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Sportsnet touts four million viewers for Jays vs. Orioles matchup

Toronto Blue Jays' Edwin Encarnacion celebrates after hitting a walk-off three-run home run during 11th inning American League wild-card game action against the Baltimore Orioles in Toronto, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
October 06, 2016 - 5:36 AM

TORONTO - More than four million viewers caught the Toronto Blue Jays' thrilling do-or-die win over the Baltimore Orioles to clinch a spot in the American League Division Series, Sportsnet said Wednesday.

Tuesday's American League wild-card game was Sportsnet's most-watched program so far this year, according to Sportsnet, with an average audience of 4.02 million viewers tuning in to the 5-2 win.

Sportsnet president Scott Moore said the dramatic showdown — which ended with Edwin Encarnacion's three-run 11th-inning home run — was "better than you could have scripted it."

"It was just a great night of drama, sort of the way the season has been for them," Moore said Wednesday. "It's been a great storyline, it's got ups and downs, it's the ultimate reality show."

Sportsnet said more than nine million Canadians watched some part of Tuesday's broadcast, a U.S. feed from TBS instead of the usual local production featuring Sportsnet's play-by-play crew, led by Buck Martinez.

For the post-season, Martinez and reporter Hazel Mae are essentially relegated to the sidelines for pre- and post-game commentary, with limited opportunities during the game.

That's because of the way regional broadcasting rights are structured, said Moore, who noted that Baltimore fans are restricted to the TBS feeds as well.

"It's the same everywhere in the league," said Moore. "Selfishly, we would prefer, if possible, to have our own broadcasters on it. But contracts are contracts and as a regional rights holder that's our situation."

Canadian viewers actually get more local content than U.S. regional viewers, he said, noting that Sportsnet can do full pre-game coverage on the field.

"In Baltimore they would just pick up the TBS feed and the local rights-holder is not even a part of the equation," he said.

"So in Baltimore or in Texas, they won't see the player introductions, they won't see all the stuff that happens on field that we're able to do because of our relationship and the fact we are both the regional rights-holder and the national carrier of broadcasts."

Sportsnet's coverage continues right through the end of the World Series. For those final games, Sportsnet was given the option of either taking the Fox broadcast or the Major League Baseball International broadcast.

Moore said they'll be taking the international feed because he negotiated to have Martinez as part of that broadcast.

"So regardless of whether the Jays are in the World Series or not, and we hope they are, Buck will be the analyst for the Major League Baseball International broadcast, which goes all around the world," said Moore. "It goes to every English-speaking territory that has Major League Baseball rights."

The Jays face the Texas Rangers in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday. The series promises more drama as it comes a year after Jose Bautista's three-run shot and bat-flip against the Rangers in Game 5 of the 2015 division series. Moore said the showdown has all the makings of another ratings winner, even with the earlier 4 p.m. ET start time.

"The storylines match up beautifully — the bat flip from last year, the brawl from this year, this has turned into a real rivalry," said Moore. "It'll be interesting to see what happens when Jose Bautista goes into second base and is greeted by Rougned Odor, I would expect there'll be a great deal of interest."

Moore was at Tuesday's game and didn't hear the televised play-by-play but said he always finds it interesting to see what U.S. broadcasters have to say about the Jays.

"Some fans will think they're biased against us, I can guarantee you they're not biased against us. They're just not biased for us," he said. "They might be saying things we've been saying all season but they're sort of just discovering the team."

Tuesday's game was Sportsnet's fifth most-watched broadcast of all time. Their top game was ALCS Game 6, when Toronto played Kansas City on Oct. 23, 2015, drawing 5.12 million viewers.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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