An earlier start to the season may have provided the CFL with a quick boost in their television ratings.
Rights holder TSN posted a 12 per cent increase in their Week 1 viewership numbers over 2017, despite the fact the season has been moved up by a week. The 2018 campaign kicked off on June 14 while last year’s regular season began on June 22.
The most-watched game of the week was Friday’s contest between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Toronto Argonauts at Mosaic Stadium in Regina with an average audience of 660,500 English-language viewers. That was followed closely by the Calgary Stampeders’ game with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, which drew 651,700 on Saturday.
Thursday’s season opener between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Edmonton Eskimos was split into two separate segments because of a weather delay that caused TSN to go to SportsCentre. The second portion of the game actually drew a higher rating (505,000) than the first (457,000.) For the purposes of the overall average, we’ve split the difference (481,000.)
Saturday’s late game between the B.C. Lions and the Montreal Alouettes drew 547,600 – a very respectable number, given that both teams missed the playoffs last season and saw some low TV numbers.
The average audience for the four-games was 585,200, an 11.7 per cent jump from the 523,750 the opening slate drew in 2017.
Overall, the CFL and TSN averaged 578,000 viewers per game in 2017, a seven per cent jump from 2016. Ratings slumped for a portion of last summer but got a boost from a strong playoff run that included two Rider games and a strong Grey Cup audience.
Those numbers – and the early returns in 2018 – are good news for both the CFL and TSN as the industry deals with the seismic changes brought on by cord cutting that has seen as many as one in four people cancel their cable services. TSN recently announced a $24.99 a month streaming package that allows customers to watch the network online without a cable package for the first time.