Canadian sports broadcaster TSN has reaped the rewards of our nation’s engrossed interest in the World Junior Hockey Championship over the years. It seems the tournament breaks its own television audience records almost every year. This year seemed to be a great opportunity for the self-proclaimed “Canada’s Sports Leader” to expand their ever-growing presence in Canadian living rooms with the absence of NHL hockey and our hunger for world-class puck at an all-time high. That’s all well and good, but there’s one problem: the tournament is being played in Ufa, Russia, and with that a 10 to 14 hour time difference depending where in Canada you live.
Most of Canada’s games are broadcasted live at 4 AM Eastern Standard Time, which, unless you’re nocturnal or unemployed, isn’t the most ideal time to watch a hockey game. I remember getting up at 3 AM to watch Canada lose in the Bronze Medal Game to Finland in the 1998 Nagano Olympics, but that was a long time ago and now I treasure every minute of sleep I get like Smaug the dragon treasures dwarf-made gold.
TSN released their ratings for Canada’s opening game versus Germany on Boxing Day, and they pretty much tell us what we first thought: significantly less Canadians are watching the games live. According to the network, an average audience of 372,000 watched the live broadcast, which isn’t even in the same ballpark as the 2.3 million who tuned in a year ago on the same day when the tourney was in Calgary. But then again, the total number of Canadians who watched any part of the game on Boxing Day was nearly 5 million, pretty close to the 5.45 million from the previous year.
TSN has embraced the time difference with their marketing scheme, encouraging viewers to “Stay Up Late” and “Wake Up Early” to show their support for Canada’s juniors. While that may tug at some patriotic heartstrings, it doesn’t make sense for the average Canadian Joe. Luckily, most of Canada’s games are re-aired three times throughout the day, which is why the total number of viewers has only dropped slightly.
With their 4-1 win this morning over Russia in their final round-robin game, Canada earned a bye directly to the semi-finals on January 3rd. That game is scheduled for 3:30 AM EST, so everybody will have plenty of time to catch up on sleep before that pivotal contest. After all: “It’s World Junior Time”.