KRYK: Unlike in Donald Trump’s America, NFL TV ratings are actually up in Canada -- especially among young adults
Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates his 32-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on Nov. 13, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pa. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Hey, whose game is it anyway?
Whereas NFL TV ratings have plunged this season in America, Postmedia has learned they’re up substantially in Canada -- especially among young adults.
Season-to-date, average-audience viewership numbers have risen 8% in Canada over last year, on all networks.
English-language NFL games in Canada -- except Thursday-nighters on Sportsnet -- are shown on CTV, CTV Two or TSN. That trio’s ratings are up not only 6% over last year, but a whopping 26% among adults aged 18-34.
Those aren’t the only key takeaways from Numeris numbers obtained by Postmedia (which exclude Sportsnet telecasts). Others:
Outdrawing everything but early HNIC
The most-watched weekly NFL game in Canada -- late afternoon on Sundays -- usually draws more Canadian TV viewers each weekend than every other sports event, except for the early Hockey Night in Canada NHL game on Saturdays.
This season, those late-afternoon Sunday games are averaging 893,000 Canadian viewers -- up 7% from last year overall, and up 23% among adults 18-34.
The latter is a trend, not a coincidence -- and might be the most impactful takeaway from these ratings revelations.
Indeed, young Canadian adults may rank among the NFL’s fastest growing sub-sect of fans -- anywhere.
Viewership in their demo for early Sunday afternoon games is up 22% through Week 10, and up a staggering 46% for Monday night games. Even Sunday night ratings are up 11% in this Canadian demo.
Compare the latter to an overall drop north of the border of 14% for Sunday Night Football, and an overall drop south of the border of 15%, which includes a 16% drop in the American 18-49 demo.
These ratings jumps among young Canadian adults seem to confirm a growing anecdotal sense that the NFL’s popularity in Canada increases with each generation.
Late Sunday afternoons in further perspective
Last weekend’s Sunday late-afternoon NFL game, Dallas-Pittsburgh, outdrew even the CFL Eastern semi-final playoff game -- 981,000 to 903,000. The Western semi drew 1.06 million.
Previously this season, Sunday NFL games regularly thumped late-season Sunday CFL games. That is, from early September through early November, according to weekly Numeris numbers posted at Yahoo! Sports Canada.
For instance on Oct. 22-23 weekend, three early Hockey Night in Canada games (Toronto-Chicago, Montreal-Boston and Ottawa-Tampa Bay) collectively topped all weekend sports programming in Canada, with 1.91 million viewers.
The late-afternoon NFL games that weekend (Pittsburgh-New England and Atlanta-San Diego) together drew 963,000 -- making it the second-most watched sports program in the nation that weekend, ahead of both the late HNIC game (Vancouver-LA: 887,000) and the Sunday NHL game (Edmonton-Winnipeg: 873,000).
The fifth-most watched sports program that weekend was the early-afternoon Sunday NFL telecast (Buffalo-Miami, Minnesota-Philadelphia, Baltimore-New York Jets: 800,000).
Rounding out the Oct. 22-23 weekend Top 10: the Heritage Classic oldtimers hockey game (693,000), an NLCS game between the Chicago Cubs and L.A. Dodgers (637,000), the early Friday night CFL game (Hamilton-Ottawa: 617,000), the late Friday night CFL game (Toronto-Calgary: 530,000) and the Saturday CFL game (Edmonton-BC: 499,000).
Should this year’s average of 893,000 viewers for late-afternoon Sunday NFL games continue, it would constitute a rise of 14% since 2014, when the average audience was 784,000.
Monday nights outdraw Sunday nights
Canadians have markedly different prime-time NFL tastes from Americans.
Monday Night Football hasn’t been the NFL ratings darling in the States since Sunday Night Football was added in 2006. But in Canada through Week 10 this season, MNF has averaged 447,000 viewers, up 12%. Compare that to 360,000 for SNF -- 19% fewer.
In the U.S. it’s the opposite, and it isn’t even close. NBC’s Sunday telecasts again last year proved to be the most popular show on American television, averaging nearly 23 million viewers -- nearly double that for Monday Night Football.
Early Sunday afternoon time slot
Viewership for Sunday early-afternoon games through Week 10 averages 745,000 in Canada -- up 14%.
