The Canadian Football League says the 105th Grey Cup was its most social yet, with total engagement on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – including comments, likes and shares – up 17 per cent over last year's game and views of CFL-produced video on those social channels up 58 per cent.
TV audience numbers were higher, too, the league will announce this week, with viewership in the Toronto/Hamilton market up 58 per cent on TSN over last year and the number of viewers in the youth category across the country – ages 2 to 17 – up 48 per cent.
"The under-17 group is a market we've really spent time nurturing with our CFL Football Frenzy video game and our flag-football initiatives, among many other things, so it's so nice to see that translating into results," CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie said.
"And the 58-per-cent increase in the Southwestern Ontario market is encouraging. The fans are there, but you have to work really hard in Toronto to get them. We know they like the product, but we've got to double our efforts to go get them to the games. We're pretty much assured with the quality of football the Argos will deliver now, so we have to make everyone in Toronto feel welcome."
The 105th Grey Cup on Nov. 26 was the most watched on TV since 2013, up 10 per cent over last year's game with an average of 4.3 million viewers on TSN and RDS, according to data from audience measurement organization Numeris. Almost 10 million unique viewers watched at least some of the Toronto Argonauts' dramatic 27-24 win over the Calgary Stampeders. More than one in three Canadians watching TV that day tuned in to the game at some point.
The audience peaked at almost six million viewers late in the fourth quarter, as Argos defensive back Matt Black intercepted Bo Levi Mitchell's Hail Mary pass to seal Toronto's championship victory.
Ratings for the divisional finals were up 19 per cent from a year ago, with six million tuning in. Viewership within the Greater Toronto Area that week was up 115 per cent over 2016 – when the Argos finished 5-13 and missed the playoffs.
Viewership for this year's divisional semi-finals were up 7 per cent, with 4.3 million Canadians watching – the best in three years for that round.
After digesting its analytics on digital and social, the CFL said page views on CFL.ca were up 42 per cent during this year's playoffs over last year's, up 19 per cent during Grey Cup week and 12 per cent on Grey Cup Sunday.
"The numbers indicate that Grey Cup is as popular as it ever has been for Canadians, and that fandom for this game is a lot more diverse and complicated in terms of how people are enjoying it," said Christina Litz, the league's senior vice-president of marketing and content.
On the Monday after the Grey Cup, there were more than 715,000 tweets discussing the game or Shania Twain's halftime performance. That day-after number is a new best for the league, Litz said.
"I can only speculate as to the why it was a hot conversation, but we believe people felt this year was truly a classic Grey Cup, with the snow, Shania Twain and the dogsled, and a very exciting game," she said. "It was quintessentially Canadian, and people seemed to really want to share it and discuss it."