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A Saskatchewan Roughriders fan cheers during their CFL game against the Montreal Alouettes in Regina, Saskatchewan October 20, 2012. (DAVID STOBBE/REUTERS)
A Saskatchewan Roughriders fan cheers during their CFL game against the Montreal Alouettes in Regina, Saskatchewan October 20, 2012. (DAVID STOBBE/REUTERS)

Daily Grind

Dowbiggin: TSN’s ratings in lock-step with Riders’ fortunes Add to ...

It’s a Green World after all for the CFL when it comes to its TV ratings. The league’s average-game rating on TSN in 2012 nudged up a modest 6 per cent from its similar 2011 number. And you can probably thank the loyal fans of the Saskatchewan Roughriders for the bump. Average audience on TSN was 674,000 in 2012, up from 637,000 last year but far off the 807,000 average in 2010.

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You can trace the changes via the fortunes of the Riders. In 2010 Saskatchewan made the Grey Cup game for a second successive year, and Rider games were four of the top six most-watched games. In 2011, they won just five games, taking CFL TV ratings south with them. This year, the Riders experienced a modest rebound as they made the playoffs again, and CFL numbers bounced with them.

So as it heads into negotiations for a new national broadcast deal, what is the norm for the CFL’s ratings, the highs of 2010 or this year’s less gaudy numbers? Probably the latter. The 2010 boom was up 35 per cent from 2009’s average audience. This year’s result is more on a par with typical ratings under TSN.

The league will not discuss how much it wants in its next TV contract. Currently, the eight clubs divide approximately $16-million from the TSN deal. If the CFL were to double that figure to clubs by getting CBC and Sportsnet in on new deals, it might make it easier to find a new owner to replace David Braley in Toronto. After cashing in from this Grey Cup (estimates range anywhere from $7-million to $10-million) Braley is thought to be looking to exit his two-teams portfolio of the Argos and B.C. Lions.

Good news there: The rebound in Argos fortunes in 2012 appears to have pushed their average TV audiences up 18 per cent compared to last season. Audiences in southern Ontario were up 5 per cent for all CFL games this season. Good news in the national male 18-34 demographic shows ratings up 24 per cent from 2011. So they have that going for them.

Changing sides

Gee, wonder why TSN’s Farhan Lalji is covering the Argos sideline this Sunday instead of the Calgary bench? Couldn’t have anything to do with Lalji being quizzed by the CFL about watching the Stamps’ concussion protocol after quarterback Drew Tate was dinged in the Saskatchewan semi-final game? No? Yes?

In-camera specs

There will be a separate camera following every receiver/defensive back combo on Sunday for Grey Cup game. Thirty-seven cameras in all. But no secret audio. Hope camera work is as good as last week when TSN’s back camera caught Calgary RB Jon Cornish cursing when his number wasn’t called down deep in the B.C. Lions zone. Is that a “tell” for the Argos trying to figure out when Cornish gets the ball?

Chase for the Cup

The NHL will need new TV ideas coming out of this disastrous lockout to capture fans on TV. How about a play-in tournament leading into the playoffs? Play the last eight to 10 games of the regular season within the division as a tournament. Top two teams from each division move on with two wild card qualifiers also getting to the playoffs.

Keep hope alive for teams that would usually be playing out the string. Give the best teams an advantage, but make them play hard till the end instead of coasting.

Package it for TV the way the PGA Tour does the FedEx Cup or NASCAR does the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Or the NCAA has conference championships before March Madness.

Give fans more games that matter. If they still care after the lockout, that is.

MLB channel up here

Probably has nothing to do with the Blue Jays’ recent wheeling and dealing, but Rogers has finally got approval to bring the MLB Network to Canada as a specialty channel. The move has seemingly been in the offing for years but took its sweet time getting through CRTC approval as a U.S.-based content network, meaning, there will be no Canadian inserts. This will be like the NFL channel. How people feel about the content is something else. MLB Network can get a little goofy.

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