Johnny Manziel helped boost the TV ratings for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats game against the Toronto Argonauts.
Almost 310,000 viewers tuned in to TSN to watch the former Heisman Trophy winner make his CFL debut last Friday, making it the most-watched pre-season game thus far. Manziel went 9-of-11 for 80 yards – there was a string of five straight completions – and carried the ball two times for 10 yards in roughly a quarter of play. The Ticats lost 36-18.
But the Saskatchewan Roughriders contest against the Edmonton Eskimos on May 27 did almost as well, drawing over 305,000. It was the first CFL pre-season game of the 2018 season and the Riders are typically the league’s most-watched team.
The Montreal Alouettes game against the Ottawa Redblacks did not fare as well. It drew just 107,000, though it was not broadcast on the main TSN network and was up against the NBA playoffs. These ratings are English-language only and do not include RDS.
Also not included: U.S. numbers. The Ticats-Argos game was available in the U.S. via ESPN+, the new $4.99 USD per month streaming service from the league’s American rights holder. Previously, games in the U.S. had been carried by ESPN2 or ESPNEWS.
The level of interest in Manziel is significant enough that TSN has elected to televise Saturday’s exhibition game between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Montreal Alouettes at Percival Molson Stadium in Montreal, which kicks off at 12 p.m. ET. The game wasn’t initially on TSN’s slate of four exhibition contests but was added to the list on Monday.
That news came just hours after Ticats head coach June Jones said starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli would not play against the Alouettes, leading to speculation that Manziel would get the start and see significant playing time.