The Great Canadian Ratings Report: TSN and Rogers defy the odds

Chris Zelkovich
·Chris Zelkovich
The Great Canadian Ratings Report: TSN and Rogers defy the odds
The Great Canadian Ratings Report: TSN and Rogers defy the odds

So apparently there is life after the NHL. And there's life with the NHL, too.

In the first case, TSN has defied all the odds and not only survived without an NHL national package but actually thrived -- at least so far.

TSN reported this week that the month of January produced the second-highest ratings in the sports channel's 30-year history. Despite having only NHL regional games, TSN's average audience rose 18 per cent over last year -- back in the days when it did have the NHL national cable package.

In fact, the only month that produced higher audiences for TSN came in February 2010 during the Vancouver Olympics.

The biggest contributor to those big audiences was the world junior hockey tournament -- sort of an NHL for toddlers -- which produced a record audience of 7.1 million for the final.

Also contributing were the Pinty's all-star curling skins game, the Australian Open tennis coverage, NFL playoffs and NCAA football.

The main beneficiary of all this viewing was SportsCentre, which averaged 201,000 viewers in prime time -- up 59 per cent over last year. The evening edition was up 8 per cent, averaging 172,000 viewers.

Of course, all of this may not be quite what it seems. Last year, TSN had two channels. Now, it has five, so most nights there's more programming to hook more viewers. But since TSN sells its ads as one channel and not five, all that matters to advertisers is that they're reaching more viewers.

While TSN's strong month may puzzle a few, so might the resurgence of Hockey Night In Canada.

After a rather slow -- some might say tortoise-like -- start, the Rogers' version of hockey seems to be hitting its stride. Two weeks ago, it recorded its biggest audience of the season (2.4 million) and last week topped that with an average audience of 2.6 million for the prime-time version of the annual Hockey Day In Canada production.

So at a time when the most popular team in the country is hell bent for the bottom of the league and getting rid of players the way Tiger Woods ditches golf coaches, ratings are on the way up. It may be that Toronto Maple Leafs fans are facing reality and switching allegiances to (horrors) Montreal or that interest is rising with the playoffs approaching.

Or it could be that hockey fans are adapting to the Rogers way of doing things. Whatever the reason, it's all good news for the TV business.

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

1. NHL, Leafs-Habs/Jets-Wings, Saturday, CBC: 2,600,000
2. NHL, Canucks-Flames/Caps-Kings, Saturday, CBC: 975,000
3. NHL, Hockey Night In Canada pre-game, Saturday, CBC-Rogers: 712,000
4. Curling, Scotties draw 4, Sunday, TSN: 609,000
5. Curling, Scotties opening draw, Saturday, TSN: 516,000
6. Curling, Scotties draw 2, Saturday, TSN: 490,000
7. NHL, Oilers at Senators, Saturday, CBC-Sportsnet: 454,000
8. Curling, Scotties draw 3, Sunday, TSN: 448,000
9. NHL, Bruins at Canucks, Friday, Sportsnet Pacific: 402,000
10. NBA, All-star Game, Sunday, TSN: 373,000
11. Curling, Scotties draw 5, Sunday, TSN2: 346,000
12. NHL, Penguins at Blackhawks, Sunday, City: 304,000
13. NHL, Hockey Day In Canada part II, Saturday, CBC-Sportsnet: 291,000
14. NBA, All-star Saturday Night, Saturday, TSN: 199,000
15. NHL, Hockey Day In Canada part I, Saturday, CBC-Rogers: 182,000
16. NHL, Capitals at Ducks, Sunday, Sportsnet: 179,000
17. NBA, Rising Stars Challenge, Friday, TSN: 129,000
18. PGA, Pebble Beach Pro-Am final round, TSN2: 110,000 (CBS viewers not measured)
19. Auto racing, NASCAR Sprint Unlimited, Sunday, TSN: 110,000
20. Speedskating, World single distance championships, Saturday, CBC: 98,000

THREE TO WATCH

Hoop dreams: A few years ago, this would have been one of those NBA games that sent even hard-core hoops fans in search of something more meaningful on television -- say a 'Saved By The Bell' rerun. But now the Toronto Raptors and Atlanta Hawks are among the NBA elite and potential East finalists. Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET, Sportsnet One.

California dreaming: When the NHL decided to embrace the great outdoors a few years back, it foresaw Saturday's Stadium Series game as being hockey the way it was meant to be played: under the open sky in California. The San Jose Sharks host the L.A. Kings at historic Levi's Stadium Sunday (10 p.m. ET, CBC.)

Hearts'  desire: The finest women's curling team in the country will be decided Sunday night after a gruelling week of sweeping. 8 p.m. ET, TSN.