Some quick mid-week notes before Wednesday Night Hockey comes on tonight. A Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers; enjoy your long weekend.
- The big news of the first half of the week was Sidney Crosby’s return to NHL action. CBC added the game to their broadcast schedule less than 30 hours before game-time. An average of 1.2 million viewers watched the game on CBC. The audience peaked at 1.55 million viewers at 7:18pm ET, just after Crosby scored his first goal. Those numbers tell us two things. The first is the impact social media has on ratings; usually the peak audience is closer to the end of the game, not early in the first period. The second is how consistent the audience was throughout. The peak was only 350, 000 more viewers than the average, usually there is a greater polarization. The only question that leaves me is, how many people actually watched the game start to finish?
- Crosby didn’t fare so well south of the border, where an average only 198, 000 tuned in on Versus. That is one of the worst showings for an NHL game on Versus this season. The game did slightly better in Pittsburgh, where it was broadcast on FSN (and blacked out on Versus). However, viewership in the States, where the league relies on Crosby for media attention, was still poor. While 24 hours is more than enough time to spread the word of a big game in hockey-crazed Canada, maybe it isn’t the United States where football rules on Sunday and Monday.
- One last note on hockey ratings, Puck the Media has all of my Hockey Night in Canada information for the season so far compiled into one post. It’s worth taking a look at. So far CBC is averaging 2.21 million viewers for the Saturday 7pm ET timeslot, with an average of 918, 000 tuning into the 10pm ET games on Saturday. Four Hockey Night in Canada Specials (2 on opening night, Winnipeg’s home opener and Crosby’s return) averaged 1.49 million viewers. The average rating for 19 HNIC broadcasts so far this season is 1.5 million (note: this doesn’t include the Senators @ Rangers matinee on October 29). CBC’s pre-game show, Hockey Tonight, is averaging 744, 000 viewers thus far.
- The CFL Division Finals pulled in solid ratings for TSN on Sunday. The West Final (Eskimos @ Lions) averaged 1.8 million viewers, while the East Final (Tiger Cats @ Blue Bombers) averaged 1.3 million. Not bad considering neither game was particularly close. However, those numbers are still down from last year when the West Final (Roughriders @ Stampeders) averaged 2.3 million and the East Final (Argonauts @ Alouettes) averaged 1.2 million. The average for both games is down from 1.75 million to 1.55 million.
- Yahoo’s Andrew Buchholz wrote an excellent article about whether the drop in CFL ratings this season is concering. The ratings for TSN’s five-year deal will probably be up over those in the final few years of the TSN/CBC combined deal. This is largely because of the switch to portable-people-meters in 2009. However, the drop this year may result in rights fees not going up as much as they would have if the CFL signed a new broadcast deal at the end of last season. I expect a new CFL deal, which would take effect beginning with the 2013 season, will be over the next few months. It is possible that the CFL will re-sign with TSN without inviting anyone else to the table. I hope there is at least a bid this time though.
- TSN’s Grey Cup coverage is the gold standard of Canadian sports broadcasting. It is every bit as good as an NFL broadcast, and the Sunday pregame show is in many ways better than the Super Bowl pregame show. TSN’s 30 minute documentary on the 1991 Toronto Argonuats looks like can’t-miss programming. Chris Cuthbert and Brian Williams are two of Canada’s top five sports broadcasters, in my opinion. Cuthbert provides a game just the right level or excitement, without going overboard (like, say, Gus Johnson). You can hear some of Cuthbert’s great Grey Cup calls in this video, SportsCentre’s Top 10 Grey Cup Moments (10, 8, 4, 1 are all Cuthbert).
- Rogers has announced which UEFA Champions League games it will air on the final group stage matchday. On Tuesday December 6, Chelsea vs. Valencia will air on Sportsnet World, Olympiacos vs. Arsenal on Sportsnet and Porto vs. Zenit on Sportsnet One; on Wednesday December 7, Basel vs. Manchester United will air on Sportsnet World, Manchester City vs. Bayern Munich on Sportsnet and Ajax vs. Real Madrid on Sportsnet One. Rogers has assigned the two top matches (both win and you’re in, featuring a top English team) to Sportsnet World.
- The NFL’s annual Thanksgiving Day games are tomorrow afternoon. The NFL’s (and Fox’s) preseason pick of the Green Bay Packers to play the usually hapless Detriot Lions in the early game turned out great. The Lions aren’t so hapless this year, at 7-3, while the Packers are still undefeated at 10-0. I expect great ratings in the US for this game. The second game features the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins; CBS will be happy because the Cowboys are in playoff contention and also deliver Turkey Day ratings. NFL Network managed to get a stud for primetime as well when the 9-1 49ers visit the 7-3 Ravens (this game is on Sportsnet in Canada). The commentators tomorrow include Joe Buck and Troy Aikmen in Detroit, Jim Nantz and Phil Simms in Dallas, and Brad Nessler and Mike Mayock in Baltimore.
- Considering that the three best NFL games are on Thursday and Monday this week, there isn’t much left for CBS, Fox and NBC on Sunday. Football fans won’t have a hard time finding something to watch in the evening since the Grey Cup is on, but the early afternoon slot might be a different story. CTV and TSN2 are only making two games available to Canadians. Despite not being a great on-field matchup, I’d recommend Bills @ Jets (which is on every CBS station carried in Canada, as well as many CTV affiliates). It is an odd chance to hear the great Marv Albert call a football game.
- The college football bowl schedule for Canadian TV is now available. Six games aren’t scheduled to air in Canada. TSN could add those to their schedule later on; if not, they will probably be available on the Super Sports Pak.