What is TSN Radio’s Long Term Outlook?

by Rob Gregg

It has been a week since TSN dropped the hammer on TSN Radio’s afternoon drive show, Cybulski and Co. The secondary move from that was 9-Noon host Scott MacArthur being named the Blue Jays beat reporter, with Bob Mackowycz replacing him in that slot (yawn).

I have a number of thoughts regarding TSN Radio, but the overriding question for me is whether they’ll ever take a bite out of the ratings of the apparent juggernaut Sportsnet 590 The FAN.

Flipping between the two stations, a few things are apparent. Both stations have their respective outstanding stables of people to call on for interview segments. Where the difference lies is in the hosts of their shows. The FAN delivers strong personalities from morning drive through afternoon, but at TSN the cupboard is bare. The result is the pulse level at the FAN is much stronger than at TSN.

The move to Dave Naylor as host of TSN’s afternoon drive show certainly adds a strong level of credibility sports wise given his pedigree as an outstanding journalist. My concern, with due respect, is where is the “personality” in this move. We’ll have to wait for the launch this Monday before determining the long term outlook for the new show.

Radio 101 usually dictated that you have to be strong in morning drive and afternoon drive. TSN Radio has not been either since their launch. They gave Cybulski & Co. more than a fair shot, and I give TSN credit for recognizing change had to be made. But if TSN is serious about being viable in this marketplace, they have to address the morning show. However they couch the numbers for Mike Richards in the Morning, they have been consistently underwhelming. I highly doubt a simulcast of Mike Richard’s show on the TV side will have any positive effect on the overall performance of the show. I remember Richard’s back in the 90’s when he was a second banana to John Derringer during his early days as morning man at the FAN 590. Richards brought his basket of impersonations and humour and I found the show entertaining, though it didn’t deliver the numbers the FAN was looking for until Richard’s moved on and Pat Marsden was airlifted in to “save the station”. After that, Richards had a morning show at the FAN 960 in Calgary that performed reasonably well, before being wooed here for the TSN Radio launch in April 2011. The show has also been given a fair shot to gain traction, without success, and change is required.

What’s ironic in my mind is TSN has a clear opportunity to make a mark in the morning slot. While the FAN’s Brady & Lang morning show delivered strong numbers in the last book, I think the show is highly vulnerable if TSN could find the right host(s).

Who would that be? I have the perfect candidates in mind – Tim and Sid would be outstanding in this slot. They deliver a quick paced show that has a good mix of fun and serious sports coverage. Whether they can be lured from Sportsnet is the proverbial $64 question. What’s clear is TSN’s ratings in the morning and afternoon drive time slots need to improve substantially for the station to survive.

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February 15, 2013 12:05 am

I think the argument of having strong personalities on any given radio station is paramount but I also think that TSN’s opportunity here lies in the strength of the network. TSN Radio will soon be adding Vancouver and Ottawa to its operation and therefore what it should do is hilight all of their personalities on every network to some degree making each of their stations in their respective markets very interesting to listen to; as an example (hockey), it doesn’t have to focus on the Leafs every hour of every day…it can easily have TSN people talk Jets, Canucks, Sens, Leafs, and Habs with some mojo and purpose. It can serve as a radio network and doesn’t need to compete with the Fan at that level because the Fan only operates out of Toronto and Calgary. That’s what I think TSN needs to do and what its predecessor, The Team Radio Network failed to do 11 years ago. Essentially, it needs to stop being obsessed in beating the crap out of the Fan and rather look at itself and do something different that the Fan can’t do.

Nan Young Lee
Nan Young Lee
February 15, 2013 12:49 am

Just read in the Globe, Nadir Mohamed is stepping down in January 2014. I wonder if this will make George Cope’s grip on MLSE even tighter.

It would have been interesting to see Cybulski given a chance on tv, where he excels, before ending his show. I wonder how long Rob Gray stays as program director. He supposedly did a good job in Vancouver, but how hard is it to put the Canucks and Bob on the radio. The fact is when TSN was getting the radio station together the following people were available: Brady,
Lang, Tim and Sid, Jeff Marek, and TSN got none of them. Also Kypreos and MacLean each had the contracts expire but were not poached from 590.
The talent was out there, 1050 just made bad decisions for which no suit has paid the price yet.

