Johnny Manziel’s debut draws highest CFL rating ever on ESPN

Johnny Manziel’s highly anticipated CFL debut was reflected in the comparatively large United States television ratings.

The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner made his first CFL start last Friday and the game was carried in the USA on ESPN2. Manziel threw four interceptions as his Montreal Alouettes were beaten down by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 50-11. Americans tuned in to watch in droves.


That made it the most-watched game for ESPN since it started showing CFL contests in 1980. The previous record was a Saskatchewan-Edmonton game in June 2013 that drew an average of 347,000 viewers on ESPN2.

Over 130,000 more viewers saw Manziel’s first CFL start than any other CFL game on ESPN outlets in 2018 – all CFL games are being shown on ESPN2, ESPNNews or ESPN+. The 2017 Grey Cup game between the Calgary Stampeders and Toronto Argonauts drew 237,000 viewers.

Manziel beat out The Basketball Tournament final which has a $2 million in winner-take-all cash prize on the main ESPN channel head-to-head.

That’s the Johnny Football affect.

-with CP files