Toronto Radio Wars

Ok- so it’s not much of a war but there are some interesting trends to watch and the game is about to change.  What am I talking about?  The Fall radio results book just hit and the numbers aren’t really that good for anyone here in Toronto anyway….

While McCowan remains king (and with his years of experience is anyone that surprised), the interesting result is the downward trend in his numbers, McCown has dropped FOUR straight books though in 25-54 and 35-54…Are the drops dramatic?  No.  Is it a trend?  Yup.. McCown’s show on The Fan 590 dropped in total share to a 7.8 share from 8.0.  Make no mistake that 7.8 is a GIANT…  Wilbur/Brady dropped to a 2.3 share from 3.1.

Wilbur and Brady dug a little deeper into McCowan’s numbers in the older male demographic (dopes like me 35-54)their 2.6 per cent to McCown’s 6.5.

The trend at lunch is exactly the same…. The Fan’s Hockey Central (5.4) leads in 25 to 54 guys over Leafs Lunch (4.2), when the demographic is 35-54 Leafs Lunch leapfrog’s Hockey Central 5.4 to 4.6 (leafs lunch to Hockey Central)

The most telling number for me however is the drop in the Fan morning show numbers, from a respectable 5.4 to 4.6….. 4.6??????  That is what the Fan can do in the AM????  If I am over at 640 I take a long hard look at that time slot and figure there is one we can win.  The afternoon slot on the fan, the one after lunch yet before McCowan had a 4.4 (down from 4.9)  If the morning show doing all sports is only getting .2 better then the usual graveyard between 1-4 you know there is a problem….

Now the good news:

“The measurement of radio audiences will undergo a major change next year when it moves to a system of personal people meters in which respondents clip on a device that electronically records the stations they listen to.The current system requires respondents to report in a diary their listening habits. It’s considered unreliable, particularly so for the sports radio market, where male listeners are unlikely to take the time to fill out the ballot.”

This is a huge change, who the hell ever would fill out a diary when we have the technology to really meter behavior???  Don’t think this makes a difference?:

“In this measurement, the PPM system was used as well as the diary system in the Montreal market.The discrepancies were stunning.At CKAC, the French-language station, the PPM results reported three times the audience for Montreal Canadiens broadcasts than did the diaries. The Team 990 afternoon drive, which, according to the diary system, decreased in market share, made big gains in the PPM results.The PPM system also reported several Montreal stations with cumulative weekly audiences of more than one million listeners.”That’s completely unheard of,” a radio executive said. “Normally, only a couple of Toronto stations have a one million cume [cumulative audience].”

So once this new system is active we will have a better idea of what is what…..

Here is my take.  Stellick and Laudry are the only game in town.  It shows in their numbers and in the product. Once again we in the market place are getting the short end of the stick.  There is no one source for hard hitting sports coverage during the drive in hours…  Personally I think Stellick is fantastic, I think he needs a different type of co-host.  Landry has been in the morning slot for a long time and I think it shows…   Hogan follows up and no where have I seen any numbers on his show.  Again, personally, he looses me minimum 2 days a week.  The first sound of Argos or CFL and I am out.  Second his Football Friday NFL coverage is brutal, I would and do listen to ESPN Radio or Dan Patrick for my NFL fix.  To that slot is borderline unlistenable.  At lunch my first choice would be to marry Dreger with Kypreos.  I like them both.  The other 2 guys?  Not so  much..(see more on Wilbur below)… MacLean/Armstrong I happen to think is good radio.  Besides MacLean’s constant yapping about his money, they work well together and I think they both provide insight into their areas of expertise we don’t get all that often…

The Drive home…. McCowan taking calls is classic. He plays the roll so well and the people who call in now it.  As I have said before his guests are great.  I love Dan Shulman, I like Rod Becker (or is it Rod), I haven’t heard a better NFL guest then Peter King.  Despite his recent disappearance act there is still only 1 Bob McKenzie.  I prefer bob Elliott to almost any other sports writer in town and of late I have new found respect for both Jeff Blair and Richard Griffin.  As much as I used to like Stephen Brunt he almost has become too brainey for me and I won’t even discuss Jim Kelly.  I have a bias for when Kirke is on and can’t believe he puts Rose D on the air. Deacon is ok, but certainly isn’t that opinionated.  In summary I find of late anyway that his show has become overly predictable.  the ongoing affinity for Boots Delbiaggio is beyond boring.  However, McCowan gets amazing segments out of the owner of the Habs and guys like Bill Daily.  The age lag is surprising to me in that McCowan’s strength is the business aspect of sports which I thought would be much more appealing to the 35-54 crowd then the numbers suggest.

Up the Dial at 640, Brady is a huge and I mean HUGE improvement over all of Wilbur’s previous co-hosts.  When Bill Hayes hosts, I am on music, my cell phone or 680 (assuming McCowan is talking to Bert Randolph Sugar of course).  Dreger and Morrison are amazing.  I do wonder if it is a bit of overkill with these guys though.  I sense they are trying to spread their wings a little bit, fantasy football, hockey etc and I think that is a good play for them.  Where I still think they hurt is that Wilbur’s obvious bias goes way overboard.  It is so blatant that it makes him unlistenable at times.  Perhaps now that Burke is in control the anti ownership stuff will be toned down a notch.  Hi son is also gone from the Argos so perhaps the anti rogers/bills things will dissipate as well.  Look, next to MacLean there is no one on the air constantly on the air with more to say then he does.  He was an agent and assistant GM a high school coach and a color commentator.  He knows his stuff.  His anecdotes should be phenomenal.  He obviously watches a lot and talks a lot of hockey.  If he only spent more of his time on that he would be so much better.  I think in time this show will get better as it becomes more general and less leaf bashing.  I happen to really like their business guy Lou Schizas.  Their version of Happy Howie Jonas Segal isn’t that good, but he isn’t that bad.  He sounds like he is 12 and is a tad bit intimidated by Willis but perhaps he will grow into the role.  I think they really need to find a raptor insider and if I were them I would hire Scott Ferguson yesterday to be their baseball guy.  He owned the pre and post game blue jays shows of yesteryear and they haven’t been the same since he signed off….

