mr. Rogers' neighbourhood, TSN found itself seeking a saviour to maintain its status as Canada's sports leader. The prospects of finding such a saviour were frankly a little dim considering hockey's power and the shortage of big draws in this country.

But the rise of Canadian tennis, led by Eugenie Bouchard and Milos Raonic, has TSN executives breathing a little easier these days -- especially after a surprisingly successful two weeks at Wimbledon.

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In fact, you could almost hear the more relaxed breathing in TSN president Stewart Johnston's comment that, "With their brilliant performances at this year’s Wimbledon along with a phenomenal championship title from Vasek Pospisil, we join all of Canada in anticipation of what they will do next. It’s a new era for Canadian tennis and we couldn’t be prouder to showcase their Grand Slam performances on TSN.”

The ratings provide a pretty positive sign that TSN might have a months-long big draw to go with the CFL, NFL and curling. Bouchard's final loss to Petra Kvitova averaged 1.1 million on TSN, a number that would have been substantially higher had it gone more than two sets. It drew an average of 1.8 million when French-language RDS's ratings are thrown in -- a record for tennis in this country.

Making those numbers even more impressive is the fact that Saturday at 9 a.m. ET (6 a.m. on the West Coast) is hardly prime viewing time.

Maybe most telling was the men's final, which had no Canadian content after Raonic was bounced in the semis. It averaged 584,000, another TSN high.

That's not to say TSN is counting on the next big event, the U.S. Open, to draw those kinds of numbers. At this point, Canadians aren't going to get excited about tennis unless there's a Canadian in championship contention -- and probably only at a big event like Wimbledon or the French Open.

But the rapid rise of Bouchard and Raonic is all about building interest and for the first time ever, tennis could become a consistent major draw on Canadian television.

Meanwhile, soccer is making life at CBC a lot more enjoyable these days. In addition to a 40 per cent ratings hike over the last World Cup, the current edition has broken all viewing records for the event. The network reports that as of July 2, 29.5 million Canadians have tuned in either on CBC/SRC, Sportsnet, TLN or online. This surpasses the cumulative reach for CBC’s coverage of the entire 2010 World Cup.

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

1. World Cup

Netherlands vs. Costa Rica

Saturday

CBC

2,694,000

2. World Cup

Brazil vs. Colombia

Friday

CBC

2,102,000

3. World Cup

Argentina vs. Belgium

Saturday

CBC

1,773,000

4. World Cup

France vs. Germany

Friday

CBC

1,543,000

5. Tennis

Wimbledon women's final

Saturday

TSN

1,100,000

6. CFL

Ticats at Eskimos

Friday

TSN

590,000

7. Tennis

Wimbledon men's final

Sunday

TSN

584,000

8. CFL

Roughriders at Argos

Saturday

TSN

534,000

9. CFL

Lions at Alouettes

Friday

TSN

532,000

10. MLB

Blue Jays at A's

Sunday

Sportsnet

516,000

11. MLB

Blue Jays at A's

Friday

Sportsnet

500,000

12. MLB

Blue Jays at A's

Saturday

Sportsnet

451,000

13. Tennis

Wimbledon men's semifinal

Friday

TSN

370,000

14. Rodeo

Calgary Stampede

Saturday

CBC

272,000

15. Rodeo

Calgary Stampede

Friday

CBC

264,000

16. Tennis

Wimbledon men's doubles final

Saturday

TSN

246,000

17. Auto racing

NASCAR Coke Zero 400

Sunday

TSN2

199,000*

17. Horse racing

Queen's Plate

Sunday

TSN

199,000

19. PGA

Greenbrier Classic final round

Sunday

Global

184,000

20. Martial arts

UFC preliminaries

Saturday

Sportsnet360

150,000

22. PGA

Greenbrier Classic third round

Saturday

Global

149,000

23. Auto racing

F1 British Grand Prix

Sunday

TSN2

143,000

24. Auto racing

IndyCar Pocono 500

Sunday

Sportsnet

103,000

* Viewers on U.S. channel not calculated.

THREE TO WATCH

Rev it up: If you're planning to watch the Toronto Honda Indy next weekend, either in person or on TV, you might want to brush up on who's who behind those helmets. The somewhat rustically named Iowa Corn Indy 300 will give you such an opportunity, (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, Sportsnet ONE.)

Worldly goods: At this point, the finalists are yet to be determined, but the World Cup final will surely be the best sports show of the week, if not the month. Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, CBC and TLN.

What's in a name? The most intriguing item on this weekend's sports TV schedule is a mini-doc on the Toronto Maple Leafs entitled The Future is Bright. Sounds like the best fiction on TV this month. Saturday, 6:30 p.m. ET, TSN2.

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