The holiday season tends to be filled with all kinds of treats -- and pains -- and that certainly was the case for Canada's sports broadcasters this time around.
Overall, it was a great couple of weeks for TSN, thanks in part to an old reliable -- the world junior hockey tournament -- and a dark horse -- the NCAA New Year's Day bowl games.
Things weren't quite so rosy for Rogers and its pricey NHL package, what with Sunday Night Hockey continuing to struggle in its quest for an audience and the Winter Classic running out of steam.
First, the world juniors, as big a success story as anything in Canadian sports TV. The final on Monday set a tournament record, with an average of 7.1 million watching on TSN and RDS. It wasn't a record for TSN -- the 2011 final outdrew it by 100,000 viewers -- but this year's edition of teenagers on ice was a record-setter on several fronts.
Overall, 19.4 million watched some or all of the tournament on TSN and RDS, 14 per cent higher than the last time the tournament was held in Canada. It also set several digital records along the way,
Since Canadians love to watch Canadians win, the audience for the final wasn't really a big surprise. What was surprising was the big numbers put up by games that did not include the home team. Monday's bronze medal game between Sweden and Slovakia, played in the afternoon, almost hit the million mark.
Either there are a lot more Swedes and Slovaks living here than we thought, or this thing is really on a roll.
Adding to TSN's Happy New Year were the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl games, which have taken on new significance under the remodeled NCAA playoff system. The Rose Bowl averaged 702,000 viewers, the most-watched university football game ever on TSN.
While there were smiles aplenty around TSN headquarters, things weren't so rosy at the Rogers bunker.
First, the Winter Classic scored the smallest audience for CBC in five years, barely crossing the 1 million viewer line. The fact that the game between Chicago and Washington recorded the lowest ratings since the NHL started the outdoor trend is a pretty good indication that the novelty has worn off -- no doubt thanks to overexposure.
That bunch of al fresco games last year may have taken the shine off this thing.
Still, a million viewers is a good outcome in this country and nothing for Rogers to worry about. What they might be losing sleep over, though, is the low numbers on Sunday night. This week's offering between Ottawa and Tampa Bay managed an average of only 184,000 -- and that was on the first Sunday it didn't go head-to-head with the NFL.
When you're behind the likes of UFC preliminaries, there's still a long way to go to make Sunday nights a hockey destination.
Here are the most-watched English-language sports events over the past weekend, according to Numeris overnight ratings:
1. World junior hockey, Canada vs. Russia, Monday, TSN: 6,000,000
2. World junior semifinal, Canada vs. Slovakia, Sunday, TSN: 3,900,000
3. World junior quarterfinal, Canada vs. Denmark, Friday, TSN: 3,000,000
4. NHL, Leafs-Jets/Habs-Penguins, Saturday, CBC-Rogers: 1,960,000
5. NFL, Lions at Cowboys, Sunday, CTV: 1,500,000
6. World junior semifinal, Russia vs. Sweden, Sunday, TSN: 1,460,000
7. NFL, Bengals at Colts, Sunday, CTV: 1,100,000
8. NHL, Blackhawks at Capitals, Thursday, CBC: 1,070,000 (NBC audience not measured)
9. NFL, Ravens at Steelers, Saturday, CTV: 1,000,000
10. World junior, Bronze game: Slovakia vs. Sweden, Monday, TSN: 978,000
11. NFL, Cardinals at Panthers, Saturday, CTV: 936,000
12. World junior quarterfinal, Russia vs. U.S., Friday, TSN: 827,000
13. NHL, Wings-Canucks/Blues-Sharks, Saturday, CBC-Rogers: 823,000
14. World junior quarterfinal, Slovakia vs. Czech Rep., Friday: 782,000
15. Football, Rose Bowl: Oregon vs. Florida State, Thursday, TSN: 702,000
16. Football, Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. Ohio State, Thursday, TSN: 534,000
17. NHL, Leafs at Wild, Friday, Sportsnet Ontario: 488,000
18. NHL, Hockey Night In Canada pre-game, Saturday, CBC-Rogers: 445,000
19. World junior quarterfinal, Sweden vs. Finland, Friday, TSN: 394,000
20. NHL, Hockey Central pre-game, Thursday, CBC: 375,0000
21. NBA, Raptors at Warriors, Friday, Sportsnet360: 335,000
22. NBA, Raptors at Suns, Sunday, Sportsnet East, Ontario, Pacific: 211,000
23. NHL, Bruins at Hurricanes, Sunday, Sportsnet: 185,000
24. Martial arts, UFC preliminaries, Saturday, TSN: 185,000
25. NHL, Lightning at Senators, Sunday, City: 184,000
THREE TO WATCH
Trying to get on top down under: Loves of the game of love will get a treat this week as tennis returns to Sportsnet. Canada's great hope, Milos Raonic, will try to keep moving up in the rankings at the Brisbane International, where he's seeded third. Coverage starts Thursday (8 p.m. ET, Sportsnet One.)
The post-worlds world: With a good portion of the country all stirred up by the beauty of junior hockey, you can expect big audiences when the regular season resumes this week. Okay, maybe not, but there's got to be some good vibes hanging in the air after the world championship. Vancouver and Medicine Hat will try to keep it going Friday (10:30 p.m. ET, Sportsnet East, Ontario and Pacific.)
Running interference: Assuming NFL officials don't get their hands on it, this weekend's NFL playoff schedule looks like a great one. Sunday should provide the best matchups, with Dallas and Green Bay knocking heads in the early game ( 1 p.m. ET, CTV, Fox) and Indianapolis and Denver going quarterback-to-quarterback in the late one (4:40 p.m. ET, CTV, CBS.)