‘Spos finally win!

Last Sunday afternoon I checked to see if there was a late NFL football game on Fox. Instead, commentators were making a big deal out of bowling. I thought I was back in 1968. Chubby, middle-aged guys named “Chip” and “The Hammer” (names are approx; don’t make me look them up) were being touted as if they were Tom Brady and Aaron Rogers.

I began to wonder: are the exorbitantly high costs of NFL and other major league sports rights starting to clash with diminishing returns, in general, on network and specialty channels? Is this especially true in an era where powerful, content-rich streaming services such as Disney+ and Apple TV+ offering viewers more and more options? The NFL may not have to take on HBO’s Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead has finally slowed to a stroll, but streamers are starting to pile on and more are in the wings.

So far, changes in viewing habits are not as noticeable in the States. Keep in mind, however, that the numbers below were gleaned the week before Apple TV+ launched. So it was the same old story in America on Oct. 30 as the seventh and deciding game of the 2019 World Series between Washington (Expos) and Houston Astros drew 21.19 million live + same day viewers to Fox. That was well up from the 17.63 million who watched last year’s World Series closer.

In Canada, however, the game was not as impactful. Sportsnet National drew an overnight, estimated 1,227,000 for the seventh and deciding game — still a strong audience but nowhere near dominant. Earlier World Series games in Canada this fall drew half the Game Seven total or less. Game Six the previous night pulled 695,000 on Sportsnet National in overnights. Game Five on Sunday, Oct. 27 did 506,000 in the same overnight measure.

In the United States, NBC’s Sunday Night Football was the No. 1 program in both adults 18-49 and total viewers, drawing 18.32 million Americans on the week of Oct. 21-27. Fox’s Thursday Night Football game placed second among all US network programs the same week with 13.77 million fans tuning in.

In addition, the first five of Fox’s World Series broadcasts all made the US Top 10 list of most-watched broadcasts that same week of Oct. 21-27 according to TV By the Numbers.


Looking at Sat., Oct. 26 to Fri., Nov. 1, here are the top draws in Sports in Canada in overnight estimates on individual network stations:

  1. World Series Game 7 (Sportsnet National; Oct. 30) 1,227,000
  2. Hockey Night in Canada East (CBC; Sat., Oct. 26) 1,080,000
  3. World Series Game Six (Sportsnet National; Tues., Oct. 29) 695,000
  4. Hockey Night in Canada West (CBC; Sat., Oct. 26) 677,000
  5. NHL Leafs v. Washington (TSN; Tues., Oct. 29) 671,000
  6. NFL Late (CTV; Sun., Oct. 27) 662,000
  7. NFL Early (CTV; Sun., Oct. 27) 636,000
  8. World Series Post Game (Sportsnet National; Wed., Oct. 30) 635,000
  9. CFL Saskatchewan v. Edmonton (TSN; Sat., Oct. 26) 562,000
  10. World Series Game 5 (Sportsnet Nat.; Sun., Oct. 27) 506,000

The top NBA draw that week was a game between the World Champion Toronto Raptors v. Orlando Magic, which drew 468,000 for their Mon., Oct. 28 tilt.

If you combine the total audience watching the same game on two different outlets, the English Canada sports rankings for that week are different. For example,

  1. Hockey Night in Canada East (CBC + Sportsnet One) 1,524,000
  2. World Series Game 7 (Sportsnet National; Oct. 30) 1,227,000
  3. Hockey Night in Canada West (CBC + Sportsnet One) 1,014,000
  4. Sunday Night Football Green Bay @ Kansas City (CTV2 + TSN) 788,000
  5. World Series Game Six (Sportsnet National; Tues., Oct. 29) 695,000
  6. NBA Raptors v. Orlando (Sportsnet Nat + Sportsnet One) 676,000

CTV/CTV2 do okay with NFL numbers, but unlike in America where the NFL routinely tops the ratings, regular season games barely crack the English Canada Top 30 in totals each week. Where Bell/CTV will cash in is with the NFL playoffs and especially the Super Bowl broadcast — even with some significant loss in eyeballs and revenue due to the CRTC’s over-the-top ruling with allowing the US feed into Canada.

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