How is Nadir Mohamed gone, but Rob Gray still have his job?

February 15, 2013 5:16 am

I am afraid what until they stop using the radio station as a tool to promote the tv side they will always be behind the Fan.

mike (in boston)
mike (in boston)
February 15, 2013 7:57 am

What’s clear is TSN’s ratings in the morning and afternoon drive time slots need to improve substantially for the station to survive.

i don’t think this is clear at all. do you have any facts or reasons to think this is true, or is this just what you believe?

when Rob Gray did a Q&A with us he implied that in sports radio you make money simply by being on the air. i have no problem believing this because sports fans are a desirable audience to market to. further, now that Bell is part-owner of MLSE, TSN Radio will make gobs of money off being a partial home for the Leafs.

i agree that both morning and drive-time shows have been disasters, but pronouncing the station going under seems without basis in fact.

mike (in boston)
mike (in boston)
February 15, 2013 8:04 am

a few more thoughts on TSN’s changes:

– they are clearly in the same universe as the rest of us. Cybulski was a terrible host, interviewer, and interlocutor. I’m glad they were able to hear that and make a change.

– they heard the same talent in Naylor that (some) of the rest us heard. I have no doubt he can carry 3 hours, and paired with people like Arthur, Feschuk, and Simmons the show has potential to be smart and entertaining without being the old man ego party PTS has become.

– they are committing to Jays coverage this year by hiring someone as a full-time beat reporter. This is, in my opinion, a year late but is very welcome nonetheless. As a Jays fan, I’m thrilled to have an alternative to the Fan’s personalities as well as more baseball talk in general.

mike (in boston)
mike (in boston)
February 15, 2013 8:52 am

one last thing — this is a question for people who listen to Tim&Sid.

I started listening about a month before they stopped their Score show. I quite enjoyed it but i have found myself deleting 75% of their Fan podcasts without listening to them.

my question is: have people enjoyed the transition of Tim&Sid from the Score to the Fan? Obviously going from a 1 hour show to a 3 hour show is going to dilute the product, but i wonder if there is another explanation for why i’m not interested in the show anymore.

February 15, 2013 10:14 am

I remember in Brunt’s introduction to Bob’s hockey book he called Naylor the smartest sports journalist in Canada. It will be interesting to see what kind of show he can come up with. But from what I’ve heard of him up to now doesn’t bode well for a serious challenge to PTS. 1050 doesn’t exactly have a track record of coming up with compelling shows.

I see MacLean has also signed an extension with Sportsnet. I wonder if there is an out for his political ambitions or a future job in the NHL.


February 15, 2013 10:30 am

Will MacLean and Co. finally offer a serious challenge to these guys?


February 15, 2013 10:36 am

I would agree that TSN Radio in general lacks personalities. Another comment here had a good point in saying most shows need co-hosts since it’s rare to have a McCown type who can carry a three hour stint by himself. I doubt Naylor can do it by himself. Having the Hodge Reporters panel as their equivalent of the round tables on 590 could be worth trying some more. I will now probably switch back and forth between the two stations when McCown is on vacation.

A morning show duo of Matt Cauz and someone else could be a good idea for TSN Radio 1050. For a while they had him, technically as producer not co-host, with Richards in the morning, and it was a noticeable improvement. One guy (Richards) trying to do that goofy type of humour by himself always sounds somewhat awkward to me (or now with a yes-man or two who do little except laugh too hard at almost everything Richards says). If Richards’ contract insists on not having a co-host as someone here claimed, I guess they might have to wait for it to expire or buy him out if he refuses to accept having a co-host.

I think Cauz might fit into that similar sort of younger audience you describe for Tim and Sid, but maybe without as much of the annoying horns and repetitive music, etc.

