Loss of 'Gades isn't causing ratings fumble for TSN

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

Capital gains or capital loss? It was one of those big questions occupying the minds of the CFL's television rightsholders heading into the 2006 season.

What, the TV suits wondered, would the demise of the Renegades do to CFL interest -- and the viewing habits of the team's fans -- in the nation's capital?

So far, at least in terms of ratings, the answer appears to be not a whole heck of a lot.

Through 16 telecasts this season, TSN is averaging 313,000 viewers per game -- down just 6% from the 2005 average at the same point (334,000). Given that the network is only about one-third the way through its CFL TV slate, the slight dip is hardly cause for alarm.

"We're down marginally," said TSN president Phil King. "But we're always down early in the season. The ratings always grow as we get out of the summer months."

"So I'd say it looks like the departure of the Renegades has had no impact, positively or negatively, on TV ratings."

King can say all of that knowing there were, shall we say, extenuating circumstances:

* An Eskimos-Stampeders game on June 17 happened to line up against Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final. The Oilers and Hurricanes drew more than 3 million Canadian viewers; the CFL game lagged behind at 180,000.

* The first month of the CFL season had competition from the World Cup of soccer, a once-every-four-years mega-event that broke all kinds of Canadian viewership records. Even evening repeats drew strong numbers.

"We had one Argo game up against an Italy game," said King. "So when you look at the fact we were up against the World Cup and Edmonton was in the Stanley Cup final, being down only 6% at this point is pretty darn good."

The picture for CBC's Saturday night telecasts isn't quite as bright. Through July 22, the season average was 354,000, down 17% over the same period in 2005 (426,000).

The culprit here: A Bombers blowout of the Alouettes on July 15 that drew an audience of only 268,000, or the kind of rating a late-season 'Gades game pulled in the past few years.

Reason for optimism: An Argos-Roughriders matchup on July 22 attracted 402,000 sets of eyeballs, the CBC's best number of the season to that point.

MAD(DEN) ABOUT FOOTBALL: Some weekend for John Madden. Tomorrow, he gets inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. The next night, he and longtime television partner Al Michaels will team up for the inaugural telecast of NBC's new Football Night in America series -- the Hall of Fame Game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Oakland Raiders. While Madden is going into the Hall for his coaching exploits with the Raiders, he's become a TV icon over the past 25 years. "He is as important a figure as anyone in the recent history of the NFL," said Michaels earlier this week on a conference call. "He has made the game more interesting to millions (of viewers) than anyone in the NFL." ... TSN made official what readers of this space learned two weeks ago: It has acquired Canadian rights to the Sunday-Thursday package of eight NFL Network games.

TEAM GETS A STUNTMAN: Didn't take long for the Team 1200 to fill the chair about to be vacated by Jim Jerome on its morning drive show. It's goodbye Jungle man, hello Stuntman -- as in Stuntman Stu, who's leaving The Bear after 10 years to start his days with Steve Warne and Tim "Buzz" Kilpatrick. Expect all of that to start at the end of the month, when Jerome's contract expires.

AROUND THE DIAL: No surprise here. Nick Kypreos has inked a new deal to stay with Rogers Sportsnet as a HockeyCentral analyst. It's believed to be a four-year agreement for the former NHLer.


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