The Great Canadian Ratings Report: World Cup audiences runneth over for CBC

Chris Zelkovich
The Eh Game
The Great Canadian Ratings Report: World Cup audiences runneth over for CBC
The Great Canadian Ratings Report: World Cup audiences runneth over for CBC

Though this rates as pure fantasy, say along the lines of the Toronto Maple Leafs winning a Stanley Cup, just imagine what a competitive Canadian men's soccer team could do for that sport in this country.

There's little doubt should such a thing happen and a Canadian side actually make it to the World Cup, that event would become the premier sports television property in this country. Not one of the biggest -- it already is that -- but THE biggest.

Bigger than the Stanley Cup, bigger than the Olympics. Maybe even as big as an Olympic hockey gold medal game.

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The evidence is mounting, even with Canada ranked near the bottom of the world standings. To date, audiences are averaging 1.5 million per game and only one World Cup game has failed to draw at least a million viewers to CBC. (What do we have against Mexico and Cameroon?) Not only that, but the first-round game between England and Italy averaged 2.8 million viewers -- only 500,000 behind the final game of the Stanley Cup tournament.

Those soccer audiences do not include the number of people who watched online. They will undoubtedly be huge, mainly because the first four games were played on weekday mornings and afternoons when many are at work.

It's not hard to imagine that if Canada were in the World Cup, there would be enough interest to push those soccer audiences to stratospheric levels. A Canadian presence would spur interest among those who normally haven't the slightest interest in soccer -- the same way millions watch bobsledding or ski cross every four years in hopes of seeing a Canadian medal.

Even without a Canadian presence beyond Scott Russell, the tournament has been a big hit for CBC, thanks in part to a favourable time zone. Instead of games being played in the morning and early afternoon as they were four years ago in South Africa, the games are in more Canada-friendly afternoon slots. That pushes ratings. In this case, they're up 60 per cent over 2010.

The final figures aren't in on the Stanley Cup playoffs, but the final series averaged 2.7 million viewers per game -- on par with last year's final. Overall, CBC should experience an increase because a Canadian team advanced to the conference final this year.

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, Friday, CBC: 3,335,000*

2. World Cup, England vs. Italy, Saturday, CBC: 2,800,000

3. World Cup, Argentina vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sunday, CBC: 1,868,000

4. World Cup, Brazil vs. Croatia, Thursday, CBC: 1,623,000

5. World Cup, Ivory Coast vs. Japan, Saturday, CBC: 1,551,000

6. World Cup, Chile vs. Australia, Friday, CBC: 1,499,000

7. World Cup, Netherlands vs. Spain, Friday, CBC: 1,422,000

8. World Cup, France vs. Honduras, Sunday, CBC: 1,357,000

9. World Cup, Uruguay vs. Costa Rica, Saturday, CBC: 1,351,000

10. World Cup, Switzerland vs. Ecuador, Sunday, CBC: 1,200,000

11. World Cup, Colombia vs. Greece, Saturday, CBC: 1,182,000

12. World Cup, Mexico vs. Cameroon, Friday, CBC: 750,000

13. MLB, Blue Jays at Orioles, Friday, Sportsnet: 604,000

14. MLB, Blue Jays at Orioles, Saturday, Sportsnet: 599,000

15. MLB, Blue Jays at Orioles, Sunday, Sportsnet: 535,000

16. NBA, Heat at Spurs, Sunday, TSN: 448,000*

17. CFL, Blue Bombers at Stampeders, Saturday, TSN2: 332,000

18. CFL, RedBlacks at Roughriders, Saturday, TSN2: 288,000

19. Golf, U.S. Open final round, Sunday, TSN: 247,000*

20. Golf, U.S. Open third round, Saturday, TSN: 215,000*

21. CFL, Lions at Eskimos, Friday, TSN: 197,000

* Viewers on U.S. channel not measured.

THREE TO WATCH

Showdown in the Bronx: It's another big test for the surprising Blue Jays, who have struggled of late but managed to hold on to a sizeable lead in the American League East. The Yankees are in the mix, though, and will be looking to gain some ground. Though June is way too early to call and series a key one, this comes close for both teams. Series starts Tuesday, 7 p.m. ET, Sportsnet.

It's the women's turn: Three Canadians will be on the course when the U.S. Women's Open invades Pinehurst No. 2 on Thursday. Jessica Wallace, Sue Kim and Rebecca Lee-Bentham will try to tame the course that gave so many of the men fits last weekend. Thursday, 1 p.m. ET, TSN.

The good in being bad: The Detroit Pistons were one of the most colourful and memorable basketball teams of the `80s and `90s, earning a reputation as a team that would -- and did -- do anything to win. This ESPN 30 for 30 documentary takes a close look at the squad known as ``The Bad Boys." Thursday, 8 p.m. ET, TSN.

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