Last weekend, Rogers Sportsnet executed its plan to broadcast the first Toronto Blue Jays game of their Spring Training schedule. The response from viewers was as overwhelming as the network’s coverage, which included the full fleet of presenters, announcers and on-field reporters. More than 2-million Canadians tuned into the team’s exhibition game against the Detroit Tigers at some point during the broadcast, with an average viewership of more than 450,000.
To put that number in context, more people in Canada watched a Spring Training game involving the Blue Jays than they did Game Two of the NLCS between the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals. In fact, averaging 450,000 viewers would be an impressive number for a regular season game between Toronto and Detroit.
Despite a drop off at the end of last season, television ratings for Blue Jays games have been on a consistent rise over the last two seasons. Following this off-season’s roster bolstering, excitement among Canadians for the country’s only Major League product is higher than its been in some time. The addition of marketable players like R.A. Dickey and Jose Reyes has only served to add momentum to the following that Jose Bautista and Canadian Brett Lawrie garnered last season.
Shortly after the impressive Spring Training debut, Rogers Sportsnet announced that it would be broadcasting five additional Spring Training games on FX Canada. While the cynics among us immediately wondered if Rogers wasn’t once again using the lure of its baseball content to encourage increased subscriptions to additional cable tiers, doubts were quelled by the fact that Rogers cable subscribers would be enjoying a free preview of the network that represents a partnership between majority owner and managing partner, Rogers Media, and minority partner, FX Networks.