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The Great Canadian Sports Ratings Report: Baseball playoffs whiff on television

Chris Zelkovich
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St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter (13), shortstop Pete Kozma (38) and Los Angeles Dodgers second …

It's certainly within the realm of possibility that the upcoming World Series could be a ratings hit. There are plenty of good story lines between the hairy Boston Red Sox and clean-shaven St. Louis Cardinals that could engage baseball fans.

A seven-game thriller could easily capture the imagination of fans across Canada, especially among men with beards, and send ratings skyward.

But to date, things haven't been all that positive in Canada as fans appear to be ignoring the playoffs. For example, Friday's deciding game between the Cards and L.A. Dodgers, exclusive to Rogers Sportsnet in Canada, attracted only 416,000 viewers. That's not even a quarter of the audience for Saturday's Hockey Night In Canada prime-time offering and less than half what Saturday night's CFL game drew on TSN.

Saturday night's dramatic American League game between Boston and Detroit did significantly better, averaging 499,000 viewers -- a total that did not include the unknown numbers who chose to watch the game on Fox. That's not a terrible number, but the league championship series averaged only 383,000 viewers -- down 28 per cent from last year. The division series audiences were also down on Sportsnet, 34 per cent behind 2012.

In a year when Blue Jays ratings were up substantially, it does seem odd that there would be such a drop-off in playoff ratings. Maybe all those disillusioned Jays fans have just had enough baseball for this year and can't bear the prospect of John Farrell being sprayed with champagne.

It's never easy to assess ratings when U.S. channels also carry games, because they don't track Canadian viewers, but it's safe to assume that Peyton Manning's dramatic return to Indianapolis on Sunday night attracted more than 1 million Canadians. The game drew 725,000 viewers to TSN alone.

Here are the weekend overnight ratings as compiled by BBM Canada:

1. NHL, Leafs-Hawks/Preds-Habs, Saturday, CBC: 1,800,000

2. CFL, Lions at Riders, Saturday, TSN: 863,000

3. NFL, Broncos at Colts, Sunday, TSN: 725,000 (NBC ratings not calculated)

4. NFL, 1 p.m. games, Sunday, CTV: 710,000

5. CFL, Argos at Bombers, Saturday, TSN: 650,000

6. CFL, Stampeders at Eskimos, Friday, TSN: 631,000

7. NHL, Flames at Sharks, Saturday, CBC, 565,000

8. MLB, Tigers at Red Sox, Saturday, Sportnset: 499,000 (Fox ratings not calculated)

9. CFL, Ticats at Alouettes, Sunday, TSN: 473,000

10. MLB, Cardinals at Dodgers, Friday, Sportsnet: 416,000

11. NASCAR, Sprint Cup, Sunday, TSN2: 297,000

12. NFL, 4 p.m. games, Sunday, Sportsnet: 227,000

13. Figure skating, Skate America, Saturday, CBC: 226,000

THREE TO WATCH

World Series: Unlike 2004, the last time the Bosox and Cardinals met in the Fall Classic, the Cards are expected to show up this time. But that might not be enough to stop the Bosox, who seem destined to go all the way in their worst-to-first reversal of fortune. This time they might not even need a bloody sock to inspire them. Game 1 Wednesday, 8 p.m., Fox/Sportsnet

Skate expectations: The best the country has to offer in sequins and feathers go up against some of the leading figure skaters in the world at Skate Canada International. It starts Friday at 2 p.m. on TSN and moves to CTV on Saturday.

CFL Showdown: The Saskatchewan Roughriders slim chances of hosting the Canadian Football League West final and the Grey Cup come down to this game and the season ender next week. They need to win both and hope Calgary loses both. Sounds like a stretch, but this is the CFL. Saturday, 7 p.m., TSN

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