BTW, I guess everyone has different tastes. I stopped listening to 590 when they dumped Mike Richards and replaced him with Jabba The Marsden. I was familiar with Marsden from TV and was willing to give him a chance for the first week or two, but he was awful as a radio host — The act where he and Derringer angrily argued with each other, the constant repetition of the same three stories, like him physically attacking his former boss (and some complain about McCown repeating stories?), and the rest of the time he sounded disinterested in being there (or maybe drunk or on medication?).

Another Steve
Another Steve
February 15, 2013 10:38 am

I’m happy with the option of 1050, and I do listen to it from time-to-time, but my slight worry with Naylor is that he has done a lot of work on the CFL lately – and so does this mean even more CFL talk? Ugh.

February 15, 2013 1:09 pm

Will Strickland.

They should give him a show. It amazes me that in a city that is over 50% non-white, that there is no major Radio personality that is not-white in any of the major time slots. If you are looking to grow an audience I think this would be a good way to start.

Stirickland is an older guy, has his finger on the pulse of what is happening, has strong opinions and is not a “hockey” guy. TSN would grab a chunk of the 590 audience + gain new listeners.

I now he has a one hour basketball show….I’m taking daytime/primetime.

February 15, 2013 1:43 pm

TSN 1050 needs better guests on their programs. People get sick and tired of the same old TSN people on EVERY SHOW – Mckenzie, Dreger, Ferraro, Reda, Duthie, Mcguire, Siegel…yawn. Imagine if 590 did the same thing with all their sportsnet people! Instead, they bring in some great people in the US – from Morosi and Rosenthal to Don Banks, Richard Deitsch, and Bob Ryan.

The Mike Richards show is also awful. I can’t listen to it. It’s a bunch of boring talk mixed in with stupid comedy bits that pale in comparison to the ones Don Landry did back in the day. If I were to rank all the weekday sports radio hosts from top to bottom, Mike Richards would be at the very bottom. He’s TSN Radio’s version of Andrew Krystal and he needs to go.

February 15, 2013 3:18 pm

For me, the biggest problem is it’s signal. I live just north of Barrie and can’t reliably pick up 1050, but 590 comes in clear all the time. It’s weird: I can get 590, WGR and sometimes even WFAN, but 1050 never comes in at all.

February 15, 2013 3:33 pm

It seems 590 is chock full of regualr sportsnet guests – tv people, plus people like Shi Davidi.

I think i listen to maybe 25% of tim and sid podcasts. Too many segments about stuff i dont care (nba, musical guests, “comedy”).

Is it just me or is Sid the 4 pm guest for PTS more and more freuqently, often without Tim.

Dave in Bolton
Dave in Bolton
February 15, 2013 8:09 pm

here’s the changes id make to the TSN radio schedule
630 – 9am – The Dave Nailer Show
9 to 12 – The Bob Mackowycz show
12 – 1 – Insider Trading with James Cybulski and the Hockey Insiders
1- 4 – the Jay and Dan show
4-7 – the Drive home with Bryan Hayes
7 – 11 – Game Day and Jim Tatti and Mike Hogan
11 – 2am – Late Nights with Mike Richards

Maybe just maybe TSN would improve

February 15, 2013 11:33 pm

@MIB – I’m not sure Leaf radio rights will make TSN (or The Fan) tons of money. I recall McCown saying that Q107 and 640 both lost money with Leaf rights. Maybe that equation changed since Rogers and Bell bought MLSE though.

I can see how Tim and Sid aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I think they’re great. I might say they’re the best sports radio show in Toronto right now (other than a particularly good McCown/Brunt show or a good PTS Roundtable).

February 15, 2013 11:36 pm

@MIB – I agree with you on TSN 1050 Jays coverage totally. I’ll listen more if they provide some more Jays coverage. I like Wilner and Hayhurst, but maybe TSN can find an angle for coverage that The Fan hasn’t.

mike (in boston)
mike (in boston)
February 16, 2013 8:30 am

Maybe that equation changed since Rogers and Bell bought MLSE though.

yeah, that’s what i was thinking. the ad rates for Leafs spots are likely much higher so both TSN and the FAN will do well as a result.

