The Great Canadian Ratings Report: Blue Jays off to record start on Sportsnet

Chris Zelkovich
Chris Zelkovich
Plays such as Chris Colabello's diving catch were part of the attraction for a record away opener for the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

When the deep thinkers at Rogers were reaching into their deep pockets to buy NHL rights for the next decade or so, they were no doubt dreaming of the big ratings that would follow.

Little thought, if any, was given to the corporation's baseball team, which at the time was drawing audiences on television that matched its level of mediocrity on the field.

Flash forward to 2016 and it's the baseball team that's saving Rogers from making even more cutbacks.

The Blue Jays started the season with a record audience for Sportsnet on Sunday afternoon, a number so big it actually topped what Hockey Night In Canada did on Saturday. The Jays opener against Tampa Bay averaged 1.46 million viewers on Sportsnet -- almost doubling the number from 2015 and topping the previous regular-season record for an opener set when the Jays started at home in 2014.

What's more amazing is that last year's season opener against the New York Yankees drew 777,000 -- a Sportsnet away opener record that ended up lasting all of one year. The Jays not only beat that mark, they flattened it the way their hitters flatten opposing pitchers.

The goodwill from last fall's playoff run is obviously still in effect. For example, the weekend Montreal exhibition series against Boston averaged 710,000 and 402,000 viewers -- a 36 per cent improvement over last year's series from La Belle Province. Last year's Montreal series against Cincinnati averaged 421,000 and 391,000.

What this indicates is that barring a Leafian collapse, the Jays are in for some huge ratings this season. At a time when the NHL is producing nothing but bad news for the bean counters at Rogers, the ratings and increased ad dollars will provide more relief than Roberto Osuna.

Notable: While figure skating isn't what it was a decade ago, it can still draw a crowd. The world championships averaged 502,000 viewers in prime time over five days on CBC, a pretty impressive number in anybody's books. 

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

1. MLB, Blue Jays at Rays, Sunday, Sportsnet: 1,460,00

2. NHL, Habs-Panthers/Wings-Leafs, Saturday, CBC-Sportsnet: 1,220,000

3. NHL, Flames at Oilers, Saturday, CBC: 814,000

4. MLB, Red Sox vs. Blue Jays, Friday, Sportsnet: 710,000

5. Figure skating worlds, men's free, Friday, CBC: 587,000

6. Figure skating worlds, pairs free, Saturday, CBC: 447,000

7. MLB, Red Sox vs. Blue Jays, Saturday, Sportsnet: 402,000

8. NHL, Wild at Jets, Sunday, Sportsnet: 398,000

9. Figure skating worlds, gala, Sunday, CBC: 357,000

10. Men's worlds curling, Canada vs. U.S, Sunday, TSN: 350,000

11. Figure skating worlds, pairs short, Friday, CBC: 323,000

11. Auto racing, NASCAR STP 500, Sunday, TSN: 323,000

12. Figure skating worlds, women's free, Sunday, CBC: 308,000

13. Men's worlds curling, Canada vs. Denmark, Sunday, TSN: 299,000

14. Auto racing, F1 Bahrain Grand Prix, Sunday, TSN: 295,000

15. Men's worlds curling, Canada vs. Finland, Saturday, TSN: 290,000

16. PGA, Houston Open final round, Sunday, Global: 263,000

17. Women's world hockey, Canada vs. Finland, Sunday, TSN: 236,000

18. Basketball, NCAA Final Four, Saturday, TSN: 217,000 (CBS audience not measured)

19. NBA, Raptors at Grizzlies, Friday, Sportsnet One: 191,000

20. PGA, Houston Open third round, Saturday, Global: 162,000

21. Auto racing, F1 Bahrain GP qualifying, Saturday, TSN: 154,000

22. NBA, Raptors at Spurs, Saturday, Sportsnet One: 134,000

23. NBA, Celtics at Warriors, Friday, Sportsnet: 130,000

24. Women's world hockey, Finland vs. Czech Republic, Friday, TSN: 106,000

25. Women's world hockey, Russia vs. Sweden, Friday, TSN: 104,000

26. NHL, Penguins at Islanders, Saturday, Sportsnet 360: 102,000

27. Soccer, Everton at Man U, Saturday, TSN: 92,000

 

THREE TO WATCH

The men of spring: While the opening of the baseball season has long been considered the true start of spring, for many the seasons don't change until the first ball is teed up at the Masters. The usual suspects will dominate the favourites list, which will not feature any Canadians. The lone Canuck in the field is Mike Weir, who's battling the twin effects of age and injury. Coverage starts with the par-3 contest on Wednesday (3 p.m. ET, TSN) with the real thing getting to air Thursday (4 p.m. ET, TSN and CBS.)

The boys of spring: There's nothing like a home opener and there's no home opener like a baseball home opener. The Toronto Blue Jays will start their Rogers Centre season on Friday against the hated Boston Red Sox, who are hated even more after paying $30 million U.S. to lure away David Price. The fact the Jays didn't even make Price an offer will be overlooked by the faithful (Friday, 7 p.m. ET Sportsnet.)

The boys of winter: At this point in the proceedings, Canada's Kevin Koe looks like he and his teammates are a lock to be in the men's world curling final (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, TSN.) But with Canada failing to reach the final the past two years, no rocks should be counted before they're swept.

 

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