Ok enough rambling about sports radio…..

Thanks to Bill Houston over at the Globe for providing these numbers so the one person who cares about them can re-report them. You can read the rest of his take here

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[…] Look, next to MacLean there is no one on the air constantly on the air with more to say then he does. More […]

November 28, 2008 1:52 pm

this post went 5 hole for the winner! i agreed with 110% of it!

November 28, 2008 1:56 pm


Mike S
Mike S
November 28, 2008 2:05 pm

After reading the recent diatribe that Mr. Brady made against me I feel the need to respond………………I will save that for later………………..I’m sure everyone will wait with breathless anticipation for that (the sarcasm is palpable as I write that)……………….for now, here are my thoughts on the Toronto afternoon radio war:

I listen to both McCown and Watters quite a bit and I like both shows…………………..the shows are very different but that doesn’t mean that one is good and the other is bad……………………I don’t understand it when people say that if you like one you have to not like the other………………….there are many things I don’t like about McCown (especially his arrogance) but his show is entertaining and it is not the same when he is on vacation…………………I like Brunt a lot better than I like Kelley…………….I love the roundtables (as long as Kirke is not one of the members) and I love the fact that they have almost no interviews with players because most players have very little to say………………….their frequent guests (Dan Shulman, Doug Smith, Bob Elliot, Rob Becker, Don Banks, etc) are excellent………………the major criticism I have is their association with Sportsnet……………..that relationship has meant that some excellent people at rival networks (ie: Friedman, Cox, Naylor, Duhatschek, etc) don’t appear on the show anymore………………….I also hate Toth when he fills in as host…………..the Watters show focuses much more on hockey, which at times is a good thing but at times it is a bad thing………………..I like many of their guests (ie: The Bear, Dreger, Morrison, McKenzie, Duff, etc.) but there are also too many interviews with uninteresting guests (ie: Leaf players, fantasy experts, etc)………………Brady and Watters bring up a lot of interesting issues on their show that aren’t discussed anywhere else, which is definitely a good thing……………..the major criticisms I have are Watters’ biases and Brady’s constant slagging of the competition……………he seems to be obsessed with taking shot after shot at the FAN (some of which are inaccurate or at the very least hypocritical) and it just sounds petty and childish……………….why can’t he just say that he thinks his show is a good show and leave it at that?……………..he has said on this blog before that his show is making major gains against McCown but these recent ratings suggest that might not be the case.

November 28, 2008 2:09 pm

Thanks for comment….

November 28, 2008 6:00 pm

This is a great post and the type of insight, analysis and direction that Houston and Zelkovich should be providing.

The only free time I have to listen to the radio is between 5 and 6 PM when I’m making dinner for the family. I always tune in McCown even though I’m not a big fan of his (or Kelley).

I agree about their over reliance on Sportsnet personalities (if Kypreos was never heard from again, it would be too soon) but on the whole they get great guests and it’s very refreshing in the Toronto media echo chamber to get a broader perspective on the sports world from a range of well placed, well informed sources.

As per Mike S’ post, as much as I like the show and as much as I’m indifferent to McCown, I too find Toth un-listenable and usually reach for the iPod when he guest hosts.

November 28, 2008 6:01 pm

Thanks for the kind words…….

Mike S
Mike S
November 28, 2008 7:02 pm

The name “Rose D” was mentioned in this blog………….I haven’t been able to figure out who that is………….can you help me?

The Meatriarchy
November 28, 2008 7:02 pm

Great post and great comments.

I try to flip back an forth between both shows I find Watters’ show better from 6-7 because I really like to listen to Scott morrison and I like the fact that they always talk about hockey.

I still maintain that the biggest weakness with Watter’s show is Bill Watters. Would love for 640 to throw a bucket of money at Maclean to lure him away from the midday slot at the Fan. I really enjoy his insight and his frequent debunking of Toronto Sportsmedia myths (today he was hammering them on hockeycentral about the meme that was so prevalent last year that the GM didn’t have any autonomy)

McCowan is very talented as a host however his shtick is wearing thin on me.
Brunt – I like; Shoalts is not bad either

Kelly is fine when talking about sports but when he starts talking about other issues like the economy he sounds like a moron.
I give Kelly extra points because during the furor that erupted last year just before Ferguson got fired he made a very good point when he said “the trouble with the Maple Leafs is they are never as good as people think they are but they are never as bad as people think they are either” It was single handedly (though perhaps unintentionally) the most cogent and pithy summation of the fans/media in this town.

Toth is absolutely unlistenable. And if you are unfortunate enough to be watching it on Sportsnet he looks like he just got out of bed.

Deacon is only slightly more tolerable than Toth. That middle-aged soccer-dad metrosexual voice of his makes me cringe. I’m surprised that he doesn’t have a yellow sweater knotted around his shoulders.

Mary Ornsby – filler. Adds nothing and when she does open her mouth her Toronto Star socialist bonafides come through. Greatest moment: When talking about the Canada Russia 72 series and how much we hated the Russians she put it down to mere immaturity on the part of Canadians and marveled at how much we have grown up since then. I guess she conveniently forgot the fact that the Soviet Union was a brutal repressive and aggressive dictatorship that we very nearly went to war with on a couple of occasions.

As for the quality of guests I run hot and cold. I love Schulman but partially because it makes me yearn for the days when he hosted the evening drive on the Fan. He was far superior to McCowan.

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