The Great Canadian Ratings Report: NFL audiences bucking the trend in Canada

·Chris Zelkovich


Despite significant ratings declines in the U.S., the NFL is drawing big numbers in Canada. Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports
Despite significant ratings declines in the U.S., the NFL is drawing big numbers in Canada. Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

There is panic south of the border. And not all of it is due to Donald Trump still having a statistical chance at gaining control of the nuclear weapons buttons.

With the polls making it look like America may come to its senses, Trumpian panic is easing. But panic is tightening its grip on the NFL and its television co-dependents as, for the first time in memory, ratings are on the decline. 

Ratings are down across the board, ranging from single to double digits as networks and the league scratch their collective heads in trying to figure out why. One explanation, outside some of the awful games that have disgraced our television sets in recent weeks (yeah, Sunday Night Football that's you), is that Americans are so caught up in the Trump madness they've forgotten about football.

While that seems like some major straw-grasping, there may be some validity to it. Case in point, NFL ratings in Canada are on the rise.

Sunday afternoon's games, for example, drew 16 per cent more viewers than comparable games last year. A similar pattern has emerged throughout the season.

With Canadians having less access to round-the-clock coverage of the Trump show, maybe there's more time for watching guys with real helmets instead of ones made from hair.

That premise is also strengthened by the CFL. Despite the fact that several teams have long eliminated themselves from serious playoff hopes, ratings are up 5 per cent this year.

And even on a weekend that featured only two meaningful games, ratings were still strong. Oddly, the least-watched game was one of the meaningful ones, with an average of 499,000 for the Edmonton-B.C. contest.

Odder yet, the completely meaningless Montreal-Saskatchewan game drew 520,000 with RDS' French audience added in.

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

1. NHL, Leafs-Hawks/Habs-Bruins/Bolts-Sens, Saturday, CBC-City-Sportsnet 360: 1,910,000

2. NFL, Pats-Steelers/Chargers-Falcons, Sunday, CTV: 963,000

3. NHL, Canucks at Kings, Saturday, CBC-Sportsnet 360: 887,000

4. NHL, Oilers at Jets, Sunday, Sportsnet: 873,000

5. NFL, Bills-Dolphins/Vikes-Eagles/Ravens-Jets, Sunday, CTV: 800,000

6. NHL, Heritage Classic Alumni Game, Saturday, Sportsnet*: 693,000

7. MLB, Dodgers at Cubs, Saturday, Sportsnet: 637,000

8. CFL, Ticats at Redblacks, Friday, TSN: 617,000

9. CFL, Argonauts at Stampeders, Friday, TSN: 530,000

10. CFL, Eskimos at Lions, Saturday, TSN: 499,000

11.  NHL, Canucks at Ducks, Sunday, Sportsnet-Sportsnet One: 488,000

12.  CFL, Alouettes at Roughriders, Saturday, TSN: 420,000

13. NFL, Seahawks at Cardinals, Sunday, TSN: 343,000 (NBC audience not measured)

14. NHL, Predators at Red Wings, Friday, Sportsnet: 332,000

15. NFL, Giants vs. Rams, Sunday, TSN: 252,000

16. Auto racing, NASCAR Sprint Cup, Sunday, TSN: 214,000

17. Soccer, Chelsea at Manchester United, Saturday, TSN: 190,000

 18. Figure skating, Skate America, Saturday, CBC: 166,000

19. Figure skating, Skate America, Sunday, CBC: 164,000

20. Soccer, West Brom at Liverpool, Saturday, Sportsnet: 105,000

* Includes Sportsnet One, Sportsnet 360



Droughts, balls and strikes: No matter what happens in the 2016 World Series, one multi-decade drought is going to end. Either the Cleveland Indians end 68 years of championship-free baseball or the Chicago Cubs bury 108 years of frustration. Cleveland got the edge in Tuesday's opener, so the Cubs will be looking to avenge that loss Wednesday (7 p.m. ET, Fox and Sportsnet.)

Droughts, balls and strikers: The MLS doesn't have the depth of history that Major League Baseball possesses, but history will be made Wednesday when Toronto FC hosts the first playoff game in its 10-year existence against the Philadelphia Union (7:30 p.m. ET, TSN2.) The Montreal Impact get their shot at moving on Thursday against D.C. United (7:30 p.m. ET, TSN.)

Balls and three-point strikes: The Toronto Raptors aren't carrying as much historical baggage as the aforementioned teams, but they open the 2016-17 NBA season with high hopes of improving on the best season in their history. They get their first crack at doing that against the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET, TSN.)


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