The Great Canadian Ratings Report: Women's World Cup a big hit, but will the love endure?

·Chris Zelkovich
The U.S. team celebrates winning the 2015 Women's World Cup, an event that was a winner across the board. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
The U.S. team celebrates winning the 2015 Women's World Cup, an event that was a winner across the board. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

There is absolutely no way to deny that the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup was a major success for just about everybody involved, except those countries knocked out in the first round and those who would rather watch The Shopping Channel than sit through a soccer game.

It was a winner for Canada's national team, which erased the bad taste from 2011 and won legions of new fans. It was a success for FIFA, which needed something to start the mandatory fumigation needed after the latest round of scandals.

And it was a big hit for CTV and TSN, which benefitted from record ratings. The numbers were impressive, though you have to wonder if women's soccer can sustain the momentum created over the past month or join the likes of bobsledding and junior hockey.

First off, the numbers certainly are overwhelming.

Bell Media reports that total viewing for the tournament was more than four times what it was in 2011, when the event was held in Germany. More favourable time zones certainly helped, as did more hours of coverage. But that's still an incredible improvement.

Canada's quarterfinal match against England on June 27 averaged 3.2 million viewers, making it the most-watched women's World Cup game ever in this country. In all, Canada's five outings averaged 2.3 million viewers, the kind of audience usually produced by big events like the Stanley Cup final.

Sunday's final between the U.S. and Japan averaged 2 million viewers on CTV and TSN, making it the most-watched program of any sort on Canadian TV last week. It's rerun season, so there wasn't much competition, but 2 million is not a small number.

Digital numbers on TSN's FIFA website were impressive (6.5 million page views.)

Bell reports that 20.8 million unique viewers, close to two in three Canadians, watched some of the tournament on TV.

But will all of this continue now that the tournament is over or will women's soccer join the likes of snowboarding and junior hockey, sports that draw huge ratings during world championships and Olympic Games before fading into television's nether regions?

Based on what's been happening over the past few years, women's soccer is here to stay as a TV winner -- at least as long as Canada is competitive. Since women's soccer broke into the Canadian consciousness a decade ago, the team has drawn big ratings regardless of the competition.

It may not draw 3 million viewers outside the Olympics or a home World Cup, but it will pull in huge swaths of viewers whenever it plays.

The big reason is that the prospect of beating other countries always draws a crowd and when Canada has a chance at knocking off other superpowers, the TV sets go on. That's why you can expect fierce competition the next time the Women's World Cup is up for grabs.

Sometimes that competition is more entertaining than what happens on the field. Last week, for example, Rogers and Bell were at it again. On Thursday, both issued releases touting their ability to draw viewers, the latest in a continiung Battle of the Network PR Departments.

TSN claimed victory in last Thursday's NHL free agent coverage, averaging an amazing 303,000 viewers over seven hours. That was more than four times what Rogers-owned Sportsnet could do in its 90 minutes of coverage, though one must assume it was Sportsnet since TSN's release referred only to its ``closest competitor".

That's more than golf, MLS soccer and auto racing drew last week, even though the entire day was nothing more than guys in suits talking about what might or might not happen. 

For its part, Rogers countered in an unrelated release that its overall audience appeal was ahead of TSN's, echoing a claim it made last month.

Let the games continue.

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

1. Women's World Cup final, Japan vs. U.S., Sunday, CTV/TSN: 2,026,000

2. CFL, Lions at RedBlacks, Saturday, TSN: 659,000

3. MLB, Blue Jays at Tigers, Sunday, Sportsnet: 646,000

4. CFL, Argonauts at Roughriders, Sunday, TSN: 598,000

5. MLB, Blue Jays at Tigers, Friday, Sportsnet: 573,000

6. CFL, Stampeders at Alouettes, Friday, TSN: 538,000

7. Women's World Cup bronze, Germany vs. England, Saturday, TSN: 458,000

8. MLB, Blue Jays at Tigers, Saturday, Sportsnet: 401,000

9. Rodeo, Calgary Stampede, Saturday, CBC: 291,000

10, PGA, Greenbrier Classic final round, Sunday, Global: 290,000

11. MLB, Orioles at White Sox, Sunday, Sportsnet: 247,000

12. Auto racing, F1 British Grand Prix, Sunday, TSN: 241,000

13. MLS, Whitecaps at Colorado, Saturday, TSN: 195,000

14. PGA, Greenbrier Classic third round, Saturday, Global: 181,000

15. Rodeo, Calgary Stampede, Sunday, CBC: 120,000

16. Tennis, Wimbledon, Friday, TSN: 113,000

17. Tennis, Wimbledon, Saturday, TSN: 105,000

18. Rodeo, Calgary Stampede, Sunday, Sportsnet One: 100,000

THREE TO WATCH

Let the (smaller) Games begin: 2015 is the summer of sport in Canada, what with the Women's World Cup just ending and the Pan Am Games about to start. There will be plenty of TV coverage, with CBC offering daily afternoon, prime-time and late-night broadcasts and Sportsnet handling soccer. Things get rolling with the opening ceremonies (7 p.m. ET, Friday, CBC.) Soccer coverage kicks off Saturday with the women at it again. Canada takes on Ecuador in their opener (8:30 p.m. ET, Sportsnet.)

Considering the im-Pospisil: As always, there has been plenty of intrigue at Wimbledon, what with accusations of tanking and the usual tsk-tsks at inappropriate behaviour. There's also some Canadian content, but not from the usual suspects. With Milos Raonic and Eugenie Bouchard out, underdog Vasek Pospisil is this country's Great Tennis Whites Hope. He takes on hometown favourite Andy Murray in the quarter-finals on Wednesday (8 a.m., TSN.)

Men without goals: Now that Canada's women soccer stars have had their big moments in the spotlight, the men get a rare opportunity to shine. The lowly ranked Canadian squad is hoping for a breakthrough at the Gold Cup, an event that still resonates in this country's soccer circles thanks to a shocking victory in 2000. The goal-challenged Canucks take on Jamaica in the opener (Saturday, 6:30 p.m. ET, Sportsnet.)

 

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