The Great Canadian Ratings Report: Canadian NHL teams' woes bad news for Rogers

The Pittsburgh-Denver playoff game was the most-watched TV program in Canada on the weekend. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)
The Pittsburgh-Denver playoff game was the most-watched TV program in Canada on the weekend. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

In many ways, Canada's sports television networks are like blue-chip stocks. Even though they rake in enough profits to keep the top bosses in cashmere, they have their share of ups and downs.

Take last weekend, for example. Bell Media's stock rose (figuratively) thanks to a 15 per cent increase in NFL playoff ratings. The four games were the most-watched events on Canadian television, bringing an average of 1.6 million viewers to CTV and setting the stage for another possible Super Bowl viewing record. (Interesting sidelight: while that sounds impressive, American networks averaged 36.2 million viewers -- somewhat out of whack with the 10-1 difference in population -- which gives you an idea of just how big the NFL is south of the border.)

If Rogers' stock were tied to its television performance, investors definitely would be taking a hit. But it has nothing to do with the fact that the NFL outdrew the NHL on the weekend (which isn't unusual at this time of the year.) And it's not just that hockey ratings aren't reaching the heights that Rogers predicted a year ago. (In fact, most of its NHL audiences are up with the notable exception of the flagship Hockey Night In Canada.) It's that events beyond Rogers' control are painting a bleak 2016 for the NHL on Canadian television.

Put bluntly, the Canadian-based teams are killing ratings.

As of this week, it is highly conceivable that not one Canadian-based team will make the playoffs. It's too early to count out anyone from post-season play, but things certainly aren't looking good.

That means things could get pretty bleak for Rogers in the second year of its 12-year, $5.2 billion gamble on the NHL. With no Canadian teams in the playoffs, ratings will tank.

And if you don't believe that, just look at what happened last season. When Canadian teams were still playing, games involving those teams averaged more than 3 million viewers. Once the last Canadian team was eliminated, ratings dropped and ended up 20 per cent lower than the previous season.

With no Canadian team to generate interest, those numbers could drop again.

There is still time for a Canadian team or two to make a run and get Rogers TV stock back on track. But the odds are getting slimmer by the day, leaving Rogers to hope and pray that the Blue Jays euphoria of last fall will be resurrected this spring.

1. NFL, Steelers at Broncos, Sunday, CTV: 1,800,000

2 NFL, Packers at Cardinals, Saturday, CTV: 1,600,000

3. NHL, Habs-Blues/Leafs-Bruins, Saturday, CBC-Rogers: 1,500,000

3. NFL, Chiefs at Patriots, Saturday, CTV: 1,500,000

3. NFL, Seahawks at Panthers, Sunday, CTV: 1,500,000

6. NHL, Flames at Oilers, Saturday, CBC-Sportsnet: 845,000

7. NHL, Blackhawks at Leafs, Friday, TSN regional: 550,000

8. NHL, Canadiens at Blackhawks, Sunday, Sportsnet: 545,000

9. Curling, Continental Cup skins (evening), Sunday, TSN: 521,000

10. Curling, Continental Cup skins (afternoon), Sunday, TSN: 363,000

11. Curling, Continental Cup team, Saturday, TSN: 342,000

12. Curling, Continental Cup team, Friday, TSN: 308,000

13. Curling, Continental Cup men's team, Saturday, TSN: 280,000

14. UFC, Dillashaw vs. Cruz, Sunday, TSN: 243,000

15. NHL, Canucks at Islanders, Sunday, Sportsnet Pacific: 232,000

16. Curling, Continental Cup mixed doubles, Friday, TSN: 227,000

17. NHL, Canucks at Hurricanes, Friday, Sportsnet Pacific: 210,000

18. Soccer, Manchester United at Liverpool, Sunday, TSN: 194,000

19. Skiing, World Cup men's downhill, Saturday, CBC: 165,000

20. Curling, Continental Cup team, Friday, TSN: 160,000

21. Soccer, Arsenal at Stoke City, Sunday, Sportsnet: 150,000

22. Winter sports, World Cup bobsled and skeleton, Saturday, CBC: 133,000

23. NHL, Stars at Ducks, Friday, Sportsnet: 125,000

24. NHL, Senators at Kings, Saturday, TSN regional: 123,000

25. Soccer, Sunderland at Tottenham, Saturday, TSN: 117,000

26. Soccer, Everton at Chelsea, Saturday, Sportsnet: 116,000



The road to Grande Prairie: While that sounds like a bad Canadian movie, all curling fans' eyes will be on this week's provincial playdowns for the Tournament of Hearts in this Alberta city next month. Sportsnet has a full day of coverage on Sunday, starting with the Ontario women's semis (9 a.m. ET.)

The road to Oz: After a disappointing 2015, Milos Raonic has looked impressive this season and has already recorded his first tournament win. He looking impressive in his Australian Open debut and aims to keep things rolling Wednesday against Spain's Tommy Robredo (7 p.m ET, TSN.)

The road to Santa Clara: The finalists for Super Bowl L (that's 50 for those not familiar with Roman numerals) will be decided on Sunday. The best story involves old-guard QBs Tom Brady of the New England Patriots and Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, CTV and CBS.) But the best game could be Arizona and Carolina (Sunday, 6:40 p.m. ET, CTV and Fox.)