Community and personal connections, as well as a general buzz of excitement can be enough to motivate audiences who know little to nothing about sports or the surrounding politics to get invested in them. Depending on the timing and the stakes, of course. Every year, when hockey season hits our nation, unique community traditions shared between die-hard, casual, and only slightly interested sports fans alike crystalize around our respective NHL teams. We tune in to Hockey Night in Canada, and cheer hard amid a rush of hope for the new season. And we continue to love it, whether those hopes are elevated into the playoffs, or end in bitter disappointment. I myself have a standing family agreement to watch the Maple Leafs in the Stanley Cup game by my grandfather's grave, were such an event ever to occur.
Major League Baseball in Canada underwent a striking turn of events last year, when the Toronto Blue Jays made it into the 2015 playoffs for the first time in 21 years. From coast to coast, many Canadians were watching from the edge of their seats. So how did the remarkable change in the performance of the team affect viewership of the playoffs one year later? Did strong tuning continue nationally, in Toronto, or not at all? Did a sequel to the much publicized animosity between the Jays and the Texas Rangers draw a crowd? And how long are audiences actually sticking around for?
This year, almost half of the country tuned in to at least one minute of a Blue Jays playoff game, with 62% of tuning coming from Ontario, and 36% coming from Toronto. 64% of Ind2+ in Toronto/Hamilton EM watched at least a minute of a playoff game compared to 41% of Ind2+ in Vancouver/Victoria EM. National average viewing was 7% lower compared to 2015. The playoff game watched the longest was game 3 of the first series against the Texas Rangers, which over 10 million Canadians tuned in to, for 100 minutes on average.
Since the Blue Jays were eliminated, almost 900,000 Canadians tuned in to the playoffs on a per minute average, with half of tuning coming from Ontario, 25% coming from Toronto/Hamilton EM, and 10% from Vancouver/Victoria EM. With average national viewership remaining proximal to the spike experienced last year, and appearing to come from the same areas, this could be a potential pattern to look out for in 2017. Perhaps more significant is how the leap in the viewership while the Jays were in the heat of the playoffs accredits the power that broadcasting continues to yield. As is implied by 96% of the most watched game having been viewed live, the essence of televised sports invariably comes down to the minutes that audiences need to see as they happen. TV remains the provider we rely on for that demand.
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