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Toronto Blue Jays Colby Rasmus is congratulated by teammate J.P. Arencibia after he hit a home run in the sixth inning of their MLB baseball game against the Cleveland Indians in Toronto April 4, 2013. (FRED THORNHILL/REUTERS)
Toronto Blue Jays Colby Rasmus is congratulated by teammate J.P. Arencibia after he hit a home run in the sixth inning of their MLB baseball game against the Cleveland Indians in Toronto April 4, 2013. (FRED THORNHILL/REUTERS)

The parameters of the Blue Jays’ popularity wheel Add to ...

The numbers are instructive: 47,984/1.4 million versus 24,619/ 946,000. They represent the parameters of the Toronto Blue Jays’ popularity wheel at the start of the 2013 MLB season.

The numbers, of course, are the live attendance and average TV audience on Sportsnet for Tuesday’s opening night 2-1 loss to Cleveland and the same figures for the second game of the season at the Rogers Centre, lost 3-2 by the Blue Jays in extra innings. (Neither up against a Toronto Maple Leafs game.)

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Rogers can comfort itself that Wednesday’s 946K TV rating figure (coming off a day of NHL Trade deadline coverage) was not much of a comedown from Opening Night. A winter of relentless promotion has now set a healthy benchmark for TV ratings.

The opening night’s 1.4 million was a record for the Jays on Sportsnet, up 13 percent from the previous mark set early last season. (Before Brett Lawrie started trying to steal third base and getting caught.)

If 946 K represents the median audiences for Rogers’ gamble to go all-in on the team in 2013, people will be happy at the Rogers campus. The low end will probably come early next month as the Jays face both a poor draw (Seattle May 3-5?) and a Maple Leafs playoff game. A prolonged Leafs’ playoff run or a staggering start by the Jays might produce similar results for other dates.

Still, the ability to generate consistent numbers is crucial to Sportsnet. While TSN has proven it can deliver ratings up to five million for elite events, Sportsnet is till trying to do the same. A successful Jays team might help them do that, important in any negotiations with the NHL on a national TV contract.

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An average live attendance of Game 2‘s 24,619 is a far cry from the days when Rogers Centre (nee SkyDome) packed 50, 000 in every night in the 1990s. Still it’s a lot better than the intimate gatherings at the end of the 2012 season.

It’s important that cavernous Rogers Centre be full lest spectators see how soulless it truly is with 12,000 people in the stands.

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Rogers’ promotion of its baseball team began months ago with R.A. Dickey interviewed at home and Stephen Brunt wandering in the Dominican. The selling of the product began on Opening Night. The ad sales people of Rogers have clearly sold every commercial availability know to man. And a few previously undetected.

From the introduction of the Home Hardware grounds crew to the TD comfy seats (moved very far away this season) commercial pop-ups were everywhere and no preferences button was provided.

In case you hadn’t heard that the former Windows restaurant in centre field of Rogers Centre was now a standup bar with some wild ‘n crazy guys, Sportsnet producers gave us about 243 camera perspectives, often framed by two young lovelies, just in case you have a 15-second attention span. (Which pretty much includes us.)

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There’s something counterintuitive about the Blue Jays’ success coming (partially) at the expense of TSN. After all, it was the marriage of the fledgling TSN and the emerging Jays of the late 1980s that legitimized the network for many Canadians. How ‘bout those Jays could have been TSN’s slogan in those days.

MIlos and Hinch: Sportsnet has made no secret of its desire to own properties creatively as well as financially. So they’re talking about inventing their own content vehicle in the future. Might we suggest 43-Man-Squamish? Mad Magazine already went to the trouble of codifying the rules.

In the real world, Sportsnet has had success in “owning” the Milos Raonic story. Not tennis, mind you, but the ascendency of the young Canadian serving machine into the top ranks of the sport. Ratings have been healthy, by tennis standards.

This weekend, Rogers will be putting its chips on Raonic and his pals beating Italy in the Davis Cup tie in Vancouver. Conveniently covered by Sportsnet Friday, Saturday and Sunday. (Don’t tell the NHL that Davis Cup has ties. They’ll insist on a Serve-out to decide the match.)

If it’s Sunday it must be Alabama. This weekend, as well, Sportsnet will seek to extend the narrative it’s building, not on IndyCar racing, but on James Hinchcliffe of Oakville, Ont. The 26-year-old stunned everyone (including Sportsnet) by winning the first race of the season in St. Petersburg, Fla.. It was also Sportsnet’s first race on a new contract in addition to giving Canada another Raonic reason to watch Indy Car.

Expect to see a lot of Hinchcliffe on Uncle Ted’s network.

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