The Great Canadian Ratings Report: CFL is collateral damage in Blue Jays' run

Going head-to-head with the Blue Jays didn't help the Toronto Argonauts and Calgary Stampeders draw much attention Saturday.  (Peter Power/The Canadian Press.)
Going head-to-head with the Blue Jays didn't help the Toronto Argonauts and Calgary Stampeders draw much attention Saturday. (Peter Power/The Canadian Press.)

The Toronto Blue Jays steamroller has been flattening all the television competition this summer and fall, but none is taking a bigger hit than the Canadian Football League.

Everybody's taking a hit as the Jays suck the oxygen out of the Canadian sports TV business. It's not as if the  CFL is the only league getting flattened by Jays madness.

On Friday, at the same time the Jays were playing, the Leafs game averaged a paltry 205,000 on TSN in the team's Ontario region. Yes, the game featured a even-lowlier-than-Leafs Columbus Blue Jackets, but the team's regional broadcasts seldom drop below 500,000.

On Monday, the Jays game against the Kansas City Royals drew an average of 3.64 million viewers to Sportsnet. Over on TSN, the Monday Night Football NFL game between the New York Giants and Phladelphia Eagles attracted a paltry 134,000 -- the kind of audience usually reserved for Saturday morning English soccer.

But the NFL is still faring well in Canada, although it has taken a hit. Sunday's NFL games averaged 724,000 -- down 18 per cent from the same weekend in 2014 -- even though the Jays weren't playing on Sunday.

That's not a huge drop, especially compared with the CFL.

To put things in perspective, CFL games this past weekend averaged 350,000 -- well below the season average of 575,000 and 37 per cent under what CFL games averaged on the same weekend last year (557,000). Of course, there wasn't a Blue Jays game in sight last October.

The most-watched game this weekend was the Edmonton-B.C. game on Saturday night, which averaged a respectable 543,000 viewers. But the Saturday afternoon game between Toronto and Calgary, which went head-to-head with the Jays, averaged a mere 256,000 viewers.

Friday's Winnipeg-Ottawa game also went up against the Jays and drew 317,000 while Sunday's Hamilton-Montreal contest, going head-to-head with the NFL, averaged but 287,000. The latter number doesn't include those who watched on French-language RDS, but the CFL has usually fared well against NFL games in the past. That's not happening this year.

There are plenty of reasons why the CFL may be taking such a big hit. A dull product caused ratings to drop last season and it's not easy to turn around that kind of momentum -- even with more entertaiing games. The demise of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the CFL's top ratings driver, has certainly hurt.

And the fact that the Toronto-Fort McMurray-Hamilton-Ottawa Argonauts have only made a few guest appearances in their traditional home city has all but killed interest in a city caught up in Jays fever.

That fever is producing record audiences for Sportsnet: the first three games of the ALCS averaged  3.8 million viewers, curiously down from the deciding games of the ALDS, but still amazing numbers.

Once the Jays are done, things should start looking up for the CFL. That's certainly what the league and TSN are hoping.

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

1. MLB, Blue Jays at Royals, Friday, Sportsnet: 3,940,000

2. MLB, Blue Jays at Royals, Saturday, Sportsnet: 3,860,000 (Fox audience not measured)

3. NHL, Wings-Habs/Leafs-Pens/Preds-Sens, Saturday, CBC-City-Sportsnet One: 1,670,000

4. NHL, Oilers at Flames, Saturday, CBC-Sportsnet One: 821,000

5. NFL, Chargers-Packers/Ravens-Niners/Bengals-Seahawks, Sunday, CTV: 799,000

6. NFL, Bengals-Bills/Broncs-Bears/Chiefs-Vikes/Skins-Jets, Sunday, CTV: 650,000

7. CFL, Lions at Eskimos, Saturday, TSN: 543,000

8. MLB, Cubs at Mets, Saturday, Sportsnet: 460,000

9. NFL, Patriots at Colts, Sunday, TSN: 406,000 (NBC audience not measured)

10. MLB, Cubs at Mets, Sunday, Sportsnet: 367,000

11. CFL, Blue Bombers at RedBlacks, Friday, TSN: 317,000

12. CFL, Tiger-Cats at Alouettes, Sunday, TSN: 287,000

13. NHL, Oilers at Canucks, Sunday, Sportsnet One-360: 261,000

14. CFL, Stampeders at Argonauts, Saturday, TSN: 256,000

15. Auto racing, NASCAR Hollywood 400, Sunday, TSN: 186,000

16. Rugby World Cup, South Africa vs. Wales, Saturday, TSN: 182,000

17. Rugby World Cup, Australia vs. Scotland, Sunday, TSN: 157,000

18. NHL, Devils at Rangers, Sunday, Sportsnet: 149,000

19. Rugby World Cup, Ireland vs. Argentina, Sunday, TSN: 148,000

20. Rugby World Cup, New Zealand vs. France, Saturday, TSN: 145,000


Headers up: Soccer fans have an alternative to afternoon programming other than the Blue Jays and soap operas this week. The third leg of the UEFA Europa Cup competition plays out, starting with Anderlecht and Tottenham kicking things around on Thursday (1 p.m. ET, TSN.)

Throwback night in Canada: Even though the Maple Leafs and Canadiens are heading into two different directions (as has been the case for some time), there's always something special about a Leafs-Habs game, even if it's nothing more than Don Cherry openly rooting for the boys in blue. The two square off Saturday (7 p.m. ET, CBC.)

Brady and the Jets: The NFL schedule is packed with potential mismatches and ho-hum games this weekend, but the one game that stands out is Sunday's battle between the unbeaten New England Patriots and the surprising 4-1 New York Jets (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS.)