The Great Canadian Ratings Report: Rogers Cup audiences take a dive as events conspire against tennis

·Chris Zelkovich
Novak Djokovic of Serbia holds up the champions trophy after defeating Kei Nishikori of Japan to win the Rogers Cup tennis tournament at Aviva Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports (Reuters)

When it comes to television ratings, there's one immutable law: They don't always make sense.

A boring hockey game between non-contenders draws more than a million viewers. A thrilling overtime soccer match can't lure more than 40,000.

Sometimes it's because there's a conflict with a big game or big event  on another network. Sometimes, it's simply a matter of not enough people caring.

And sometimes it's just bad luck -- like being scheduled on a summer holiday weekend in a country where such weekends are precious. And sometimes, it's all of the above.

I'm thinking that's the explanation for a double-digit drop in ratings for the Rogers Cup, an event whose television audience has been growing in recent years thanks to the incredible rise of talented young Canadians Milos Raonic and Eugenie Bouchard.

Sunday's men's final, featuring world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, averaged a mere 219,000 viewers on Sportsnet -- a 31 per cent drop from last year. The women's final averaged 203,000, 18 per cent below last year.
There are several possible explanations for this fall off a cliff. For one, last year's weekend matches were on CBC, which has a larger reach than Sportsnet. But it's not 31 per cent or 18 per cent larger, so that can't explain everything.

This year's semifinals and finals landed on a holiday weekend, which almost surely played a role. On the other hand, it didn't hurt the Toronto Blue Jays, who drew 1.1 million on Sunday -- a record for Sportsnet One.

This year's tournament also lacked the star power of last year's, with several big names (Federer, Murray, Williams) failing to show.

There are plenty of reasons why this year's tournament was a relative bomb, so we don't need to write off tennis as a flash in the pan quite yet. But if there is a disturbing sign it's that Friday's quarterfinal between Raonic and Gael Monfils, airing in prime time against the Jays and a CFL game, averaged only 110,000 viewers.

With the Jays hitting 1.3 million on Sportsnet and the Saskatchewan-Montreal blowout still luring 597,000 viewers on TSN and RDS, maybe there just weren't enough sports fans to go around.

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

1. MLB, Blue Jays at Astros, Monday, Sportsnet: 1,380,000

2. MLB, Orioles at Blue Jays, Friday, Sportsnet: 1,300,000

3. MLB, Orioles at Blue Jays, Sunday, Sportsnet One: 1,118,000

4. MLB, Orioles at Blue Jays, Saturday, Sportsnet One: 988,000

5. CFL, Argonauts at Redblacks, Sunday, TSN: 541,000

6. CFL, Lions at Stampeders, Friday, TSN: 508,000

7. CFL, Roughriders at Alouettes, Friday, TSN: 417,000

8. Auto racing, F1 German Grand Prix, Sunday, TSN: 225,000

9. Tennis, Rogers Cup men's final, Sunday, Sportsnet: 219,000

10. Tennis, Rogers Cup men's semifinal, Saturday, Sportsnet: 212,000

11. Tennis, Rogers Cup women's final, Sunday, Sportsnet: 203,000

12. PGA, PGA Championship final round, Sunday, TSN: 174,000 (CBS viewers not measured)

13. Tennis, Rogers Cup men's semifinal, Saturday, Sportsnet: 168,000

14. Martial arts, UFC 201 preliminaries, Saturday, TSN: 161,000

15. Tennis, Rogers Cup women's semifinal, Saturday, Sportsnet: 153,000

16. Auto racing, F1 German Grand Prix qualifying, Saturday, TSN: 129,000

17. Tennis, Rogers Cup women's semifinal, Saturday, Sportsnet: 122,000

18. PGA, PGA Championship second round, Friday, TSN: 119,000

19. Auto racing, NASCAR Xfinity 250, Saturday, TSN: 117,000

20. MLB, Red Sox at Angels, Friday, Sportsnet: 114,000

21. Tennis, Rogers Cup men's quarterfinal, Friday, Sportsnet: 114,000

THREE TO WATCH

Flying down to Rio: With all the bad news coming out of Rio, it would be natural to assume that this will be the worst Olympics ever. Just like Athens and Sochi. But somehow, despite all the problems leading up to every Olympics, the Games turn out to be pretty successful. Still, this is the first Olympics where swimmers were told to keep their heads out of the water. Regardless, it all gets going for real at the opening ceremonies (Friday, 7 p.m. ET, CBC). Coverage continues on TSN and Sportsnet.

Hockey, summer style: The temperatures may say summer, but it's never too hot for hockey in this country. The top under-20 players on the planet will compete in the World Junior Summer Showcase. Things get rolling Friday when Canada takes on Sweden (1 p.m. ET, TSN.)

ALCS revisited: Now that the Toronto Blue Jays and their rivals have all beefed themselves up for the pennant run, things start to take on more importance. So what could be a better time to revisit last fall's classic ALCS between the Jays and Kansas City Royals? A three-game series opens Friday in K.C. (8 p.m. ET, Sportsnet.)

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