The Great Canadian Ratings Report: October trends hit NHL, NFL and CFL

More than 2 million viewers watched Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
More than 2 million viewers watched Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Two or three weeks worth of results aren't much of an indication of anything other than, say, a World Series. Two weeks there pretty much tells the whole story, whereas with something like television ratings, two weeks is barely a blip on the radar screen.

But since we're in the business of analyzing small samples when it comes to sports ratings, two weeks can tell some stories. Here are two of them:

The World According to Rogers

So far the multi-channel, multi-game approach is producing typically strong ratings for the new Owner of All Things on Ice. Saturday night's Hockey Night In Canada early offerings produced an average of 2.2 milliion viewers, crushing all other sports programs by more than 1 million. On Friday, a Toronto Maple Leafs game pulled in 723,000 viewers in one province (Ontario, if you're geographically challenged.)

But, so far, audiences for Hockey Night In Canada are actually lower than they were last season. And that 723,000 was pretty much what the Leafs averaged in Ontario last season.

The fact audiences are down slightly may or may not be an indication of anything. It's far too early to tell. My guess is that audiences are still having trouble finding all those channels and not that they're unhappy with Rogers' way of doing hockey.

If they're still down a month from now, someone at Rogers may have some explaining to do.

NFL rising, CFL not so much

This should be the time of year when the CFL is drawing its biggest audiences, with interest heightened by playoff battles. But with the exception of Sunday's Edmonton-Saskatchewan game, none of CFL games last weekend topped the 600,000 mark. That's below last season's average at a time when interest should be peaking in time for the playoffs. The fact that the CFL did top 700,000 going up against the NFL should be impressive, except that both Sunday afternoon NFL offerings almost hit 900,000.

The explanation? The NFL has produced a lot of thrilling games this season and excitement generates interest. Add in the all-encompassing hype and you've got the perfect storm for big ratings. On Sunday night, for example, more people watched the San Francisco-Denver game on TSN than tuned in for City's Calgary-Winnipeg hockey game. And that didn't include the unknown number who chose to watch Peyton Manning set records on NBC.

Meanwhile, this has been a sad season for the CFL. The high-scoring shootouts we've become accustomed to have been fewer and farther between that Ottawa RedBlacks victories. Viewer fatigue is starting to show, especially with much of the playoff action centred on the turtle derby that is the CFL East.

The CFL usually produces great playoff ratings, easily beating out the NFL even when going head to head. But that run could be in jeopardy the way things have been going this season.

Here are the most-watched English-language sports events, according to Numeris overnight ratings:

1. NHL, Leafs-Wings/Avs-Habs/Jackets-Sens/Bruins-Sabres, Saturday, CBC: 2,200,000

2. NFL, Vikes-Bills/Panthers-Packers/Seahawks-Rams/Bengals-Colts, Sunday, CTV: 893,000

3. NFL. Giants-Cowboys/Chiefs-Chargers, Sunday, CTV: 873,000

4. NHL, Lightning at Canucks, Saturday, CBC: 885,000

5. CFL, Eskimos at Riders, Sunday, TSN: 732,000

6. NHL, Red Wings at Maple Leafs, Friday, Sportsnet Ontario: 723,000

7. CFL, Alouettes at Argos, Saturday, TSN: 591,000

8. CFL, Stamps at Bombers, Saturday, TSN: 565,000

9. NFL, 49ers at Broncos, Sunday, TSN: 492,000 (NBC viewers not measured)

10. NHL, Hockey Night In Canada pre-game, Saturday, CBC: 478,000

11. NHL, Canucks at Oilers, Friday, Sportsnet West/Pacific: 461,000

12. CFL, RedBlacks at Ticats, Friday, TSN: 413.000

13. NHL, Flames at Oilers, Sunday, City: 407,000

14. Auto racing, NASCAR Geico 500, Sunday, TSN: 380,000

15. NHL, Hometown Hockey pre-game, Sunday, City: 156,000

16. Gymnastics, World artistic championships, Saturday, CBC: 126,000

17. MLS, Impact at Toronto FC, Saturday, TSN: 107,000

18. Soccer, Tottenham at Manchester City, Saturday, TSN: 98,000

19. Soccer, EPL late games, Saturday, TSN: 97,000


Now, the world: All those who placed a pre-season bet on the San Francisco Giants or Kansas City Royals going to the World Series -- all three of them -- are living it up as these two unlikely teams open the Fall Classic Tuesday. It's impossible to pick a favourite, since neither team should really be here. But they are and it could be a good series with lots of story lines. Tuesday, 8 p.m. ET, Fox and Sportsnet.

Showdown in the CFL, sort of: If you look at the importance of Saturday's CFL game between Hamilton and Toronto, it's huge, with the TIcats looking at taking first place in the East and the Argos fighting for their playoff lives. Look at the standings -- neither team is at .500 -- and, well, you don't want to look at the standings. But the last time they met, the Argos pulled off a miraculous last-second win and strange things always happen when these two neighbours meet. Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, TSN.

Old-time hockey: Hate to get carried away with this Original Six stuff, but Hockey Night In Canada has two promising old-time matchups on Saturday. The Leafs and Bruins butt heads at the same time old rivals Montreal and the New York Rangers face off. Is Murray Westgate in the house? Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, CBC.