CFL & Elks TV Ratings Improved In 2023

The Canadian Football League often times gets derided by casual sports fans in Canada because it is not seen as "hip" as the NFL among some Canadians. However, the CFL is clearly growing in popularity post-Covid and saw noticeable growth in TV ratings during the 2023 season. TV ratings increased by 11.9 percent from the 2022 CFL season.

The CFL's regular season games averaged 483,900 on Bell Media's TSN during 2023. These numbers do not include streaming options such as CFL Live nor does it include French-language TV broadcasts. The Edmonton Elks had one of the most watched regular season game of 2023 when Canadian quarterback Tre Ford received his first start of the season. According to 3 Down Nation "Nearly 650,000 average viewers tuned in to watch Edmonton’s exciting young QB take on the blue and gold standard in the league for the last three seasons, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The game was also the highest-rated Thursday night broadcast of the season so far." The 650,000 viewers for a game that was featuring a winless Elks team is quite astonishing and shows that there is a growing appreciation for the Canadian game. Although the crowds at Commonwealth Stadium were often sparse this past season the TV numbers indicate that many Canadians were watching not just the Elks but the entire CFL on TV.

The Grey Cup continues to consistently see Canadian TV viewership numbers in the 3 millions.

These numbers are a huge success for the CFL as a whole. To compare the CFL with the NHL for example the NHL decreased its own viewership by 22% year-over-year in the United States during the 2022/23 season according to Yahoo Sports. The NHL only averaged 373,000 TV viewers in the USA during last season. The NHL still manages to often gain ratings in the millions in Canada for prime time and playoff games. Obviously the NHL is still king in Canada but it averaged far fewer viewers in the USA than the CFL did in Canada during 2023.

The NFL's popularity in Canada has overtaken the CFL's popularity in the 21st century, particularly among Millennials and Gen-Z. Mintel Marketing noted in 2022 the NFL's audience in Canada is young and national compared to the CFL's older and more regional audience. According to Mintel, "Nearly half of 18-44-year-old football fans watch the NFL but do not follow the CFL and only one-fifth are CFL-only fans. Meanwhile, the CFL skews older; three in ten consumers over the age of 45 follow this league." The NFL was bound to surpass the CFL in popularity as Canadians are often drawn to consume American media, whether that be music, movies, television or sports. Things may be changing in a positive way in markets like Vancouver and Toronto though as the Toronto Argonauts saw a 20%+ increase in attendance in 2023.

The hopeful resurgence of the CFL's TV numbers in Canada is a great thing for athletes and sports fans across the nation. We do not want to lose one of the very few uniquely Canadian sports leagues. Hopefully the Montreal Alouette's recent Grey Cup victory helps to bring back the Quebecois fans in Montreal and grow the game in Eastern Canada. Now, if the Elks could just turn things around and become playoff contenders again that would make things all the better!

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