The Great Canadian Ratings Report: World Juniors off to promising start for TSN

Chris Zelkovich
·Chris Zelkovich

The bean counters at TSN aren't breaking out the no-name champagne yet, but they are definitely enjoying this holiday season -- so far.

Despite a disappointing opening loss to the Americans, Team Canada produced record ratings in its world junior hockey championship opener on Boxing Day. The game drew an average of 2.6 million viewers on TSN and another 300,000 on French-language RDS to set a record for opening games played outside North America.

A total of 6.6 million Canadians tuned in for some or all of that game and the average audience was more than triple what TSN drew for the last tournament opener held in Europe (2013.)

That's all great for TSN. Now for the so-far part.

The Canadians have struggled in the early going and if they should somehow miss the playoffs or even fail to reach the final, the picture will definitely darken for TSN.

But in the meantime, the much-needed ratings boost will warm the cockles of hearts across Bell Media. They'll certainly be a lot warmer than the cockles at Rogers, where NHL numbers continue to disappoint.

Saturday's Hockey Night In Canada doubleheader not only paled in comparison with the world juniors, it was the least-watched of the season.

While the Hockey Night In Canada numbers were actually better than what they were last Christmas (899,000 for the prime-time broadcast), they continued to add to the somewhat dark mood that must be infecting Rogers headquarters these days.

Last year's sub-million figure was the result of the absence of the ratings drivers: Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. In addition, the NHL offering went head-to-head with a Canada-Germany junior game.

This year, though, the NHL had the slot to itself and also had the Montreal Canadiens playing. But that didn't help a bit.

While a Christmastime slump for the NHL isn't that unusual, what with the juniors sucking up the oxygen, there are some ominous signs here. The main one is that the teams that produce big ratings -- the Leafs, Habs and Canucks -- are all struggling. If they continue to do so and -- heavens to Ted Rogers -- don't make the playoffs, ratings disaster isn't far off.

The big surprise over the holiday weekend was basketball, which drew some big audiences for its Christmas Day schedule. In fact, most of them topped the average Toronto Raptors broadcast, with the Cleveland-Golden State game drawing 330,000 to Sportsnet even though it was also on ABC.

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

1. World junior hockey, Canada vs. U.S.A., Saturday, TSN: 2,594,000

2. NHL, Canadiens at Capitals, Saturday, CBC-Rogers: 941,000

3. NHL, Oilers at Canucks, Saturday, CBC-Rogers: 845,000

4. NHL, Maple Leafs at Islanders, Sunday, Sportsnet: 738,000

5. NFL, Packers-Cardinals/Rams-Seahawks, Sunday, CTV: 737,000

6. NHL, Oilers at Flames, Sunday, Sportsnet: 649,000

7. NFL, Panthers-Falcons/Pats-Jets/Cowboys-Bills, Sunday, CTV: 637,000

8. NFL, Chargers at Raiders, Thursday, Sportsnet: 382,000

9. NFL, Redskins at Eagles, Saturday, Sportsnet: 364,000

10. World junior hockey, Denmark vs. Switzerland, Sunday, TSN: 338,000

11. NBA, Cavaliers at Warriors, Friday, Sportsnet: 330,000 (ABC audience not measured)

12. NBA, Raptors at Bucks, Saturday, TSN: 276,000

13. World junior hockey, Switzerland vs. Sweden, Saturday, TSN: 248,000

14. NBA, Bulls at Thunder, Friday, Sportsnet: 234,000 (ABC audience not measured)

15. Plays of the year, Friday, Sportsnet: 229,000

16. World junior, Finland vs. Belarus, Saturday, TSN: 189,000

16. NBA, Pelicans at Heat, Friday, Sportsnet: 189,000

18. NFL, Giants at Vikings, Sunday, TSN: 219,000 (NBC audience not measured)

19. NBA, Spurs at Rockets, Friday, TSN: 176,000

20. World junior hockey, Belarus vs. Slovakia, Sunday, TSN: 155,000

21. Sports bloopers of 2015, Thursday, TSN: 145,000

22. World junior hockey, Preview Show, Thursday, TSN: 142,000

23. Funniest sports moments of 2015, Thursday, TSN: 130,000

24. Top plays of 2015, Thursday, TSN: 128,000

25. Spengler Cup, Canada vs. Yekaterinburg, Saturday, TSN: 120,000

THREE TO WATCH

The eve of distraction: If you've spent the morning or afternoon watching teenagers play hockey, why not spend the rest of the day with young athletes? The College Football Playoff semifinals are on tap with the Orange Bowl (4 p.m. ET) and Cotton Bowl (8 p.m. ET) deciding who plays for the championship. Both games are on TSN.

Doing it outdoors: This NHL Winter Classic thing should have gotten old a few years ago, especially with all the other games played al fresco, but the fans still want to see games played the way they supposedly were intended. This year's fresh-air game on New Year's Day features the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins at Tom Brady's place, Gillette Stadium (1 p.m. ET, NBC and Sportsnet.)

The Helsinki formula: With the preliminary round out of the way as of New Year's Eve, things start to get really serious at the world junior hockey championships in Helsinki. The quarterfinals are Saturday, starting at 7 a.m. ET (TSN.) If TSN has its way, Canada will play at 1 p.m ET.