The hard years of waking up before dawn to get their children to early morning practice paid off, as a record number of Canadians happily tuned in to watch the men's hockey final from the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, despite the ungodly hour in much of the country.
More than 15 million watched some portion of last Sunday's game, in which Canada defeated Sweden 3-0 to win its second consecutive gold medal. CBC reported an average television audience of 8.5 million.
And while that paled in comparison to the average audience of more than 16 million for the Vancouver Games nail-biter gold-medal game in 2010 – which pulled in many casual viewers with a late afternoon start time – those who tuned in to this year's final were unusually committed.
Citing data from the BBM Canada rating service, CBC said that from 7:10 a.m. to 9:19 a.m. (EST) last Sunday, approximately 90 per cent of the national viewing audience was tuned in to the gold-medal game. In the Vancouver/Victoria and Calgary/Edmonton local markets, 97 per cent of the available viewing audience was tuned in to the game.
Sochi Olympic hockey prompted other records to fall, too.
CBC reported last Friday's semi-final men's game, in which Canada narrowly defeated the United States, attracted an average online audience of 625,000 viewers on the web or mobile devices. That handily beat even the U.S. audience for the same game, as NBC's online streaming attracted an average minute audience of approximately 435,000.
"Sochi 2014 set the bar in terms of how an Olympic Games has to be covered," CBC executive director of sports properties and general manager, Olympics, Jeffrey Orridge, said in a statement. "For the first time ever, Canadians were able to see what they wanted from wherever they were in Canada at any time they wanted it, and CBC/Radio-Canada is proud to have made that possible."
CBC said 33.35 million Canadians viewed some portion of the Sochi Games content during the Olympics, on either an online or traditional platform, including 10.7 million who watched online streams on the CBC or Radio-Canada websites. Viewers watched about 14 million hours of online video content over the 18 days of the Games.
The 2012 and 2010 Olympics aired on a collection of channels owned by private broadcasters, including a number of specialty sports networks available only to cable subscribers. CBC made more than 1,500 hours of the Sochi Games available free to anyone in the country with a high-speed Internet connection.
Its purpose-built Sochi 2014 app was downloaded more than 2.5 million times. CBC said the app, designed for iOS, Android and Windows devices, accounted for more than 380 million views.
Looking forward, CBC has the Canadian broadcast rights to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Games.
"There is a long tradition of world-class Olympic coverage from Canada's public broadcaster, and the overwhelming audiences our broadcasts garnered tell me we've lived up to – if not exceeded – the expectations we had when we secured the broadcast rights just 18 months ago," said Heather Conway, CBC executive vice-president of English services.