MONTREAL — Pubcaster the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC) scored big-time Sunday with the gold-medal hockey game between Canada and the U.S. drawing the biggest audience for a local television show since Nielsen Media Research introduced people-meters in 1989.
The game, which Canada won 5-2, drew an average of 8.7 million viewers and peaked at 10.5 million, a third of the population.
The ratings were right out of the rink for CBC — by comparison, “ER” is the most popular weekly series with 2.2 million to 2.5 million viewers on rival CTV every Thursday night.
The country virtually ground to a halt during the tense match-up in the hockey-mad territory, which gave Canada its first Olympic gold medal in men’s hockey in 50 years.
“It was an exciting story,” said Slawko Klymkiw, executive director of network programming at CBC. “It grabbed the imagination of the public. Obviously, having it in the North American time-zone was a huge attribute. The whole point of a public broadcaster like CBC is to let people join together for these nation-sharing events. We’re an electronic gathering place.”
The second-most-watched Canadian TV event the people-meters came on-board was game 6 of the 1992 World Series, which drew 6.7 million viewers. The third rated show was the 1998 Academy Awards, which garnered 6.6 million viewers for CTV.
Before people-meters, Nielsen used a much less scientific diary system and the top-rated show then was the finale of “MASH” on CBC, which pulled 9 million viewers in 1983.