The Great Canadian Ratings Report: Toronto FC continues to struggle on TV

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The Great Canadian Ratings Report: Toronto FC continues to struggle on TV
The Great Canadian Ratings Report: Toronto FC continues to struggle on TV

Even in a period of puzzling, and not-so-puzzling, sports television ratings drops the case of Toronto FC stands out.

It's not that the Major League Soccer team has fallen from great heights -- ratings have never been very good. But on the heels of the team's first playoff appearance last season there are renewed hopes for more success this year both on the pitch and on the screen.

So far, the numbers are simply awful.

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Not only has the team's television audience failed to grow, it appears to be regressing -- and badly.

A victory over the New York Red Bulls in the season opener attracted an average audience of only 97,000 to TSN. Proving that it wasn't TSN's fault, TFC's second game against New York City FC drew a mere 62,000 viewers to Sportsnet  One.

Few sports outside of weekday afternoon lumberjack competitions do worse than that.

Those ratings are substantially less than even the most marginal sports. The world short-track speed skating championships averaged 97,000 on CBC Sunday. The Canadian cross-country ski tour lured an average of 89,000 to their couches that day.

While MLS ratings have never been strong, Toronto FC appears to be the dead weight that's dragging things down for the league. The season opener between Montreal and Vancouver, for example, averaged 205,000 viewers -- a respectable if not spectacular number. TFC, meanwhile, hasn't cracked TV's version of the Mendoza Line this season.

While TFC is not alone in suffering viewer loss -- outside of the Toronto Blue Jays, everybody seems to be struggling -- it was never in a position to withstand much audience leakage.

And even thought the MLS version of soccer has never really caught on in Canada, it's hard to understand why TFC is doing so poorly on television. The team does well at the gate, which shows that there is some interest. It's owned in part by the two sports networks so gets plenty of promotion.

Maybe, because it appeals to a younger audience, it suffers from migration to the Internet. Or maybe the team's audience consists of those who pay to get in.

Either way, the team needs to figure out why it's Canada's most unloved team.

While TFC failed to attract much interest, the Brier had a pretty good final weekend.

After seeing audiences drop on its first weekend, the Brier bounced back and basically matched the ratings from the 2015 finale.

In this age, that's a victory.

Here are the most-watched sports events on English-language television over the past weekend, according to Numeris overnight ratings:

1. NHL, Wild-Habs/Leafs-Sens, Saturday, CBC-Sportsnet-City: 1,360,000

2. Curling, Brier final, Sunday, TSN: 1,162,000

3. Curling, Brier semifinal, Saturday, TSN: 842,000

4. Curling, Brier Page playoff 1-2, Friday, TSN: 811,000

5. Curling, Brier bronze medal final, Sunday, TSN: 754,000

6. NHL, Coyotes-Oilers/Preds-Canucks, Saturday, CBC-Sportsnet: 746,000

7. Curling, Brier Page playoff 3-4. Saturday, TSN: 648,000

8. NHL, Leafs at Red Wings, Sunday, Sportsnet: 524,000

9. Curling, Brier Draw 17, Friday, TSN: 381,000

10. PGA, Valspar Championship final round, Sunday, Global: 361,000

11. MLB, Rays vs. Blue Jays, Sunday, Sportsnet: 319,000

12. Auto racing, NASCAR Good Sam 500, Sunday, TSN: 230,000 (Fox audience not measured)

13. MLB, Red Sox vs. Blue Jays, Friday, Sportsnet: 226,000

14. NBA, Heat at Raptors, Saturday, Sportsnet One: 185,000

15. Curling, Brier tiebreaker, Friday, TSN: 181,000

16. NHL, Blackhawks at Stars, Friday, Sportsnet East, Ontario, Pacific: 165,000

17. NHL, Rangers at Red Wings, Saturday, Sportsnet: 167,000

18. PGA, Valspar Championship third round, Saturday, Global: 159,000

19. NHL, Islanders at Bruins, Saturday, Sportsnet One: 156,000

20. NHL, Coyotes at Flames, Friday, Sportsnet West: 128,000

20. NHL, Penguins at Rangers, Sunday, Sportsnet One: 128,000

22. Rugby, World Rugby 7s, Saturday, TSN: 127,000

23. Skiing, Canadian men's 30k skiathlon, Saturday, CBC: 121,000

24. Soccer, Manchester City at Norwich, Saturday, TSN: 113,000

25. Soccer, Southampton at Stoke City, Saturday, TSN: 111,000

THREE TO WATCH

Let the madness begin: It's mid-March, which can mean only one thing -- besides the annual collapse of the Toronto Maple Leafs, that is. The NCAA men's basketball tournament, aka March Madness, tips off on Thursday (noon ET, TSN and CBS) with all the usual hype and overkill. But despite all the excess, it does provide good entertainment and the opportunity for millions across North America to learn what a bracket is and bet their hard-earned money on schools they'd never heard of before.

March Madness northern style: While they get lost in the shuffle, the CIS championships also provide great entertainment without the betting interest. Four championships will be decided this weekend in hockey and basketball involving the two major genders. It all starts with men's hockey on Saturday (11 a.m. ET, Sportsnet 360) and ends with the finals on Sunday (Sportsnet 360).

The big sweep: Fresh off winning the Canadian championship, Alberta's Chelsea Carey and her teammates will attempt to rule the world at the global women's curling tournament. Their quest starts Saturday in Swift Current, Sask. (4 p.m. ET, TSN.)

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