The Great Canadian Ratings Report: Blue Jays trades paying off already on television

Chris Zelkovich
·Chris Zelkovich
New Blue Jay ace David Price drew a big television audience in his debut Monday afternoon. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
New Blue Jay ace David Price drew a big television audience in his debut Monday afternoon. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Two months ago when Sportsnet was breaking out the banners and trumpets to proclaim that it had surpassed TSN as Canada's most-watched sports channel for the first time in history, even the Rogers executives admitted it likely wouldn't last.

With TSN having the women's World Cup of soccer and the CFL revving up, Sportsnet president Scott Moore admitted that TSN would probably reclaim first place during the summer before Sportsnet jumped ahead again when hockey started. That seemed logical at the time, but things can change rapidly -- and they have.

Sportsnet issued another release this week claiming that it is still Number One and the main reason is the Toronto Blue Jays.

Ratings for the Jays have always been strong, but usually behind the CFL by 10 or 15 per cent. But so far this summer, that's no longer the case. The CFL seems to be stuck in neutral while the Jays, bolstered by some major deals and a rare pennant run, are taking off.

 Friday's game against Kansas City topped the million mark, the biggest audience since Opening Day. The rest of the weekend series just missed the million mark.

When newly acquired ace starter David Price made his Blue Jays debut on Monday, Sportsnet drew a record audience of 1.39 million. That was the largest audience outside of a home opener, with the 2013 opener drawing 1.4 million viewers.

It was almost equalled Tuesday night when 1.29 million viewers took in the second game of the Toronto-Minnesota series.

This bit of Blue Jays mania has boosted the Jays' season average to 649,000 -- the highest in Sportsnet's history. It doesn't compare with the World Series years, but that may not be far off.

With a showdown against the New York Yankees coming up this weekend, things should go even higher -- especially when Price takes on the Yanks Saturday. And that shouldn't surprise anybody.

There's solid support for baseball in this country and that support is starved for a winner. After all, two decades of mediocrity can create a groundswell of pent-up demand. As long as the Jays are in the running, the numbers will continue to soar.

While that's great news for Rogers, it isn't causing any celebrations at CFL headquarters. Audiences dropped off last year thanks to a mediocre product and the league's chances or winning back fans won't be helped by a baseball team grabbing all the attention -- and viewers.

Add in the fact that the league's biggest ratings-driver, the Saskatchewan Roughriders, are heading downhill fast and the Jays could reclaim their long-ago title as Canada's top summer draw.

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

1. MLB, Twins at Blue Jays, Monday, Sportsnet: 1,390,000

2. MLB, Royals at Blue Jays, Friday, Sportsnet: 1,080,000

3. MLB, Royals at Blue Jays, Sunday, Sportsnet: 997,000

4. MLB, Royals at Blue Jays, Saturday, Sportsnet: 981,000

5. CFL, Roughriders at Eskimos, Friday, TSN: 600,000

6. CFL, Argonauts at Tiger-Cats, Monday, TSN: 558,000

7. CFL, Alouettes at Stampeders, Saturday, TSN: 538,000

8. Auto racing, NASCAR Windows 400, Sunday, TSN: 329,000

9. MMA, UFC 190 preliminaries, Saturday, TSN: 194,000

10. MLB, Angels at Dodgers, Saturday, Sportsnet: 170,000

11. Hockey, World Jr. Summer Showdown, Canada vs. Russia, Monday, TSN: 163,000

12. MLB, Nationals at Mets, Sunday, TSN: 155,000

13. PGA, Quicken Loans National third round, Saturday, TSN: 146,000 (CBS viewers not measured)

13. Rugby, Pacific Nations Cup, Canada vs. U.S., Monday, TSN: 146,000

15. MLB, Angels at Dodgers, Friday, Sportsnet: 141,000

16. MLS, Whitecaps at Seattle, Saturday, TSN: 129,000

17. PGA Quicken Loans National final round, Sunday, TSN: 87,000 (CBS viewers not measured)

18. MLS, Toronto FC at New England, Saturday, Sportsnet 360: 74,000

THREE TO WATCH

Showdown in August: It's a bit too early to talk about crucial series in the world of Major League Baseball, but if the redesigned Toronto Blue Jays have any hope of winning their division, they'll have to start beating the first-place New York Yankees. The three-game series starts Friday at Yankee Stadium (7 p.m. ET, Sportsnet.)

Back-to-back gold: Fresh off a gold-medal performance at the Pan Am Games, Canada's women's basketball team goes for another medal at the FIBA Americas championship tournament in Edmonton. They open the tournament Sunday (8 p.m. ET, TSN) against Puerto Rico.

Pan Am, part II: The second half of the Pan American Games begins this week with the Parapan Am Games. The opening ceremonies go Friday (7 p.m. ET, CBC.) Television coverage of the events starts Saturday (4 p.m. ET, CBC.) Operators are standing by to take complaints.