English TV ratings dip for CFL Semi-Final Saturday after games switched from Sunday

Courtesy: Peter McCabe/CFL

The Canadian Football League had a slight dip in ratings for its Saturday semi-final doubleheader.

Commissioner Randy Ambrosie stated at the 109th Grey Cup that the CFL would move from Sundays to Saturdays for the division semi-final and final games. That switch could have helped boost English television ratings for the East Semi-Final but not its West counterpart due to stiff competition.

The Alouettes’ 27-12 win over the Tiger-Cats in La Belle Province, the exact same matchup from the same playoff round last year, had a 10.9 percent increase in average viewers with a notable French number on RDS.

TSN was able to hold 409,900 people for its pre-game show from 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. ET leading into the Stampeders and Lions postseason tilt. Just like in the East, Calgary and B.C. met in the same elimination game as one year prior. The key difference this time around was competition from Hockey Night in Canada.

The Maple Leafs lost to Buffalo 6-4 with 1,451,300 Canadians tuned in, including 521,400 in the 25-54 age demographic. The Canucks’ 2-0 win against Dallas, which drew 910,600 overall and 343,300 in the 25-54 age demo, didn’t start until 10 p.m. ET after the Leos had already clinched moving on to the West Final. The Oilers’ 5-2 loss to Nashville that started at 3 p.m. ET had 333,200 onlookers. Hockey Central Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET on Sportsnet posted 522,400 across the network.

From 2009 to 2022, the CFL played all of its postseason games on Sunday. In 2022, the East Semi-Final drew 516,200 watchers, while its West counterpart drew 753,500 for an English-language average of 634,850. Prior to this year, 2008 was the only time the three-down league tried playing its division semi-final and final games on Saturdays.

According to former Toronto Star reporter Chris Zelkovich, the East Semi-Final between Edmonton and Winning brought 610,000 to TSN that year, which was 38 percent less than CBC drew in 2007. Out west, B.C. and Saskatchewan garnered an audience of 862,000, which was 15 percent lower year-over-year.

2023 CFL Semi-Final TV ratings:

Hamilton at Montreal — TSN 572,700 and RDS 271,000
Calgary at B.C. — 644,800

Total CFL Semi-Final average: 608,750 (French included: 744,250)

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.