Johnny Manziel didn’t even start his first preseason game as a member of the Canadian football League’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats, but he effected the game both on the field and in the ratings. The former Heisman Trophy winner came off the bench to rack up 80 yards on a 9 of 11 passing performance. He also carried the ball twice for 20 yards in his team’s loss to Toronto.
TSN, who carried the game for the Canadian audience reports that it was their most watched game of the preseason, scoring 310,000 viewers. By comparison, last week’s game between Montreal and Ottawa only drew 107,000 viewers. ESPN+, which carried the game for American audiences, has not reported its viewership numbers, but clearly sees the value in more Johnny Football…or is it Johnny Foutball now that he’s in Canada?
TSN has announced that it is adding Saturday’s Tiger-Cats game against the Montreal Allouettes to its schedule. According to CFL.ca, there is a very real chance Manziel will start that game in place of the Tiger-Cats’ regular starter, another former American college football standout, Jeremiah Masoli.
ESPN+ is also adding the game to its slate. Kickoff will be at noon on Saturday. US audiences tuned into B/R Live to see Manziel’s two games in the Spring League, where he was a regular starter.
It will be interesting to see if Manziel has a continuing effect on CFL ratings both north and south of the border. Hamilton head coach June Jones has already said that he anticipates Manziel being his backup quarterback when the regular season begins. That could change though, as Masoli isn’t thought of as one of the CFL’s best-established starting quarterbacks.