CFL ratings report: Thursday night boost largely Rider driven

So the CFL and TSN have wrapped up their slate of Thursday night games for the season and commissioner Randy Ambrosie is touting them as a huge success. And while the ratings are certainly up overall, a closer look at the numbers reveals that the boost may be coming from a single, green-fuelled source.

Last season, there were 11 games broadcast in Thursday night with an average viewership of 484,500. In 2018, there were the same number of games (11) but the average audience on TSN jumped to over 550,000 – an increase of over 13.5 per cent. That’s a significant increase, particularly in the era of rampant cord cutting.

So how’d they’d do it? An amazing theme song? Dispatches from the Rum Hut? The power of new Thursday host Kate Beirness? The concert series featuring bands most people have never heard of?

Nope. The Thursday ratings bonanza is due to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

The Riders played just once on Thursday night last season, the season opener against the Montreal Alouettes (a.k.a. the Darian Durant revenge game.) But this year, the Riders played on Thursday night three times, producing the three highest-rated Thursday games (and the two highest of the entire season thus far) and giving TSN a giant ratings boost in the process.

Take out those Rider performances (comparing the remaining eight games to all 11 last year) and Thursday night ratings actually dropped by more than four per cent.

Now, the 2018 TV ratings are still good news for the league and TSN (so far anyway) and the league says they are seeing promising demographic changes. But when it comes to Thursday night, that success seems to have been achieved by painting the games a particular combination of green and white.

Week 11 ratings

The CFL started its schedule earlier this year to incorporate an extra bye for each team and so comparing weeks gets a little tricky: Week 11 this year ran from Aug. 23 to 25 while Week 11 in 2017 fell on Labour Day weekend. Given that Labour Day ratings are usually good, comparing them to each other makes more sense, as does comparing games from a similar time frame in August.

With that in mind, let’s compare the 2018 Week 11 to the 2017 Week 10 and we’ll let the Labour Days go head-to-head next week.

Week 11

Edmonton at Hamilton 519,700

Toronto at Montreal 380,400

Saturday (early)
Winnipeg at Calgary 437,000

Saturday (late)
Saskatchewan at B.C. 699,900

Week 11 2018 vs Week 10 2017: +1.3 per cent
Year-to-date vs 2017: +3.8 per cent

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