The television ratings for TSN’s coverage of the 2021 CFL draft fell over 20 percent compared to the previous year.
The broadcast started at 7 p.m. and ended shortly before 9 p.m. ET. Veteran Rod Smith hosted, Duane Forde, Farhan Lalji, and Davis Sanchez provided analysis and insight into the picks. TSN covered the first two rounds of the six-round draft.
The average audience checked in at 57,000 viewers, down 22 percent from the 2020 CFL Draft which registered 73,100. There was a total of 428,000 unique Canadians who tuned in at one point or another throughout the 2020 edition, which was the highest TV audience for a CFL Draft on TSN since 2014.
The 2021 event was in an ideal time slot for success with the Maple Leafs on an off night, the Blue Jays first pitch wasn’t until after 9:30 p.m. in Oakland, and the Raptors tip time was at 10 p.m. in Los Angeles. However, the final rating number did not deliver as anticipated, especially with it being the first live CFL programming on TV since Grey Cup Unite Week in late November.
Just days earlier, TSN aired the first round of NFL Draft. The 32 picks took over three hours to complete and the average audience was 256,000. That was a 26.7 percent increase year-over-year compared to 187,600 in 2020. That boost comes after the NFL played an entire season in 2020 which was capped by Tom Brady leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl title in February.
Meanwhile, the CFL cancelled their schedule last August after the federal government denied a $30 million interest-free loan. The three-down league hasn’t been on the field since November 2019 when the Winnipeg Blue Bombers won the Grey Cup 33-12 over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
It’s plausible the drop in ratings for the CFL Draft could be the first sign of damage done by not playing football north of the border last year.