I can see how Tim and Sid aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I think they’re great. I might say they’re the best sports radio show in Toronto right now

what i was wondering is whether you think the quality of the show has decreased since the switch to the FAN.

For myself, the never ending interviews with Sportsnet insiders has really hurt the show. The best part of the the old show was listening to the two of them debate an issue. That seems to have gone by the wayside to make and been replaced by far too much shtick by Sid, which is too bad.

I agree with you though … the show is oodles better than what was there before.

Tony Toronto
Tony Toronto
February 18, 2013 4:54 pm

I have the perfect candidates in mind – Tim and Sid would be outstanding in this slot. They deliver a quick paced show that has a good mix of fun and serious sports coverage. Whether they can be lured from Sportsnet is the proverbial $64 question.

I thought it seems clear that Tim & Sid appear to be grooming their time in the 1-4 Time Slot for an eventual takeover of Prime Time Sports when Bobcat McCown retires. If anything, TSN Radio had their chance at Tim And Sid when they debuted the station. As well, I think Sportsnet in general would be better served to have Tim & Sid do some work on the SportsNet TV side as well to counter the juggernaut that is TSN,

The Meatriarchy
February 19, 2013 4:59 pm

For all the warts of the Richards show I still can’t bear to listen to Brady and Lang.

I had it on for 10 minutes yesterday and Brady goes of on a full segment rant about a Toronto Sun article where some senior citizen couldn’t get a ticket to the opening game of the jays.

Essentially it was a full segment of him bashing someone because they are too old to use the Internet. Classless, clueless, unfunny, and uninformative.

He makes me actually think McCown is super talented.

Tim and Sid in the morning on TSN would be awesome. They are currently a real breath of fresh air on the Toronto Radio scene.

Can’t understand the attraction of Matthew Cauz it’s like listening to Eric from Entourage if he had been given a lobotomy.

Cybulsky’s show was unlistenable for me I remember one day they opened with about 10 minutes whining about how hard it is to ride a bicycle in Toronto. IT was pathetic.

Richards needs to stop mailing it in – playing the same comedy bit every day for a full week isn’t funny. Just lazy.

However TSN needs to keep this up and I think with the TV tie-in they aren’t going to cede the Toronto market to Sportsnet so easily. They just need to find that right talent for the evening drive.

March 7, 2013 7:07 pm

@Mark The Signal is a big problem for me, half the time when I think I’ll give them a chance I can’t get good reception.

April 24, 2013 12:10 pm

Leafs Lunch with Bryan Hayes and Jamie Mclennan (Noodles) has to be my favourite show on TSN Radio. I have been a fan of Bryan Hayes for a while since he was on AM 640 and I think he is great alongside Noodles. I think it comes down to how you mesh with different personalities and I just like their sense of humor! Mike Richards in the morning is funny as well!

September 24, 2013 3:29 pm

I listen to both radio shows and i have to say there so bad but then I was raised with WFAN in NYC.

February 4, 2015 10:39 pm

Here is my 2 cents….
TSN with Richards in the morning is FAR superior than the 2 idiots Brady & Walker on 590. Those 2 clowns know absolutely nothing. The reason they have so many guests is because of thwir lack of any true knowledge whatsoever. Idiot guests like Healey, Kypereos only emphasize the horror. Nobody ahould EVER have Damien Cox on any program unless it’s about tennis.

TSN with Maco & Cauz is again FAR superior than that moron squeaky voiced Jeff Blair on 590. Throw Blair back to the Globe & Mail or make him a Jays reporter.

I use to love Hockey Central but now since Jeff O’Neil has joined Leafs Lunch I can’t change the station. When Odog and Ray go at it, it’s gold. I am still not a fan of Bryan Hayes.

Tim & Sid own 1 to 4….hands down. It’s a real shame that they are leaving for TV and idiot Brady is taking that timeslot. TSN will gain many listeners due to this I believe.

590 wins the drive home with Bob McCown but only Tue to Thurs. The first hour of his show on Mondays and Fridays when the public calls in….I can’t listen to it so TSN and Naylor it is.

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