It wasn’t that long ago whenever major news broke (and I am not talking of the sports variety necessarily), I used to really try to stay up and watch Ted Koppel and Nightline. No matter what the anchors had to say, or CNN’s coverage was at the time, I really wanted to know what he was going to do on the topic du jour. The same applies to Bob McCown. I remember when various items that were newsworthy in the GTA occurred, trying to find a radio to listen to see what he would have to say, fully knowing he would have an opinion AND that one of the key figures in that news would be on. Bill Watters, when it comes to matters of the Leafs and the NHL is in that same group of experts who’s opinion or take on certain things I would really like to hear. However, once you have heard something once, you don’t need to hear it again, or again or AGAIN. That, my friends is exactly the scenario that 640 Toronto finds itself in today.
You see, when Watters “left MLS &E” he was very well connected, very opinionated and a true insider. Wilbur was wooed by the good folks at 640 and signed a contract for oodles of cash. The folks at 640 turned that into All Watters All The Time. So you get your morning Bill, your lunch Bill and then (drum roll please) 3 hours of afternoon Bill. That’s a lot of Bill. The problem with that is two-fold. First, if I happen to catch him in the morning, or at lunch, there is no reason to listen to him in the afternoon. Watters is good, but he isn’t so good as to keep his comments and opinions fresh three times a day. No one is. The second problem is there just isn’t that much to talk about in this market for Bill Watters (or anyone for that matter). 640 Sells the guy as the Leaf and hockey expert, quite frankly what he thinks about the Jays, NFL etc. is really of little consequence. Even if you disagree with that, there just simple isn’t enough for one guy to talk about and not be repetitive. It’s just not possible. By having Watters on multiple times a day they are killing multiple shows potential audiences. More people would listen to him in the afternoon if they hadn’t already heard his take. If you know you are going to listen to him at 4, why bother listen at 12? I may listen at 4 and 12 if I am going to hear something different, someone different.
This was a bigger problem at the beginning when he was with Jeffy. At that time, all Watters did was yap about how much he hated the powers that be at MLS&E. So, you have your brief stint of Wilbur in the am bashing MLS&E, then he and Jeff were on together at noon, bashing MLSE and then again for 3 hours in the afternoon, bashing MLS&E. I am not going to get in to whether the bashing was warranted or not. Too much of anything isn’t good. When it is so negative it becomes totally predictable and unlistenable. Fortunately for 640 Jeff decided to leave and enter Mr. Brady. Not in that Brady is god’s gift, but he certainly mixes it up, I know certain folks don’t like some of the shtick, but at least it’s not the same old, same old. Also fortunately for 640, Burke came to power. The anti MLS&E isn’t as discussable anymore either. They have, for the most part been quiet. There isn’t much for Watters to bitch about of late.
That leads us to yesterday’s radio ratings book. I know. The system sucks. Guess what? It’s the only one we got. It’s also the only one that advertisers use when they decide where to spend their precious dollars. So, it is what it is, but it’s meaningful. The question that I think people in the industry are asking today is why is Hockey Central at Noon killing Leafs Lunch? It is more confusing when you consider that Watters is making some headway against McCown. So, without further ado here is my 2 cents:
1. Watters is on too much. He should be on from 4-7pm. That’s it. I understand if there is breaking news you bring him in (don’t tell Arron Brown of CNN that though 🙂 ). They call McCown the franchise; he is on one time per day. There is no reason to over expose him. Why shoot yourself in the foot by having less people listen at lunch AND in the afternoon by putting the guy on so often?
2. Dreger is on too much. Again, Dreger is good. He is an insider. What he needs is a Millard. He needs someone to lighten it up a little bit. Dreger by himself just isn’t that entertaining unless he has a ton to talk about. The problem here is that he is with Wilbur AGAIN and he then is also on most nights for a couple of segments. 590 doesn’t put Kyreos on every night, or nearly as often as Dreger is on BWS. It’s just too much. I think they need to get him a good co-host at lunch to lighten things up and then only allow him on at nights 1 or 2 times a week maximum. If something big happens you call the audible and bring him on. It’s not so dissimilar to how the Fan is using Doug Maclean.
3. Mix up the guests on both the afternoon show and the lunchtime show. There are other good people out there; they don’t use them enough, when they use others too much. Ray Ferraro was great when he was on the other night. Add him to the weekly rotation; add Kelly Hrudey, or another guys who can bring some league wide coverage. Neil Smith would be good (he is on with McCown I guess) and I think Al Morganti (rarely on anymore) or someone else who is out there to mix it up and bring in outside information.
Ok, over to McCown. Last night was pretty damn interesting on PTS. I didn’t catch the 4pm hour. I did listen from there on in. McCown was telling Kelley how he has been in the radio business for over 30 something years and yesterday was the first time he can remember that the Toronto Star didn’t have a story about the previous night’s Maple Leaf game on the cover of the sports section. McCown then explained how he doesn’t get Maple Leaf phone calls anymore. He used to get the Leaf lovers calling and then the bashers calling and now the city is apathetic to the Maple Leafs. A discussion then ensued as to what the Maple Leafs need to do in order to rid our town of this apathy.
Let’s get one thing clear. McCown has never been one who likes to talk to “Moro from Maple”. I mean no disrespect to Mr. Moro,or those from Maple, but McCown just isn’t that guy. McCown is the one guy who doesn’t do much Maple Leafs at all. His guests run the gambit of sports, on the business side, legal side, baseball, college sports etc. The fact that McCown isn’t getting the calls is as much a result of the fact that he doesn’t want them as anything else. Look, a caller will get away with more on 640 then with McCown if they want to talk about last night’s game or a trade rumour. That’s a fact(Jack). If you want to hear more about the legal troubles of the owner of the Nashville Predaotrs, McCown is your guy. That, for the record is one of the reason people love McCown’s show (see above). To now try to turn that into a news story, that it is us ,the fans who don’t care enough to call his show is a far cry from the truth. Die hard Leaf fans aren’t going to listen to McCown because he doesn’t provide die hard leaf fan coverage. That is okay. I have no problem with it. There are many a night when I know Watters and Brady are going to be talking to a member of the Marlies, or a Maple Leaf player where, to be honest, I could care less. I don’t listen to them. When McCown is talking to Burt Sugar, I turn the dial. That is okay too right? Wilbur’s show is eating into McCown’s rating because this is, first and foremost a Maple Leaf town. It is not a hockey town. It is not a “sports town” per se. It’s a Leaf town first, second and third. Does that mean that the Raptors, Jays, Argos and TFC don’t have a following? No! I know this is contradictory to the ratings at lunchtime, when 640 does Leaf Lunch, and got killed in the most recent book. I think I have given a pretty good explanation on why that happened. If McCown want’s to talk to the diehards, then he has to starting speaking to them more often on his show. I don’t think it is necessary, but as a colleague used to say, you can’t suck and blow at the same time…
I will say this again, I find it hard to believe, given all the evidence to support it, that Nelson Millman can’t do better with the Bullpen. I simply refuse to believe it. I don’t know Mike Hogan, I don’t know Mike Toth, I bet they are both great guys. The show is not listenable. The proof is in the pudding. There has to be better talent out there somewhere. Nelson, I can arrange a great show for you, for next to nothing if you like!