After Grey Cup ratings tank, Super Bowl viewership jumps almost 18 per cent

The NFL capped off a strong season of ratings in Canada with a solid Super Bowl number, despite a dud of a game.

The average audience for New England’s 13-3 snoozer of a win over the Los Angeles Rams was watched by an average of 5.3 million people on CTV and RDS, a 17.7 per cent increase over last year’s game.

Viewership for the CFL’s championship game between the Calgary Stampeders and the Ottawa Redblacks was just 3.1 million on TSN – a decline of over 23 per cent from 2017. It was the lowest-rated game since 2001 (2.7 million) and the worst showing for TSN since they took over the broadcast rights 11 years ago.

The poor showing also meant that TSN saw a slight ratings decrease for 2018 – despite a regular season that saw a modest increase. Overall, ratings declined 0.3 per cent for the 81-game season, including playoffs.

NFL ratings were up five per cent in the U.S. this season while Canadian viewership had spiked 19 per cent through the first two months of the season. Ratings for conference championship games jumped more than 22 per cent over 2017 – a stark contrast to the CFL’s post-season viewership struggles.

Ratings for the CFL East and West Division championships last October were down a combined 30 per cent, including a drop of almost 50 per cent for the game between the Ottawa Redblacks and Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

The numbers for the Super Bowl in the U.S. weren’t nearly as good. The game averaged 98.2 million viewers on CBS, a five per cent drop from last year’s game and the lowest since the championship contest following the 2007 season. The household rating of 41.1 was the lowest since the game played after the 2003 season.

The CFL recently signed a new contract with ESPN for U.S. broadcast rights. The new arrangement is similar to the old one: at least 20 regular season games on legacy networks ESPN or ESPN2, including the Grey Cup, and 65 games on the paid ESPN+ app. The original deal with ESPN was signed in 2014 after stints with the NFL Network and the NBC Sports Network.

The CFL averaged 163,000 viewers on ESPN2 last season, a 19 per cent increase from 2017.

The CFL is broadcast exclusively on TSN in Canada while the NFL is carried by Bell Media on both TSN and CTV, which is available to a larger audience. Here’s a look how the two games have performed over the last eight years.

Season Grey Cup Super Bowl
2011 4.6 8.2
2012 5.8 7.4
2013 4.5 7.9
2014 4.1 9.2
2015 4.3 8.3
2016 3.9 4.5
2017 4.3 4.5
2018 3.3 5.3


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