The Montreal Alouettes celebrate with the Grey Cup. Nov 19, 2023; Hamilton, Ontario, CAN; Montreal Alouettes defensive lineman Shawn Lemon (0) holds up the Grey Cup trophy after defeating the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Tim Hortons Field. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday’s 110th Grey Cup saw a remarkable finish, with the Montreal Alouettes coming from behind with a Tyson Philpot touchdown in the final 13 seconds to pull off a 28-24 win against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. And it also saw good Canadian television numbers for the Canadian Football League. TSN noted Monday that the game was up nine percent year-over-year in average audience across the English-language (TSN) and French-language (RDS) broadcasts:

TSN also noted that 8.9 million viewers tuned in at some point, that the game peaked with 5.2 million viewers on the final drive, that the halftime show featuring Green Day averaged 4.1 million viewers, and that their social media coverage set records:

The specific breakdowns between the English and French-language coverage for this game are interesting, especially with the Alouettes (the only CFL team from Quebec) involved and with so much attention on discussions of the league not doing enough to recognize Francophone players and fans. As Justin Dunk writes at 3 Down Nation, more than a fifth of the audience here came on RDS, with TSN averaging more than 2.8 million viewers (1 million in the 25-54 age demographic) and RDS averaging 752,600 (263,700 in the demo). And the English-language audience was actually down year over year (last year saw an average of 3.1 million viewers for the Toronto Argonauts’ 24-23 win over Winnipeg), but the French-language audience almost tripled from around 250,000 viewers last year.

This continues what was generally a strong Canadian TV year for the CFL. The league saw 11.9 percent English-language ratings growth across its full 81 regular-season games on TSN to an average audience of 483,900, and nine percent growth counting English and French-language broadcasts. The final week of the regular season, Week 21 at the end of October, saw the season’s lowest viewership numbers against strong sports competition. And the playoff semi-finals dropped year-over-year on the English-language side (notably, in their first year on Saturday instead of Sunday, and after a year-over-year drop in 2022 as well).

But the Eastern Semi-Final featuring the Alouettes saw a 10.9 percent viewership rise overall thanks to a strong RDS audience (even though they were also in the Eastern Semi-Final last year). And the divisional finals (also on Saturday for the first time) saw a combined overall jump. The East one (Toronto-Montreal) averaged 899,400 English-language viewers (the best number since 2017) and 448,900 French-language viewers. And while the English-language broadcast of the West game (Winnipeg against the B.C. Lions) dropped from 1,200,000 viewers to 1,046,000, and RDS only added around 80,000 viewers, those games were still up overall, and the league plans to stick with Saturday playoff games (ahead of the Grey Cup) going forward. So the overall TV picture in Canada is looking pretty good for them.

As per the American and international audience, no viewership information there is available yet. (And, as those broadcasts were on free streaming rather than linear TV this year, the only possible information is anything the league chooses to release). Last year saw an average audience of 158,000 on ESPN2.

It’s worth keeping in mind that the U.S. audience and TV revenue is far less important for the CFL than what it gets in Canada. And this year’s deal with CBS (34 games on CBSSN) was worth around $1 million Canadian to the league, five to 10 times what they previously got from ESPN for all games (and it let the league stream the rest of their games for free on their own CFL+ service.) It will be interesting to see if the league continues to offer the rest of those games for free in the U.S. and internationally going forward, or if they start charging viewers there. But the Canadian numbers are moving in the right direction, and the U.S. approach is also bringing in much more revenue than they had received there.

[3 Down Nation]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.