The Great Canadian Ratings Report: Where have the Raptors fans gone?

Chris Zelkovich
·Chris Zelkovich
Success on the court still isn't translating into ratings for the Toronto Raptors in their series against Indiana. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michael Conroy
Success on the court still isn't translating into ratings for the Toronto Raptors in their series against Indiana. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michael Conroy

Figuring out what's going on with the Toronto Raptors is tough enough. Trying to understand the story behind their television ratings borders on the impossible.

First off, how does anyone explain how a team that saw ratings rise dramatically last season turns in an even better season and watches its TV numbers drop? And not just drop by a few points -- 16 per cent to be exact.

More wins, fewer viewers.

Then come the 2015-16 playoffs, which open with two games that attract more than 600,000 viewers apiece -- close to triple what the team averaged during the season.

The beginning of a beautiful relationship, right? With audiences growing as the team's fortunes take off and the Raptors will assume their rightful position in the upper echelons of Canadian sport.

Not so fast.

 Despite winning two of the first three against the Indiana Pacers and erasing at least some of the doubts planted by last year's playoff flop, the Raptors saw their ratings plummet last week. Games 3 (438,000 on TSN Thursday) and 4 (379,000 on Sportsnet Saturday) averaged 408,500 -- a drop of almost one-third compared with the opening two games.

The Raptors are still ahead of last year's playoff average of 458,000 -- but not where you'd think they would be.

Yes, both games 3 and 4 were decided relatively early, but this still defies all logic. What did the Raptors do to turn off one-third of their audience?

Baseball didn't help as the Toronto Blue Jays continue to draw strong ratings, but the Raptors first two games also went up against the Jays.

The NHL playoffs might have factored in, but the Raptors went head-to-head with a Penguins-Rangers game that drew even fewer viewers on Sportsnet 360.

The best I can figure is that Canadians are either fleeing those agonizingly repetitive BMO commercials in droves, or still aren't ready to commit to getting on the Raptors bandwagon. That may take at least another series -- and less annoying BMO ads.

But despite this, there is some good news for both Rogers and TSN, who both share in the Raptors situation because they not only broadcast the games but are part owners of the team.

Monday's Game 7 between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues gave the NHL its highest playoff rating so far this spring: 1.34 million on CBC. That's still more like a regular-season game rating, but if Rogers can get more long series, numbers will improve.

TSN finished out the first quarter of the 2016 broadcast season with overall ratings 19 per cent ahead of Rogers. The big factors were big world junior hockey ratings and poor NHL audiences.

But with the Stanley Cup playoffs continuing and the Blue Jays still creating excitement, Rogers likely will bounce back in the next quarter.

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

1. NHL, Panthers at Islanders, Sunday, CBC: 1,200,000

2. NHL, Blues at Blackhawks, Saturday, CBC: 959,000

3. NHL, Flyers at Capitals, Friday, CBC: 767,000

4. MLB, Athletics at Blue Jays, Friday, Sportsnet One: 739,000

5. MLB, Athletics at Blue Jays, Saturday, Sportsnet One: 696,000

6. MLB, Athletics at Blue Jays, Sunday, Sportsnet One: 651,000

7. NHL, Sharks at Kings, Friday, CBC: 562,000

8. NHL, Predators at Ducks, Saturday, Sportsnet: 511,000

9. NHL, Islanders at Panthers, Friday, Sportsnet: 483,000

10. NHL, Capitals at Flyers, Sunday, CBC: 449,000 (NBC audience not measured)

11. NBA, Raptors at Pacers, Saturday, Sportsnet: 379,000

12. NHL, Stars at Wild, Sunday, Sportsnet: 365,000

13. NHL, Rangers at Penguins, Saturday, Sportsnet 360: 285,000 (NBC audience not measured)

14. Mixed martial arts, UFC 197 preliminaries, Saturday, TSN: 173,000

15. PGA, Valero Texas Open final round, Sunday, Global: 159,000

16. Auto racing, NASCAR Toyota 400, Sunday, TSN: 146,000 (Fox audience not measured)

17. NBA, Warriors at Rockets, Sunday, TSN: 127,000

Soccer, Leicester at Swansea, Sportsnet One: 125,000

18. PGA, Valero Texas Open third round, Saturday, Global: 123,000

19. Hockey, World under-18 semis, Canada vs. Sweden, ?, TSN: 105,000

20. NBA, Spurs at Grizzlies, Sunday, TSN: 97,000

THREE TO WATCH

Brushes with greatness: The tulips are popping up in some parts of the country and that can only mean the end is night for the curling season. The final event of the $200,000 Pinty's Grand Slam of Curling tour goes this week, with the final decided Sunday. Coverage starts Thursday, 2:30 p.m ET (Sportsnet.)

Raptors wrap in Indianapolis?: After Tuesday's victory, the Toronto Raptors can bury the ghost of playoffs past with a win over the Pacers in Indianapolis (Friday, 7 p.m., ET, TSN.)

Follow the bouncing balls: If you would have predicted a few years ago that one of the television highlights of the hockey season would be watching balls pop out of a bingo machine, you probably would have been institutionalized. But that's what we've come to as hockey fans across Canada await with bated breath to see if the Edmonton Oilers can pull off another first pick in the NHL draft lottery (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, CBC.)