The NHL's debut on Sportsnet as part of its new broadcast deal with Rogers Communications set a record for the network Wednesday night but it was a mixed result overall.
While Sportsnet drew an average of 2.01 million viewers for the game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens, the most ever for show on the network, the audience on English-language television was down 14 per cent from the 2013-14 season opener between the Leafs and the Canadiens on CBC television.
However, Sportsnet is a cable-television network that does not reach as many Canadians as the CBC's over-the-air network, so Rogers executives still consider their opening night as a success. Last season, the Leafs-Habs opener drew an average audience of 2.332 million on the CBC's English-language network in the last year of its contract with the NHL.
The total audience for Wednesday's opener was down about 10 per cent from a year ago, as the French-language broadcast on TVA Sports drew 952,000 viewers for a total of 2.7 million across Canada compared to 3.315 million one year ago on the CBC and RDS networks.
Rogers drew 55,000 fans on its live-streaming service, Rogers NHL GameCentre LIVE, for the Leafs-Canadiens game. Seventy-five per cent of the GameCentre audience watched the game online at home while 25 per cent watched it on mobile devices.
"We're off to a good start. [GameCentre] is still in beta mode, and there are some gremlins to sort out but we got some great feedback from the fans. At one stage there were more people watching the game on mobiles in Toronto than all of the USA,"Guy Laurence, president and chief executive officer of Rogers Communications, said in a press release.