The first round of the CFL playoffs produced yet another drop in television ratings in a year filled with decreases. But it wasn't all bad news for three-down football.
Sunday afternoon's East Division semifinal on TSN averaged 865,000 -- a 1 per cent decrease from last year's Montreal-B.C. game. The West Division semifinal fared much worse with an average audience of 836,000 -- a drop of 34 per cent from last year's Saskatchewan-Edmonton game.
Losing a third of your audience, even in a blowout and even taking the Saskatchewan factor into account, is never good news. But look a little closer and it was actually a pretty good day for the CFL.
Going head-to-head against the NFL, three-down football kicked butt. The Hamilton-Toronto game drew more than 200,000 viewers than the early NFL games. The Calgary-B.C. game attracted an average of 160,000 more than the 4 p.m. NFL offerings.
That's even more impressive considering that the NFL games were on CTV, which has a broader reach than TSN.
In fact, only the prime-time Hockey Night In Canada games outdrew the CFL product on the weekend.
The mystery here is how the CFL manages to move down and up at the same time. It will take a lot more data than is available at this point, but overall ratings for most games are down this fall.
Last year's Hockey Night In Canada prime-timer on the same weekend featured the Leafs and Sabres, Jets and Predators and Rangers and Penguins. It averaged 2.2 millon viewers.
The equivalent games last Saturday, featuring an all-Canadian showdown between Vancouver and Toronto along with the Avs and Habs, Jets and Predators, averaged 1.99 million. This year offered a much better set of matchups, with more Canadian content, but attracted fewer viewers.
Figures aren't available yet, but it appears that NHL audiences are down so far this season. That might be due in part to audience loss to the Blue Jays, but might also be part of a bigger trend.
Televisions audiences are off 6 per cent in the U.S., part of a continuing trend as people cut the cord with their cable companies.
It could be a blip and there could be declining interest in sports on TV. Or it could simply be that when people find a cheaper alternative, they're going to take it.
Here are the most-watched English-language sports broadcasts from the past weekend, according to Numeris overnight ratings:
1. NHL, Canucks-Leafs/Avs-Habs/Jets-Preds, Saturday, CBC-Sportsnet: 1,990,000
2. CFL, Argonauts at Tiger-Cats, Sunday, TSN: 865,000
3. CFL, Lions at Stampeders, Sunday, TSN: 836,000
4. NHL, Oilers at Kings, Saturday, CBC: 705,000
5. NHL, Maple Leafs at Rangers, Sunday, Sportsnet: 677,000
6. NFL, Dolphins-Eagles/Lions-Pack/Saints-Skins, Sunday, CTV: 642,000
7. NFL, Pats-Giants/Chiefs-Broncos, Sunday, CTV: 574,000
8. Curling, Grand Slam National women's quarters, Saturday, Sportsnet: 412,000
9. NFL, Cardinals at Seahawks, Sunday, TSN: 393,000 (NBC audience not measured)
10. Curling, Grand Slam National men's final, Sunday, CBC: 363,000
11. Curling, Grand Slam National women's final, Sunday, Sportsnet: 338,000
12. Figure Skating, ISU Grand Prix, Saturday, CBC: 296,000
13. Curling, Grand Slam National semifinals, Saturday, Sportsnet: 282,000
14. Curling, Grand Slam National, men's quarters, Saturday, CBC: 262,000
15. NBA, Pelicans at Raptors, Friday, TSN: 231,000
16. MMA, UFC 193 preliminaries, Saturday, TSN: 229,000
17. Speed Skating, World Cup, Saturday, CBC: 214,000
18. NHL, Islanders at Devils, Saturday, Sportsnet: 205,000
19. Soccer, Canada vs. Honduras, Friday, TSN: 204,000
20. Auto racing, F1 Brazilian Grand Prix qualifying, Saturday, TSN: 191,000
21. Curling, Grand Slam National evening round robin, Friday, Sportsnet: 189,000
22. Curling, Grand Slam National afternoon round robin, Friday, Sportsnet: 171,000
23. NHL, Flames at Blackhawks, Saturday, Sportsnet One: 166,000
24. Auto racing, NASCAR Sprint Cup, Sunday, TSN: 152,000 (NBC audience not measured)
25. Auto racing, NASCAR Xfinity 200, Saturday, TSN: 150,000
THREE TO WATCH
Life of Haley: The NFL Network's A Football Life series runs the gamut from sheer hero worship to in-depth looks at the sadder side of the sport. This week's installment falls into the latter category as it looks at former NFL great Charles Haley and his triumphs and his fall due to bipolar disorder. Thursday (following the Tennessee-Jacksonville game at 8:30 p.m. ET, NFL Network.)
Hoop dreams: It seems as if every great Canadian basketball hope is followed by another one and this year's darling is Jamal Murray of Kitchener, Ont. He's so hot, TSN is going to carry every one of his Kentucky Wildcats games. This Friday, it's Kentucky against somebody called Wright State (8 p.m. ET, TSN4.)
Colour it Grey: The road to the Grey Cup goes through Edmonton and Ottawa this year, with those teams hosting the division finals on Sunday. The team with the worst name in sports hosts the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who somehow survived the semifinal with a third-string quarterback (1 p.m. ET, TSN.) The Calgary-Edmonton game to decide the West finalist should be a cracker, with most hands on board (4:30 p.m. ET, TSN.)