The Great Canadian Ratings Report: CFL bounces back as audiences rise 10 per cent

Chris Zelkovich
Eh Game
The Great Canadian Ratings Report: CFL bounces back as audiences rise 10 per cent
The Great Canadian Ratings Report: CFL bounces back as audiences rise 10 per cent

While many believe that hockey is this country's national sport and others will argue that lacrosse holds that title, there's a good argument to be made that Canada's real national passion is knocking the CFL.

Despite its incredible long and rich history, the league is constantly downgraded by critics who label it as second-rate and mock its shortcomings. (Okay, there were some dead guys drafted, but who hasn't had an off day or two?) 

So it's somewhat satisfying to see the CFL bounce back from an off year or two, which is what's happening this season.

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After two years or TV ratings declines, the CFL is averaging 631,000 viewers a game this season -- a 10 per cent increase over 2015. And it certainly had an impressive weekend, with Friday's Ottawa-Saskatchewan game averaging 904,000 viewers on TSN and another 46,000 on RDS.

That's almost one million viewers, numbers usually not seen until Labour Day.

That game even managed to prevent the Toronto Blue Jays from completing a sweep of weekend ratings.

Even more encouraging for the league is the television performance of the Toronto Argonauts, the team critics cite as the weakest link in the league. But, according to TSN, the Argos are averaging 649,000 viewers in their first three games -- an 11 per cent increase over last year.

All this good news doesn't erase the fact that the CFL lost a lot of viewers over the past two seasons, with double-digit drops in 2014 and 2015.

But the season is young and reversing a bad trend is never a negative.

Possibly the most encouraging statistic is the fact that the number of viewers in the 18-34 age group is up 59 per cent over last season.

For a league that tends to skew toward Republican Party territory -- older white males -- this is very good news.

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

1. MLB, Mariners at Blue Jays, Friday, Sportsnet: 1,040,000

2. MLB, Mariners at Blue Jays, Sunday, Sportsnet: 947,000

3. CFL, Redblacks at Roughriders, Friday, TSN: 904,000

4. MLB, Mariners at Blue Jays, Saturday, Sportsnet: 694,000

5. CFL, Tiger-Cats at Eskimos, Saturday, TSN: 672,000

6. PGA, Canadian Open final round, Sunday, Global: 453,000

7. Auto racing, NASCAR Crown Royal 400, Sunday, TSN: 256,000

8. Auto racing, F1 Hungarian Grand Prix, Sunday, TSN: 241,000

9. PGA, Canadian Open third round, Saturday, Global: 235,000

10. MLB, Giants at Yankees, Saturday, Sportsnet: 166,000

11. Athletics, Diamond League track, Saturday, CBC: 164,000

12. MLB, Twins at Red Sox, Saturday, Sportsnet: 152,000

13. Show jumping, Rolex Grand Prix, Saturday, CBC: 142,000

14. PGA, Canadian Open round 2, Friday, TSN: 130,000

15. MLB, Dodgers at Cardinals, Sunday, TSN: 127,000

16. Soccer, Canada vs. France (women), Saturday, CBC: 122,000

THREE TO WATCH

Net gains: After his historic appearance in the Wimbledon men's final (er, gentlemen's final) this year, Canada's Milos Raonic feels he's primed to take it to the next level - even though he kind of came up short in London. He's got a real home advantage in Toronto, while fellow Canadian Eugenie Bouchard has a home advantage in Montreal. Rogers has coverage all week on various Sportsnet channels, with Sunday's finals (1 p.m. and 4 p.m. ET) on Sportsnet.

Drive time: While the last major of the golf season means that summer's end isn't far off, any major is a sunny time for golf fans. The usual suspects (McIlroy, Day, Johnson, Spieth and Mickelson) are all favoured at Baltrusol, but you know some guy nobody's heard of (hello, Jhonattan Vegas) will be in the mix. Coverage starts Thursday (1 p.m. ET, TSN.)

Wild weekend in Toronto: You know that nobody involved is calling this a must series for the Toronto Blue Jays, but you also know that it's pretty darn close to one. The Jays trail the Baltimore Orioles in the division race and have a great opportunity to make up some ground at home. The Jays know sweep would be huge, which oddly enough is the same thing the Orioles are thinking. The fun starts Friday (7 p.m. ET, Sportsnet.) And if you're looking to see who ends up where, there's a trade deadline special Monday (4 p.m. ET, Sportsnet.)

 

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