Sports Bulls & Bears: Gridiron galore runs up TV ratings score

 

 
 
 
 
Tom Mayenknecht, host of The Sport Market on TSN 1040 and the TSN Radio network, regularly rates and debates the Bulls & Bears of the sports business.
 

Tom Mayenknecht, host of The Sport Market on TSN 1040 and the TSN Radio network, regularly rates and debates the Bulls & Bears of the sports business.

Photograph by: Vancouver Sun graphics, .

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VANCOUVER — Sorting out the major winners and losers of this week — with a bottom-line twist — in the world of sports:

BULLS OF THE WEEK

It’s football American-style that gets a very bullish vote after a record-setting week of television ratings for the NCAA College Football Playoff Championship and NFL playoffs. ESPN continued its bullish start to 2015 with the biggest audience in its 35-year history — and the largest ever in U.S. cable television history — drawing an average national viewership of 33.4 million Americans to Ohio State’s 42-20 win over Oregon. That followed ESPN audiences of 28 million strong for each of the two semifinals — the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl — on New Year’s Day.

The setup was a solid weekend of four NFL divisional playoff games Saturday and Sunday. The big draws saw the Green Bay Packers eke out a controversial win over the Dallas Cowboys before a national audience of 44.4 million on FOX in the U.S. and 1.6 million on CTV here in Canada. CBS and CTV basked in the glow of 34 million Americans and 1.56 million Canadians watching Tom Brady and the New England Patriots rally late to beat the Baltimore Ravens. Throw in Seattle’s win over Carolina (31 million on NBC and 1.3 million on CTV) and the upset of Denver by Indianapolis (41.8 million on CBS and one million on TSN) and the NFL had the best divisional round of television ratings in its history, averaging 37.8 million viewers per game.

Never before have more Canadians watched the NFL playoffs as they have this year. This weekend’s conference championships between the Patriots and Colts in the AFC and the Seahawks and Packers in the NFC should be ratings juggernauts in their own right and set up a record audience for Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Ariz., on Feb. 1. The TV numbers are a big sport business touchdown for the NFL after a year of bad news and worse leadership off the field in connection with headlines of domestic violence, child abuse, drug use and concussion litigation.

BEARS OF THE WEEK

It’s a mixed bag for Canada’s seven NHL franchises at the halfway mark of the 2014-15 NHL regular season. If the playoffs began today, only three Canadian-based clubs — the Montreal Canadiens, Winnipeg Jets and Vancouver Canucks — would qualify for the 16-team Stanley Cup tournament.

Conference finalists a year ago, the Habs are second in the Atlantic Division, fourth in the Eastern Conference and eighth overall in the NHL with 57 points in 43 games. With 54 points, the red-hot Jets have Canada’s best record in the west (sixth in the conference and 12th in the league overall) and find themselves in a wild-card spot. The Canucks are fifth in the conference and 13th in the league overall, but all that really matters is they are in a playoff position in third place in the tough Pacific Division.

The Calgary Flames continue to impress and remain in the playoff conversation, just one point out of a wild-card berth, but the coaching change in Toronto has done little to improve playoff prospects for the Maple Leafs (five points out of the second wild card in the East) and it’s much the same in Ottawa, where the Senators are eight points back. The Edmonton Oilers are the most bearish of the Canadian bunch, dead last in the Western Conference and in the league but first in the Connor McDavid sweepstakes for the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. These uneven midway results are better than last year, where only Montreal made the playoffs, but still bearish in our books when we consider that all seven Canadian franchises are among the top-16 economic performers in the NHL yet just can’t seem to find a way to translate that into on-ice success.

Tom Mayenknecht is host of The Sport Market on TSN 1040 and TSN Radio, where he regularly rates and debates the Bulls & Bears of sports business. He reviews the major winners and losers of the past week every Saturday in The Vancouver Sun.

 
 
 
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Tom Mayenknecht, host of The Sport Market on TSN 1040 and the TSN Radio network, regularly rates and debates the Bulls & Bears of the sports business.
 

Tom Mayenknecht, host of The Sport Market on TSN 1040 and the TSN Radio network, regularly rates and debates the Bulls & Bears of the sports business.

Photograph by: Vancouver Sun graphics, .

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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