The ratings game is a funny business in Canada. Most if not all ad revenues are based on decades old ratings survey technology. Yet the industry has the means to determine exactly how many people are watching a certain show at a certain time, simply by adding up the information available right now from digital set top boxes in every cable and satellite home.

The Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission gets this and has set a deadline for data to be collected directly from said boxes (this October). Yet, still, here we are, in 2019, looking at audience estimates from a ratings gathering service based on data collected audibly from less than five thousands homes across Canada. That the data company is owned by the Canadian companies that own the broadcast networks is also sorta, well, interesting.

The big wild card nowadays, of course, is the Over-The-Top streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon, CBS All Access and Crave. That viewership data is measured in a different way but Netflix and other OTT’s never share it. All that matters for that business model, they claim, is the number of overall subscribers. If you subscribe and never watch a thing all month — as sometimes happens in this house — no problem. Just keep your credit card company informed if your address changes.

Then there’s spin, or what network promotion departments do with the numbers. In this wild west era of over, under and through the top, the old reporting rules seem to be getting bent if not broken. Take, for instance, CTV’s Jann.

Now, I love Jann. I think the fifth episode was a turning point in this series, which concluded its six episode, first season run Wednesday. That episode showcased note-perfect Deborah Grover as Nora, the mother of the title character (played, of course, by Jann Arden) and her sister Max (Zoie Palmer). Nora has been getting more and more forgetful and last week’s episode showed why: she was diagnosed with Dementia.


Jann’s moment of truth (l-r) Palmer, Grover and Arden

Now, heavy topic. Arden’s own mom passed away at the end of last year after a decade living with Alzheimer’s and the experience was challenging and life changing for her family. My own mother, Margaret, is 94, in long term care and thinks I’m her brother Eddie most days. She loved her brother though, so that’s been working pretty well so far.

I spoke with Arden about our moms and Alzheimer’s during production on Jann (read that full interview here in Zoomer). As the actress/singer so wisely said to me, “if you don’t laugh, you’re not going to make it through.”

This sums up Jann in a nutshell. Episode 5 delivered scenes of tenderness, fear and sorrow mixed with plenty of belly laughs. If you only watched the first episode of Jann and thought it was too frenzied or that there was too much slapstick, watch Episode 5. It was a maturing moment, a leap forward for a series sure to return next season.

On Tuesday of this week, in a release, CTV declared Jann the “#1 New Canadian Series of The Year.” They’re also declaring victory as the home of Canada’s No. 1 new show as soon as you open Bell’s new press site, The Lede.

While it is doing well and may even be close, I’m not convinced that is 100 per cent true.

Bell/CTV goosed the numbers by moving Jann to Thursday for one week and slotting her behind Canada’s No. 1 show — The Big Bang Theory. Nothing wrong with that. All’s fair in love and scheduling. Use Big Bang while you can.

That move, they claim, sent ratings for that one episode soaring to 1.1 million viewers as tabulated after just two days of preliminary data. Totals are normally reached after seven days, so that could even climb to 1.2+ million.

Now, according to overnight estimates for that April 18 broadcast, the series drew a record high 980,000 viewers. Lead in Big Bang, was pegged at an overnight 2,2 million. While Jann shed most of that lead-in, the desired boost nonetheless worked.

The four previous overnight totals for Jann were: 768,000 (opening night), 526,000, 441,000 and 586,000. Add last week’s 980,000 and this Wednesday’s season finale estimate of 501,000 viewers and you have a full six episode overnight average of 633,666 viewers.

Now, shows can gain anywhere from 20 percent to even 50 per cent more in Live+7 data. Tens of thousands more may have streamed Jann each week on Crave. So it is possible the series has, legitimately, risen to a season average of 1.1 million in totals as the release claims. And that, in fact, would put it ahead of the 1,025,000 A2+ AMA Totals season average of one other new Canadian series this year: CBC’s surprisingly robust Monday night drama Coroner.

Two things, however. Jann did not finish its run until last night, so the season total is incomplete. Declaring victory after you get the Big Bang boost and before the series ends in its regular time slot may be savvy marketing but it’s not cricket, not to me and likely not to advertisers.

The Leafs, say, could have declared after their Game 5 victory over the Boston Bruins in the 1st round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs that they were No. 1. They were up at that point, three games to two. Unfortunately, the series went to a seventh and deciding game.

According to Numeris, the series also did not crack the English Canada Top 30 most-watched programs list among adults 2+ in any of its first four weeks — so it does not appear to have, say, doubled its audience in Live+7 data over that period.

So — will Jann beat Coroner as the No. 1 new Canadian series of the year? It will be close, and maybe, but we’ll know for sure in 10 days when that final Live+7 number is factored into the mix.

Another thing that made this old numbers watchdog suspicious: an earlier CTV release goosed Jann‘s first night total by adding in the audience measured on the Saturday encore broadcast of the series. Now, maybe that is legit; after all, people watch shows all week now, whenever they want to, on demand. Combining Jann into a two-fer, however, is not the way these things have been measured up till now– and likely not the way shows are sold to advertisers, although I don’t know that for sure.

In any event, when I requested apples-to-apples data based on original night viewing, a CTV spokesperson instead sharpen the definition of the season win beyond the release’s headline. It’s the No. 1 new comedy in Canada; it’s the No. 1 new series among the most desirable ad demo categories.

This is very likely to remain true once the complete season totals are compared. CTV simple skewers younger than CBC. And the new comedy bar has not been set that high in Canada this season. Jann certainly drew double and perhaps triple the demo take of CBC’s Cavandish, say, or Little Dog. Jann may have even beaten all existing Canadian sitcoms this season, with Kim’s Convenience, Schitt’s Creek, Workin’ Moms and Mr. D all trending down in broadcast TV’s ever fracturing grind.

Whoever wins, I’ll be first to celebrate the impressive series starts for both Jann and Coroner. Canada needs more broadcast TV success stories.

No matter what the final numbers show, will both CTV and CBC declare victory at their Canadian upfronts in June? Hell yes — we won’t need a coroner for that.

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