The NHL has officially passed the half way point of the 2015-16 season, the World Juniors are complete, and the early season narratives have played out. The Canadian hockey media now enters the grind approaching the NHL trade deadline on February 29.
With respect to ratings, it's been a grind for the entire season for both Rogers and Bell.
Bell reminds you TSN still does hockey
I was amused reading this press release from Bell touting TSN's success with the World Juniors which notes "40% of Canadians aged 2-17 watched the World Juniors". I'm not sure how many 2 year olds watched, but, whatever the skew in that age group, "40%" is really the same as the average of the whole populace per the claims of the press release:
15.3 Million Canadians Watched the 2016 IIHF WORLD JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIP on TSN and RDS.
That sounds impressive, but it really only refers to the number of people who watched at least a part of one game. 19.4 Million watched at least part of the tournament last year.
So how many watched individual games? Well here's what it says about when Canada played Finland:
Team Canada’s quarter-final loss to Finland on Saturday was the most-watched quarter-final game ever held outside North America
The World Juniors are played in North America a lot, most recently in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. Bell is saying here that this game did not surpass the ratings of the quarter finals of any of those years' games.
Now Perhaps this all isn't a fair comparison because the time zone differences shunted some games in this years' Sweden based tournament to weekday mornings and afternoons, however the particular game cited above was played on the 2nd of January, a Saturday. I certainly wouldn't put any blame on the broadcast team who did an excellent overall job. It would be no surprise if fewer people decided to tune in once Canada was out. There could also be lower interest in this escapism with a lot of people out west having a less than cheery holidays from mass layoffs.
We all know what Bell is really trying to do with these carefully cropped ratings numbers: impress advertisers. The whole purpose of tracking and reporting viewer statistics is to market ratings successes. That's important for Bell/TSN right now with the World Juniors finally returning to Canada. The Montreal-Toronto twin hosted games taking place over the next two years could be a cash cow.
It's especially important given how they are smarting not only over the loss of the national NHL contract, but the unexpected gut punch to cable sports ratings this fall by the Sportsnet hosted Blue Jays playoff run to the American League Championship Series.
But let's not pretend everything is coming up Milhouse for Rogers.
Rogers faces nightmare playoffs scenario
Right from the start of the NHL season it was suggested by Rogers that NHL ratings would be lower because of the Blue Jays. When the Jays were done and ratings stayed down it was because the Canucks and Maple Leafs were not faring well. Now it's because... well... all the Canadian teams suck?
At time of writing Montreal is the only Canadian team in a playoff slot: a wild card slot, with a tenuous single point lead over the Penguins who have two games in hand. What if no Canadian teams made it to the Stanley Cup playoffs?
We all know there is a divisional bias against Canadian teams even getting to the playoffs. With no teams in the Metropolitan division that's three of sixteen slots right off the top they can never access. The single team in the central division, Winnipeg, also limits options there. The rest of the Canadian teams have to battle for the limited slots in the Pacific and Atlantic divisions.
This isn't a far out possibility at this point. Would you watch the playoffs as much as in the past without any Canadian teams playing? There is a poll below.
There's also been a narrative floating around, often being pushed on Hockey Night in Canada, that the the Leafs are now a more 'likeable' team. Indeed, a few weeks ago Sportsnet went to the trouble of a segment where Nick Kypreos and company agreed the only explanation for last season's acrimony was the Leafs weren't "pros off the ice" and didn't have "fight and character and all those other intangibles".
At times it's like they are trying to brainwash people into watching the game because "The Leafs are good this season" and have "fixed the problems". Perhaps they shouldn't have spent so much time vocally bashing the team last season, as the audience isn't buying in to the new "kinder, gentler" HNIC. Humorously though, on the rare occasion The Leafs don't participate in HNIC, the ratings are a disaster.
Could they at least do something about the terrible commercials?
Did you know that in only a few seconds your Scotiabank rep can "move some things around" and "save you $1,500/month"? Perhaps they meant move you back to your parent's basement?
Rogers signed a sponsorship deal with Scotiabank in 2014 and given the details it looks like we are stuck with them for at least another 4 seasons. This in and of itself doesn't explain why they regularly air the same dumb commercial 10 times every night. According to this report from Media in Canada, Rogers wants to start "dynamic ad insertion to non-Canadian games" for the NHL Gamecentre App. You will be seeing our cash strapped friend even more in the future.
The actor does have "nice hair, though!"