The Great Canadian Ratings report: Raptors, world hockey send NHL into third place

·Chris Zelkovich
The Toronto Raptors are making their mark with record TV audiences.
The Toronto Raptors are making their mark with record TV audiences.

If you'd just dropped in from the past, say 2014, you might find this statement a little hard to comprehend.

An NBA game, going head-to-head with a Stanley Cup playoff game on the holiest hockey night of the week, drew more viewers than the match on ice. Not only that, but on the Victoria Day weekend, the best the NHL playoffs could muster not only finished behind basketball twice -- twice!! -- but also was beaten out by the world hockey championship final.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

While the main culprit is still the poor performance of Canada's NHL teams, the Toronto Raptors are obviously filling the void. Not only did the Raptors outdraw Hockey Night In Canada on Saturday (1.43 million on Sportsnet compared with 900,000 on CBC), they set an all-time Canadian basketball record on Monday by averaging 1.8 million viewers on TSN.

Adding insult to injury was the aforementioned world championship gold medal game, which averaged 1.36 million on TSN -- better than the most-watched weekend NHL offering.

It's not hard to see why this happening. The Raptors are a great story in a city starved for a winner. Throw in a little LeBron James and a few Canada-America conspiracy theories and you've got a lot of people who never watched an NBA game suddenly talking about whether Kyle Lowry or DeMar DeRozan is the key to victory. Get them talking and pretty soon they're watching.

The world tournament is a bit of a happy mystery, but maybe the Connor McDavid thing helped boost interest. There's also the fact that Canadians love to watch other Canadians fight for world domination. In all, a record average of 1.56 million Canadians took in the Team Canada victory over Finland on TSN and RDS. More than 4.6 million watched at least part of the 2-0 victory.

The tournament was a success for TSN, with audiences up 13 per cent over last year.

As for the NHL, even in this season of discontent for Canadian fans the numbers are shocking. Round averages aren't available yet, but let's compare the 2016 Victoria Day weekend to last year's.

The all-American semifinal games shown that weekend averaged 2.4 million viewers. This year's Canadian-free games averaged 1.1 million -- less than half. 

It's been that kind of year for the NHL in Canada.

Here are the most-watched sports events on English-language television over the holiday weekend, according to Numeris overnight ratings:

1. NBA, Cavaliers at Raptors, Monday, TSN: 1,800,000

2. NBA, Cavaliers at Raptors, Saturday, Sportsnet: 1,430,000

3. Hockey worlds, Canada vs. Finland final, Sunday, TSN: 1,365,000

4. NHL, Lightning at Penguins, Sunday, CBC: 1,340,000

5. NHL, Penguins at Lightning, Friday, CBC: 1,100,000

6. NHL, Sharks at Blues, Monday, CBC: 999,000

7. NHL, Blues at Sharks, Saturday, CBC: 900,000

8. MLB, Blue Jays at Twins, Friday, Sportsnet One: 725,000

9. Hockey worlds, Canada vs. U.S. semifinal, Saturday, TSN: 688,000

10. MLB, Blue Jays at Twins, Sunday, Sportsnet: 634,000

11. MLB, Blue Jays at Twins, Saturday, Sportsnet: 564,000

12. NBA, Warriors at Thunder, Sunday, Sportsnet One: 348,000

13. PGA, Byron Nelson Classic final round, Sunday, Global: 281,000

14. Hockey worlds, Russia vs. Finland semifinal, Saturday, TSN: 223,000

15. Auto racing, NASCAR All-Star Race, Sunday, TSN: 215,000 (Fox audience not measured)

16. Horse reacing, Preakness Stakes, Saturday, TSN: 182,000 (NBC audience not measured)

17. Memorial Cup, Red Deer vs. Rouyn-Noranda, Sunday, Sportsnet: 180,000

18. PGA, Byron Nelson Classic third round, Saturday, Global: 152,000

19. Memorial Cup, London vs. Red Deer, Friday, Sportsnet: 132,000

20, Memorial Cup, Brandon vs. London, Monday, Sportsnet: 128,000

21. Soccer, Whitecaps at Portland, Saturday, TSN: 127,000

22. Athletics, Diamond League Rabat, Saturday, CBC: 110,000 

 

THREE TO WATCH

Rapture in Raptorland: If anybody says they saw this edge-of-your-seat series between the Toronto Raptors and Cleveland Cavaliers coming, they're either prescient or tell more lies than Donald Trump. No matter how it turns out, this is a landmark for NBA basketball in Canada with Game  6 Friday (8:30 p.m. ET, TSN.)

Madness in Madrid: So UEFA and its minions spend all this time playing down to the Champions League final and realize they could have saved themselves a lot of trouble by just holding the Madrid soccer championship. Real Madrid takes on Atletico Madrid to see who reigns in Spain (Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET, TSN.)

Intrigue in Indy: How's this for a storyline? Oakville's James Hinchcliffe almost dies during practice for last year's Indianapolis 500, but recovers in time to grab the pole position for auto racing's most storied event. The only thing missing from this is a Hinchcliffe victory (Sunday, noon ET, ABC.)

 

 

 

THREE TO WATCH

Rapture in Raptorland: If anybody says they saw this edge-of-your-seat series between the Toronto Raptors and Cleveland Cavaliers coming, they're either prescient or tell more lies than Donald Trump. No matter how it turns out, this is a landmark for NBA basketball in Canada with Game 5 going Wednesday in Cleveland (8:30 p.m. ET, Sportsnet) and Game 6 Friday (8:30 p.m. ET, TSN.)

Madness in Madrid: So UEFA and its minions spend all this time playing down to the Champions League final and realize they could have saved themselves a lot of trouble by just holding the Madrid soccer championship. Real Madrid takes on Atletico Madrid to see who reigns in Spain (Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET, TSN.)

Intrigue in Indy: How's this for a storyline? Oakville's James Hinchcliffe almost dies during practice for last year's Indianapolis 500, but recovers in time to grab the pole position for auto racing's most storied event. The only thing missing from this is a Hinchcliffe victory (Sunday, noon ET, ABC.)

 

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