Despite setting a new Sportsnet viewing record, Sportsnet’s coverage of the opening game of the 2014–15 NHL season between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens was actually down 14% from last year’s CBC broadcast of the same game.
Last year, CBC recorded 2.33 million viewers for the mid-week Leafs-Habs opener, while this year’s broadcast this past Wednesday managed an average of 2.01 million viewers with 8 million English-speaking Canadian tuning in to at least part of Wednesday Night Hockey. This is a record for a hockey broadcast on Sportsnet and it was also the number one program viewed across Canada on Wednesday night according to Numeris. The previous record for Sportsnet viewership was the 2013 Blue Jays home opener which got an audience of 1.44 million.
On the French-language side, TVA Sports got 952,000 viewers for the Habs-Leafs which makes a total of 2.7 million Canadians that watched the game, down from CBC’s and RDS’s combined total of 3.31 million last season.
The Calgary Flames vs. Vancouver Canucks game that followed the early game received an average audience of 1 million – also down from CBC’s home opener late game broadcast of 1.05 million which was Oilers-Jets. The pre-game show earlier in the night averaged 377,000 viewers.
One entirely possible explanation is that 32,000-viewer difference can be attributed to over-the-air CBC being available in more homes than the cable-based Sportsnet (CBC is available in about 4 million more homes than Sportsnet). Another could be that Canadians were watching digitally. Sportsnet also recorded huge numbers for their brand new NHL GameCentre Live. 55,000 people watched the Leafs-Habs game online, with 75% watching on their desktop computer and 25% on a tablet or smartphone, and over 80,000 minutes of on-demand replays from the game was streamed by fans.
Look for a review on Sportsnet’s television coverage and GameCentre Live over the weekend.