Life has been a little difficult around TSN headquarters this summer.
After all, it has to be more than a little painful for the sports channel that ruled cable television for decades to stand by and watch rival Sportsnet crow weekly about record ratings for its Blue Jays games. That pain must be a minor headache compared with the agony of reading those Rogers releases that tout the fact that Sportsnet has now surpassed TSN in average ratings -- even if TSN argues those claims are dubious.
Throw in the fact that TSN's biggest champion, Phil King, was ousted in one of those corporate blood-lettings recently and it's been a pretty tough summer around the Bell Media playground.
So when TSN has something to crow about these days, it's only fair that the channel that bills itself as ``Canada's sports leader" gets a nod or two. And there certainly are a few things worth a nod.
In the year since TSN went to five feeds in an attempt to stem the tide that began swelling when Rogers corralled NHL rights there are plenty of positives to report. TSN reports double-digit ratings increases for the likes of tennis (80 per cent for the Australian Open), the world hockey championship (75 per cent), U.S. Open golf (64 per cent), the Brier (29 per cent), the Tournament of Hearts (41 per cent) and NCAA March Madness (25 per cent.)
It also claims supremacy in hockey coverage (trade deadline day, for example) and news coverage (SportsCentre.) In addition, it says it reaches more Canadians than any other specialty network, which includes Sportsnet and there's bound to be some reciprocal fire coming there.
While raining on TSN's parade might be considered cruel, the figures aren't quite worthy of a parade. The sports that have shown the biggest increases aren't exactly the kind that keep the cable channels in business. Hockey, football and baseball tend to do that. Sportsnet dominates the first two and TSN's main football property -- the CFL -- has been on a bit of ratings decline the past year.
But still, the first year shows that TSN was on the right track when it added more channels. It also shows that sports fans have benefitted from the decision, too, with TSN doubling the number of live events it showed a year ago.
So as the Blue Jays continue to dominate summer ratings -- three more audiences topped the million mark last weekend -- TSN executives can sleep a little more easily.
But there's no denying that Sportsnet is on a Jays-fueled roll. The channel announced Tuesday that it averaged 266,000 viewers per minute in August, 113 per cent higher than its closest competitor (that would be TSN.)
All of that is the product of the Blue Jays, whose games averaged 1.29 million viewers in August, more than double the number they produced last season. And this wild run has bumped the Blue Jays season average to 793,000 -- up 36 per cent over last year.
Maybe TSN won't be sleeping that easily after all.
Here are the most-watched English-language sports broadcasts from the past weekend, according to Numeris overnight ratings:
1. MLB, Tigers at Blue Jays, Sunday, Sportsnet: 1,500,000
1. MLB, Tigers at Blue Jays, Friday, Sportsnet: 1,500,000
3. MLB, Tigers at Blue Jays, Saturday, Sportsnet: 1,300,000
4. CFL, Roughriders at Redblacks, Sunday, TSN: 603,000
5. CFL, Argonauts at Eskimos, Friday, TSN: 513,000
6. CFL, Stampeders at Blue Bombers, Saturday, TSN: 499,000
7. MLB, Yankees at Braves, Saturday, Sportsnet: 325,000
8. Soccer, Manchester United at Swansea, Sunday, TSN: 269,000
9. PGA, Barclays Championship final round, Sunday, Global: 257,000
10. MLB, Cardinals at Giants, Sunday, Sportsnet: 247,000
11. MLB, Red Sox at Mets, Saturday, Sportsnet: 234,000
12. Athletics, World track championships, Saturday, CBC: 228,000
13. PGA, Barclays Championship third round, Saturday, Global: 210,000
14. Athletics, World track championships, Sunday, CBC: 184,000
15. MLS, Impact at Toronto FC, Saturday, TSN: 150,000
16. Auto racing, IndyCar Sonoma Grand Prix, Sunday, Sportsnet One: 149,000
17. NFL, Cardinals at Raiders, Sunday, TSN: 126,000 (NBC viewers not measured)
17. Soccer, Arsenal at Newcastle, Saturday, TSN: 126,000
19. Soccer, West Ham at Liverpool, Saturday, Sportsnet: 120,000
20. Auto racing, NASCAR Road America 180, Saturday, TSN: 110,000
20 MLB, Cubs at Dodgers, Sunday, TSN: 110,000
22. MLS, Whitecaps at Houston, Saturday, TSN: 104,000
22. Soccer, Crystal Palace at Chelsea, Saturday, TSN: 104,000
24. Soccer, Norwich at Southampton, Sunday, TSN: 102,000
25. Soccer, Everton at Tottenham, Saturday, Sportsnet One: 101,000
THREE TO WATCH
Racqueteering in New York: There's no shortage of intrigue for tennis fans at this year's U.S. Open, what with Serena Williams trying to complete a season Grand Slam and prove the obvious: that's she's the best female tennis player by far. There's also comeback attempts by last year's Great Canadian Hopes Eugenie Bouchard and Milos Raonic. Daily coverage starts at 11 a.m. ET on TSN.
The real football season: It's been long said that the CFL season doesn't really start until Labour Day and, with the exception of the hapless Saskatchewan Roughriders, that's true this year. The CFL has served up a couple of great rivalries for the traditional Labour Day doubleheader, with first place on the line in both. The Toronto Argonauts meet Hamilton (1 p.m., ET, TSN) in a battle for first in the East while Calgary hosts Edmonton (4:30 p.m. ET, TSN) in the West showdown.
The other football season: Euro 2016 qualifying nears the final stretch, with more than 25 matches being carried on various Sportsnet channels over the next week. Coverage kicks off Thursday with Azerbaijan meeting Croatia at 11:45 a.m. ET (Sportsnet World).