Most weeks, CTV in this time slot delivers different games across the country, to maximize local interest. This helps to boost the collective rating.
For instance, Toronto usually gets the Buffalo Bills, Atlantic Canada the New England Patriots, Montreal the New York Giants, Winnipeg the Minnesota Vikings, and both Alberta and British Columbia the Seattle Seahawks.
Continues a trend
No one should be too surprised by the NFL’s viewing popularity in Canada compared to America. Just look at ratings for the past two Super Bowls.
The league’s championship game following the 2014 season -- Super Bowl XLIX, in which New England edged Seattle -- was viewed by more people in Canada than in the United States, on a per-capita basis.
About 55% of all Canadians (19.3 million of 35.1 million) watched at least part of that game, either on English broadcaster CTV or French network RDS. In comparison, 51% of all Americans (161.3 million of 316.1 million) watched the game on NBC, according to statistics released by the NFL.
Similarly, 18 million Canadians watched at least part of last February’s Super Bowl 50, in which Denver dropped Carolina. That’s 52% of the country -- the same percentage as Americans (167 million) who watched at least part of that game.
So for two years in a row now, at least as many Canadians as Americans watched the Super Bowl, per capita.
Other NFL playoff games likewise have drawn huge numbers of Canadian viewers over the past two Januarys.
In January 2015, 12 Hockey Night in Canada games (early and late combined) averaged 1.28 million viewers. Ten NFL playoff games averaged 1.45 million. Similarly, this past January HNIC’s doubleheader averaged 1.25 million viewers, whereas NFL playoff games averaged 1.50 million.
Remember that controversial divisional playoff game two Januarys ago between Green Bay and Dallas, when the referee after replay review overturned a seemingly good catch by Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant? That game drew 1.6 million Canadian viewers, and peaked at 2.3 million near game’s end.
That, for just a second-round playoff game.
Last January’s AFC and NFC championship games drew monster numbers. Some 2.8 million Canadians watched Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos beat Tom Brady’s New England Patriots in the AFC title game, a 30% increase year-over-year. Viewership peaked at 4.63 million.
Extrapolate all this data, and imagine how much more popular the NFL would become in Canada when, some day down the road, a team in search of a more supportive, more populous locale inevitably decides to relocate up here -- probably to Toronto, probably next decade.
That is, as long as they’re allowed to pass through Trump’s Northern Wall.
RATINGS DROP IN U.S. BLAMED PRIMARILY ON THAT UNBELIEVABLE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
NFL TV ratings south of the border have plummeted this year.
Across the board, too. In every time slot, and in both bellwether demographics: overall and the advertiser-vital 18-49 age bracket.
Many point to Americans’ understandable preoccupation with the divisive U.S. presidential election, in which Republican Donald Trump surprisingly defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton on Nov. 8.
Because of all the rancour, nervousness pervaded the electorate. That proved, as Trump might say, a tremendous, tremendous distraction from everyday American life. CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and other one-sided news providers became must-watch TV.
The NFL cites the election as a principle reason for the ratings drops. But as yet, no one knows for sure.
Any number of other reasons have been cited. Everything from unexciting games, to low-scoring games, to a dearth of recognizable stars, to underperforming superstars (hello, Aaron Rodgers), to too many commercials, to games devolving into unwatchable flag-fests because of over-officiating, and to what’s viewed in some quarters as the un-American pre-game anthem protests started by Colin Kaepernick.
Probably it’s a mix of all of the above.
Whatever the reasons, according to numbers posted in a story this week at Forbes.com, NFL ratings are down 7% for Sunday afternoon games year-over-year; down 15% on Sunday nights; down 18% on Monday nights; down 13-16% on Thursday nights; down 10% for the three Sunday morning games televised live from London, England; down 8% for games televised nationally; and down 7% for both FOX and CBS regional telecasts.
That’s an 11% drop overall.
The good news, however, is that this past Sunday night’s game, which saw Seattle defeat New England 31-24, drew the largest NFL TV audience south of the border since Week 1. The seven-lead-change thriller delivered an average audience of 22.51 million -- the highest Week 10 prime-time NFL game in 18 years.
As Trump might overstate: an unbelievable showing that might well prove the election built. That. Wall.