The Great Canadian Ratings Report: Blue Jays on a roll both on field and on television

Chris Zelkovich
Eh Game
Unlike Ezequiel Carrera, shown scoring on a Josh Donaldson single against Cleveland on Saturday, the Jays' ratings aren't sliding one bit this year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Unlike Ezequiel Carrera, shown scoring on a Josh Donaldson single against Cleveland on Saturday, the Jays' ratings aren't sliding one bit this year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

While most of the media coverage involving Rogers has focused on its struggles with its NHL gamble and the decision to resurrect Ron MacLean and drive a stake through George Stroumboulopoulos' hockey hopes, there is a much happier story involving the cable giant.

Thanks to  mid-season turnaround last year, the Rogers-owned Toronto Blue Jays are experiencing a boom in TV ratings that offers a nice counterbalance to what the NHL has produced. (On the other hand, the Jays didn't cost Rogers $5.2 billion, but that's another story.)

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 Bolstered by some pretty impressive million-plus audiences for games against Cleveland last week, the Jays are averaging 928,000 on Sportsnet this season -- up an incredible 50 per cent over last year at this time.

And that number is continuing to rise. Jays broadcasts in June averaged 936,000 viewers -- a 37 per cent increase over June of 2015. That doesn't include the 1.2 million who tuned in to Monday's game against Kansas City.

An interesting sidelight: As of the end of June, Sportsnet enjoyed 23 games that topped the million mark in average audience. Last year, the number was two.

Granted, Sportsnet may be hard-pressed to improve on the audiences that they experienced after those mid-season trades turned the Jays from pretenders to contenders last year.

But there's nothing to say this Jaysmania won't continue at this point.

Besides the Blue Jays, there were two other items of note in last weekend's ratings.

One was the Queen's Plate, whose 314,000 average on CTV and TSN2 more than tripled last year's average. The fact that 1.2 million Canadians watched at least some of race coverage might indicate that the race may be on its way back after several years of poor ratings.

But possibly the most interesting number was what the NHL's annual free-agent frenzy produced. Even with the big draw, Steve Stamkos, off the board the ``event" set a record for TSN with an average of 317,000 viewers.

The fact that 2.3 million people tuned in at some point in the proceedings affirmed the belief that hockey still holds a pretty good grip on the nation.

The fact that TSN easily outdrew Sportsnet (226,000) is also an indication that the former sports leader is still seen as the source when it comes to NHL-related stuff even though it no longer carries NHL national games. So it's not all positive news for Rogers.

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

1. MLB, Indians at Blue Jays, Friday, Sportsnet: 1,340,000

2. Euro soccer, Germany vs. Italy, Saturday, TSN: 1,253,000

3. MLB, Indians at Blue Jays, Sunday, Sportsnet: 1,140,000

4. MLB, Indians at Blue Jays, Saturday, Sportsnet: 936,000

5. MLB, Indians at Blue Jays, Thursday, Sportsnet: 895,000

6. CFL, Argonauts at Roughriders, Thursday, TSN: 714,000

7.  Euro soccer, Wales vs. Belgium, Friday, TSN: 625,000

8. CFL, Blue Bombers at Stampeders, Friday, TSN: 590,000

9. CFL, Lions at Tiger-Cats, Friday, TSN: 528,000

10. CFL, Alouettes at Redblacks, Thursday, TSN: 442,000

11. NHL, Free Agency, Friday, TSN: 317,000

12. Horse racing, Queen's Plate, Sunday, CTV-TSN2: 314,000

13. Auto racing, Formula One Austrian Grand Prix, Sunday, TSN: 277,000

14. NHL, Free agency, Friday, Sportsnet: 226,000

15. Auto racing, NASCAR Coke Zero 400, Saturday, TSN: 190,000 (NBC audience not measured)

16. MLS, New England at Montreal, Saturday, TSN: 143,000

THREE TO WATCH

Canadian hopes, Part I: If Brooke Henderson isn't already a household name in Canada, she could be after this weekend. The 18-year-old Smiths Falls, Ont., golfer is coming off a victory in a major and another win last week as she heads into the U.S. Women's Open as one of the favourites. Coverage starts Thursday, 3 p.m. ET, TSN.

Fightin' words: Those who appreciate a good fist to the nose or forearm to the midsection will have a lot to watch this week in the lead-up to Saturday's UFC 200. TSN's coverage starts with a bout Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET) and wraps up Sunday with analysis of UFC 200 (1 a.m. ET.)

Canadian hopes, Part II: While this may seem like a misprint, there could be a Canadian man in the final at Wimbledon this year. That will be decided Friday (8 a.m. ET, TSN) when Milos Raonic attempts to win his second straight match against Roger Federer and advance to Sunday's final (9 a.m., TSN and NBC.) 

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