CFL off to a solid start on TSN

First exclusive shot at football season up 11% over last year, thanks in part to higher scoring and games, says TSN president Phil King.

Four weeks out of the gate, TSN’s first exclusive Canadian Football League season is paying off, with audiences up 11% over last year according to BBM Nielsen – a boost Phil King credits to a mix of higher scores and cross-promotion.

‘There’s been a little concern that the scoring and some of the offences haven’t been where they should,’ in previous seasons says the TSN president, ‘but that seems to have changed around fairly dramatically this year.’ He adds that new players and better officiating have also benefited the season.

The numbers are also up among younger viewers, which he says is another encouraging trend. ‘It’s crucial for any sports league, never mind the CFL…You constantly have to replenish your fan base,’ King notes. ‘I do believe we’ll continue our momentum.’

The 2008 season, which got underway June 26, marks the first year that TSN has exclusive coverage of the CFL, including the Grey Cup, following a five-year deal reached with the league last year. In another first, TSN is airing all games in high definition.

Also paying off is a substantial promotional campaign on TSN and its fellow CTVgm specialties such as Bravo! and MuchMusic. King says all specialties get involved to promote a big event, whether it’s an award show or a showdown on the gridiron. ‘The MMVAs were huge for MuchMusic, so TSN helped promote that. The start of the CFL season was obviously important to TSN, so the whole CTVgm family got behind that and supported it.’

The first 16 games of the season are averaging 362,000 viewers versus the 326,000 that tuned in to TSN and CBC last year. The most-watched game thus far was the July 10 match-up between the Toronto Argonauts and Edmonton Eskimos, which grabbed 475,000 viewers (all numbers 2+).

TSN is currently rebuilding its standard definition studio in Toronto to be fully HD by this fall. The caster has also added a new camera to its marquee Friday Night Football games. ‘It’s a little camera that fits on the goal posts so you can get a neat angle on the field goals,’ King explains.

TSN’s current contract with the CFL runs through the 2012 season.

From Playback Daily