NHL On Rogers: Ratings Are Down, Rating Are Flawed

David Shoalts over at The Globe & Mail has published two fantastic pieces in the past two months on the slow start and low ratings Rogers has been getting in the first six months of their $5.2-billion, 12-year television and online deal with the NHL. Rogers promised advertisers before the season began of a 20% increase in viewers in their first season of the new deal and jacked up advertising rates to match that. That number currently sits at only 11%. Either Rogers underestimated just how much NHL Canadians want to watch, or the more likely scenario (especially if you frequent hockey discussions online) is that Rogers has ruined what was a perfectly good product in Hockey Night In Canada with flashy sets and terrible personalities.

Shoalts’ first article from December focused on the ratings numbers. The Saturday night early game was up just 9% — this is a combined rating of all 7pm games across the Rogers’ networks. The late west coast Saturday game though is down 17%, despite two games generally being shown this season compared to mostly a single CBC game last year. The Wednesday night national slot is doing better than last year with a 26% increase. Sunday night’s Hometown Hockey though.. oh, boy! Rogers say the ratings on City are better than whatever trash City was showing on a Sunday night last season, but some games have been getting well under half a million viewers, something that has rarely happened in past years when a Canadian team plays on national television.

Shoalts’ second article on the subject published last week sent everybody into pained laughter with Sportsnet president Scott Moore blaming Numeris, the company in charge of collecting television and radio ratings in Canada, on Rogers’ low NHL ratings halfway into the season. The quote came on the heels of ratings for the All-Star game drawing one-million less viewers than the last All-Star game in 2012 (1.479 millions versus 2.454 million). The Skills competition (800k less) and Fantasy Draft (600k less) were also down on 2012 numbers. The Winter Classic number was also down (1 million versus 3.6 million last year) though that can somewhat be explained by last year’s game featuring Toronto and this year’s being an all-U.S. matchup.

“We have been in discussions with Numeris for some time about the reporting of both regional and national sports viewing. As you probably know, several sports properties seem to be down, which is contrary to what we are seeing south of the border. [The] CFL was down substantially this year as well. We are concerned about both the multiplatform reporting and the regional and sports representation on the Numeris panels.”
— Scott Moore, Sportsnet president

“We are balanced by geography, age, sex and household size. So you would think that for major sports that would fall out across the population. The important thing is to keep the panels in balance so that they match the population characteristics. We have a very careful system to do that. So far we haven’t found anything [unusual] but we’re continuing to watch it.”
— Jim MacLeod, Numeris president

“We think that’s a laughable comment.How do we explain all-time records at the world juniors? Everyone knows [the Numeris numbers] are a statistically valid sample. It’s the currency everyone uses in the world. It’s funny, I didn’t hear them complaining about the Blue Jays [owned by Rogers], who had one of their best TV ratings [in 2014].”
— Phil King, president, CTV, sports and entertainment programming

The final sentence from Bell Media’s Phil King sums up everything perfectly. Rogers didn’t complain the numbers were inaccurate when touting record ratings for the Jays last year or when they sent out their only NHL ratings related press release of the season boasting how good the opening weekend numbers were. No one has heard Bell playing the blame-game on low CFL ratings, nor complaining that their record Super Bowl rating last weekend should be even higher.

After a few years absence, maybe viewers forgot the All-Star game and weekend was taking place? Maybe viewers realized what a gong show the All-Star actually is and decided to spend their Sunday night doing something better? The fact that most Canadian teams (especially the Leafs, where a majority of ratings numbers come from) aren’t doing too well this season definitely plays a factor in declining ratings so far. I live in somewhat of an online bubble, but from sports and media forums to Reddit to Twitter, the general majority of commenters absolutely hate everything Rogers has done to hockey broadcasting in Canada — from the terrible play-by-play commentators to the channel-changing talking heads in studio. At least they have another eleven-and-a-half years to try and turn things around.

8 thoughts on “NHL On Rogers: Ratings Are Down, Rating Are Flawed

  1. Great article.
    Maybe sometimes too much of something saturates the viewers. I have a lot more choice of hockey this year on TV but I still just watch my team and don’t really bother with other teams Die hard fans used to purchase NHL center ice to fulfill their needs but I think this type of viewership cannot be compared to the average fan.
    Everyone expected some growing pains with this new NHL-Rogers deal. Lets not forget Rogers is in for the long run… A strong contingency of Canadian teams in the playoffs can change the picture very quickly.

  2. An article appeared a few days ago in a Montreal newspapers (For the french readers: http://www.lapresse.ca/arts/television/201501/24/01-4838078-la-lente-progression-de-tva-sports.php ) roughly stating the same situation occurs at TVA Sports who is struggling to justify the big investment they made for what is basicly the habs saturday night games. On the other hand, RDS, the regional broadcaster, only suffered a mere decrease in it’s market shares since the beggining of the season.

    The flip side here is that TVA Sports will get all of the playoff, including all the habs games, which could be the pot of gold for them in the long run!

  3. I wonder if the companies that have paid for advertising during Rogers hockey broadcasts are going to be getting rebates going forward either for the playoffs or for next season since Rogers has failed to deliver the expected audience numbers? Oh well, I guess Rogers still has 11 years to try to make some money off the deal.

    If not, Canadians can look for this new charge on their Rogers Cable/Internet/Mobile bills down the road; “Hockey cost recovery fee” $5.99 per month :)

  4. After watching the first few games of the season in their entirety, my wife and I quickly concluded that Rogers has taken what was once a great Canadian institution and ruined it. Now, we don’t start watching HNIC until the singing of the national anthems begin. We don’t even watch the segment between the 2nd and 3rd period anymore because we can’t handle listening to a 40 something adult try to pretend he’s a 20 something hipster.

    Maybe Rogers and George S should visit some hockey rinks around the country, (yes, there are people who live outside the borders of the GTA). They might be surprised to find that most regular folk don’t associate “hipster-cool” with hockey, and were quite comfortable with Ron and Don, and the rest of the original crew.

    I can just imagine what Rogers and George S have planned to get the ratings back for next year… , I can see it now, “Coaches Corner” with Stephen & Chris, then “After 40 Minutes” with Ben Munroney & Tonya Kim, with guest panelists, David Suzuki & Thomas Mulcair.

  5. I think it’s going to take a while for the Sunday game to get better ratings. The game time is all over the place and that is part of the reason. Football is #1 (CFL or NFL) from Oct. to the Super Bowl. It should get a bit better for the Sunday game from now to the end of the season. Second rate personalites on the Sat. games is a problem. Flashy set is fine and it takes time for viewers to accept change.

    • “I think it’s going to take a while for the Sunday game to get better ratings. The game time is all over the place and that is part of the reason. Football is #1 (CFL or NFL) from Oct. to the Super Bowl.”

      Even when the Senators are playing on “Hometown Hockey”, I watch the conclusion of the late games in the NFL & Sunday Night Football. Maybe Rogers should stop showing these Sunday games if ratings don’t improve for the rest of this season.

  6. “The fact that most Canadian teams (especially the Leafs, where a majority of ratings numbers come from) aren’t doing too well this season definitely plays a factor in declining ratings so far.”

    It should certainly contribute to the issue.

  7. Does Rogers need to have a certain amount of games on TV each week? Could they pull the plug on the Sunday night game? Or is it part of the deal that they have one?

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