The CFL TV Ratings have struggled in recent weeks. Could the 2021 Grey Cup playoffs lead to a resurgence? As is customary, the CFL playoffs were running head to head on Sunday with a full slate on NFL games. Except, for the first time, the league’s semifinals took place later than they normally do on the calendar. And although CFL games have aired all season long on ESPN Plus. The league’s games were finally back on ESPN2 and ESPN News this past weekend.
The last time a CFL game aired on ESPN2 was back in Week 8 of the regular season two months ago. On September 24th, a late-night game on ESPN2 between the BC Lions and Saskatchewan Roughriders averaged 241,000 viewers. The telecast was ranked 84th out of 150 Cable TV shows in America in the 18-49 demo. (0.07). The CFL’s best ratings performance on ESPN2 this season.
Heading into the playoffs, there have only been six total CFL games that have aired on ESPN2 this season.
- Week 1: Winnipeg vs. Hamilton: 61,000 viewers
- Week 1: Edmonton vs. Ottawa: 174,000 viewers
- Week 3: Edmonton vs. BC: 116,000 viewers
- Week 3: Toronto vs. Winnipeg: 76,000 viewers
- Week 4: Calgary vs. Winnpeg: 78,000 viewers
- Week 8: Saskatchewan vs. BC: 241,000 viewers
Nielsen Media Research no longer monitors the ESPN News CFL games as they have been in years past. So it’s difficult to get an idea of how well the CFL’s smattering of select games during the season on the channel have performed.
With that in mind, let’s look at how the 2021 CFL Playoffs performed in the TV ratings on both TSN and ESPN.
CFL 2021 Playoff Rating On ESPN2
- Sunday’s Eastern Semifinal game in the snow between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Montreal Alouettes averaged just 90,000 viewers on ESPN2. The broadcast went up against heavy competition in the United States, head to head with a full slate of NFL games. The CFL playoff telecast did so poorly that it did not rank in the top 200 cable shows on Sunday. With very little promotion by ESPN or care shown by the network. This was an expected outcome with a network that is too busy to focus on the Canadian league. Hopefully the numbers fare better this weekend and during the Grey Cup.
North of the US border. The CFL’s viewership totals fared much better. RDS numbers were requested but not made available.
CFL 2021 Playoff Ratings On TSN
On TSN, Sunday afternoon’s East Semi-Final between Hamilton and Montreal averaged 685,000 viewers. A strong number considering where the CFL ratings were the week before, but down 15 percent from the East Final in 2019.
The Sunday playoff doubleheader on TSN, which saw the Saskatchewan Roughriders beat the Calgary Stampeders 33-30 in overtime, averaged 1.070 million viewers. The West Semi-Final was the highest rated CFL game of the 2021 season. And was the #1 rated sports progam in all of Canada this past weekend. Defeating all NFL games that aired on CTV and TSN on Saturday and Sunday. The downside is that the CFL’s number from the West Semi-Final is down 14% from where the game scored in 2019. The Roughriders advance to the West Final to square off with the defending CFL champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers next Sunday at 4 pm eastern.
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