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Soccer's television ratings on the rise


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Canada sees plenty of Beautiful Game

Soccer's television ratings on the rise

13 May 2005

Toronto Star



Aldo DiFelice loves the reaction when he explains soccer's place here to non-Canadians.

"People I talk to in Europe, in Latin America still can't believe it when I tell them soccer doesn't even beat curling," says the president of the Telelatino channel.

"Then I tell them I'm not even sure it beats bowling."

Well, in some cases it doesn't, but soccer can boast of two rarities: rapidly growing television ratings and even more rapidly increasing exposure.

"For a soccer fan, it's like you died and went to heaven," says TSN and Fox Sports World Canada commentator Dick Howard. "There's more Premier League soccer on TV here than there is in England."

There are reasons for this, especially with English soccer. It does relatively well in the ratings. Even though games air on Saturday mornings, a traditional sports TV dead zone, Rogers Sportsnet's Premier League games ratings have increased 71 per cent in five years and are averaging 71,000 this season.

Other leagues are doing well, too.

TSN's Champions League games ratings have increased 44 per cent in the last four years and last year's European championship tournament showed an 88 per cent improvement.

Telelatino, which has traditionally drawn solid audiences for Italian soccer, recorded some of its highest sports ratings with Copa America games. An Italy-South Korea World Cup game from 2002 attracted 274,000 viewers — the largest in the channel's history.

Fox Sports World Canada's Premier League games average 12,400 viewers on Sunday mornings and Monday afternoons. While not much of a crowd, that is more than six times the digital channel's 1,800 average audience.

Of course, this is all relative.

Soccer isn't about to challenge hockey in the nation's hearts. In fact, decades-old NHL games can still outdraw soccer in prime time.

On the other hand, audiences for the 2002 World Cup (1.1 million on CBC) and Euro finals (1.3 million on CTV and TSN) rival NHL broadcasts. Those numbers prove there is an audience out there.

In a television world where increased ratings for sports are rare, soccer has succeeded for one reason: diversity.

Before the European teams started filling rosters with foreign-born players, Italians watched Italian soccer; English fans watched the Premier League and so on.

That's no longer the case.

"One of the main reasons is that the game is so international," says Telelatino analyst Tino Baxa. "I follow Milan, but 10 of their players were foreign-born. So that gets me interested in soccer from other countries."

Add to that Canada's growing diversity and you've got a recipe for success — or at least one for beating bowling

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Its ironic that this article appeared in the Toronto Star on the same page as another of Dave Perkins "nobody is interested in soccer" tirades - in which he also says that he wasn't against the amount of money the feds were/are putting into a soccer stadium, but the "principle" of them doing it. He may have taken over from McCown as the #1 SHM* in Toronto, which is quite the feat, let me tell you.

* Soccer Hating Moron

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