A year ago, the CFL playoffs began a month later than usual. The 2021 semi-finals took place in December. And only one of the two playoff games aired on ESPN2.
This year, the East and West Semi-Final games aired on Sunday, November 6th, on ESPN2.
CFL 2022 Semi-Final Playoff TV Ratings On ESPN2 (Numbers courtesy of Nielsen Media Research)
Sunday’s early afternoon 1 pm ET East Semi-Final game on ESPN 2, which saw the Montreal Alouettes advance to the East Final by besting the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 28-17, averaged 81,000 viewers. The telecast ranked 146th out of 150 Cable TV shows in the 18-49 demo. (0.02 rating). The FOX and CBS slate of NFL games at 1’o clock eastern combined for 29 million viewers.
For comparison, Last year’s Eastern Semifinal game between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Montreal Alouettes averaged 90,000 viewers on ESPN2.
The 2022 West Semi-Final Sunday at 4:30 pm ET saw the BC Lions advance to the West Final by clawing past the Calgary Stampeders 30-16. The late afternoon telecast on ESPN2 averaged 66,000 viewers. The game was not ranked in the top 150 cable tv shows in the 18-49 demo. It scored a 0.01 rating.
The CFL playoff games in the United States surely ran up against the immovable object that is the NFL. Canada’s Tom Brady, Nathan Rourke, had no chance of going head-to-head against the NFL’s version on CBS. The Rams-Buccaneers national game in the same window averaged 20.2 million viewers.
The 2022 Eastern Final between the Toronto Argonauts and Montreal Alouettes will air on ESPN2 this coming Sunday, 11/13, at 1 pm ET.
The BC Lions-Winnipeg Blue Bombers West Final will air Sunday on ESPN News at 4:30 pm ET.
The winners of the two final games will square off in the 109th Grey Cup on Sunday, November 20th, at 6 pm ET on ESPN 2.
CFL TV Ratings On ESPN Networks
Despite ESPN/Disney having an interest and minority ownership stake in TSN. The network hasn’t prioritized promoting the CFL in the United States. And that’s certainly reflected in the scheduling of CFL games and the overall viewership totals.
The overwhelming majority of CFL games during the last few seasons have aired on ESPN+ and ESPNNews, and Nielsen no longer monitors the latter network for viewership totals.
On several occasions, games that were scheduled to air on ESPN2 have shifted over abruptly to ESPN News to accommodate other sports programming.
In 2021, in a shortened season, only eight CFL games aired on ESPN2. The CFL averaged 120,625 viewers per telecast last season on ESPN2.
- 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. Winnipeg: 78,000 viewers
- Week 8: Saskatchewan vs. BC: 241,000 viewers
- Semifinal Playoff Game: Montreal vs. Hamilton: 90,000 viewers
- 108th CFL Grey Cup 12/12: Winnipeg vs. Hamilton: 129,000 viewers
CFL 2022 Regular Season TV Ratings On ESPN2
Not counting the two playoff games that aired this past weekend on ESPN2. The CFL had 13 regular season games on ESPN2, and the rest of the league’s 86-game schedule aired on ESPNNews/ESPN+.
The CFL averaged 105,000 viewers per game during the regular season on ESPN2. Undoubtedly, these are very modest numbers. However, they are not surprising, considering the tentative nature of games that receive zero promotion.
- 6/16: Montreal-Toronto 104K, 0.04 rating
- 6/17: Winnipeg-Ottawa 83K, 0.03 rating
- 6/24: Hamilton-Winnipeg 77K, 0.04 rating
- 6/25: BC-Toronto 80K, 0.03 rating
- 6/30: BC-Ottawa 136K, 0.06 rating
- 7/2: Montreal-Saskatchewan 155K, 0.06 rating
- 7/22: Winnipeg- Edmonton 118K, 0.05 rating
- 7/29: BC-Saskatchewan: 111K, 0.04 rating
- 7/30: Winnipeg-Calgary: 144K, 0.05 rating
- 8/26: BC-Saskatchewan: 81K, 0.03 rating
- 9/23: Hamilton-Montreal: 87K, 0.03 rating
- 9/30: Ottawa-BC: 65K, 0.02 rating
- 10/11: Montreal-Ottawa: 124K, 0.05 rating
It remains to be seen what comes of the CFL’s broadcast coverage in the United States in the future. ESPN and the Canadian Football League have partnered since 1980, and the relationship should continue for the foreseeable future. However, there should be some much-needed tweaks in terms of scheduling and promotion. There have been talks of CFL seasons starting a month earlier. And perhaps shifting away from NFL Sundays in the future could be beneficial for finding a new audience south of the border.
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