by mike in boston (@mikeinboston) & TSM (@yyzsportsmedia)
In honour of "back to school" week and the return of the A-teams to each radio station TSM and I thought this weekend might be a good time to give some detailed feedback on what each show should be working on in the year ahead. We have included very subjective grades that reflects our opinions + the results of the last ratings book. Please leave your own grades and comments below.
Brady & Walker
Last year's report card = Mike A-, TSM B-
Mike: Hard to argue that much is wrong with the FAN's #1 rated show. As we always point out on this site, morning radio is a different animal than what happens during the rest of the day, but B&W have clearly figured out how to pack in comedy and content in a way that resonates with the audience.
I listened to much more morning radio this summer than usual, mostly so I would have stuff to write about for this column. Brady was on vacation several times, which gave Walker a chance to be the lead host with a range of fill-in co-hosts. He did a very good job, in my opinion. Walker without Brady is good radio, though some of his-costs were less than ideal counterparts. Brady without Walker was not as good, as it devolved back into Brady berating his co-host a lot of the time. That said, Brady is very funny.
The most interesting thing to watch will be the ratings. The morning show has been riding high for a while now and might be due for a fall. If that happens, I wonder what the FAN's reaction will be. The stability in the morning slot has been good for listeners, but part of me can't help but think that there is a failsafe plan involving shuttling in some big Sportsnet personality. All of this has happened before …
TSM: Morning drive is the one area I think that toronto sports media has the most room for improvement. As I've written over and over again, perhaps it's my age but when I'm in the car in the morning I want to hear about what happened last night and to be honest I really only want to hear from guests or "insiders," as they call them. I find the morning show on the FAN is way too much attempted comedy and not nearly enough sports news and informed opinion.
Having said that, I think Walker is the freshest voice on the toronto sports media scene. He balances opinion and questions really well and in my opinion he is starting to drive the show more and more which has been a really pleasant surprise.
Last year's report card = Mike C+, TSM C-
They say a rising tide lifts all boats, and the Leafs' playoff appearance a year ago + the Raptors' resurgence has been a boon for all sports media in Toronto. This is my only explanation for Richards' good numbers, and the reason his grade is not worse. A lot of people must be tuning in to the games at night and then leaving the dial set in the morning.
As I have said repeatedly in this space, I find the show unlistenable. But I am clearly in the minority, as Richards has established a credible number and the show appears to be growing in each new book. His bosses must be very happy since his show is the only one that demonstrates to advertisers that TSN can do radio. He is being thoroughly beaten by B&W, but all other TSN shows would kill to have Richards' number.
I am not in a good position to give advice to Richards but I would probably listen more if he got rid of: A) the impersonations, B) the singing (there's a song about Pierre Maguire that's an instant channel switcher), C) the laughing side-kick. It's like a bizarre mishmash of 80s variety show content with some sports content mixed in. Not sure what is left once you subtract all of that.
TSM: While the ratings are climbing the show remains way too focused on hijinx than on sports news. The show has great guests and therefore great content. Too many nicknames and the totally inane and annoying songs and bits are very 1980s- all that's missing is the sports babes gallullies – the show needs to grow up.
The Jeff Blair Show featuring Jeff Blair
Last year's report card = Mike C+, TSM B+
Mike: Basic advice is the same as it has been since Day 1: 1) Take fewer calls, 2) Work on seeing a sentence all the way to the end. It's hard to believe that Blair started transitioning to radio 7 years ago (?) and that his delivery is still so rough. This is the weakest show on the FAN (though the numbers don't really bear that out). I would suggest a co-host but that might make things worse. If I'm Don Kollins I am looking for an upgrade.
TSM: I'm a big Blair fan. Few on the radio have the journalism experience and he brings it. I think he takes too many calls but that's the curse of his slot. No one does baseball better and he's getting better in the other sports too.
Macko & Cauz
Last year's report card = Mike B, TSM B-
Mike: Macko was one of the few bright spots on the otherwise dull Cybulski show (side topic – I wonder how TSN looks back on that decision) and continues to deliver interesting and reasonable takes with his new partner. Cauz can be all over the place but he has grown into a competent radio personality in the last year and a half. The show has a tendency to fall into Hot Take territory at times. That is something to work on.
Advice: not all arguments are worth having, so pick an issue where both sides are interesting rather than settling for low-hanging fruit. I reckon the show appeals to the same demo as Tim&Sid, so the fact that they are not directly competing is a good thing. That said, Tim&Sid listeners seem pretty loyal to that show so I wonder how much overlap there actually is. I can imagine people finding their banter annoying and sticking with Blair, or turning the radio off altogether.
TSM: As far as general shows go it's good. If you need a quick catch up on what's happening or happened it's great. I don't get the chance to listen all that much but for the quick hit, it's good.
Tim & Sid
Last year's report card = Mike B+, TSM B
Mike: The transition from 1 hour to 3 hours has diluted the quality of this show. This was unavoidable, but there are still some lessons to be drawn here. The current show is cripplingly addicted to Sportsnet "insiders." These people also appear on lots of other shows. The biggest strength of T&S is the comfort the hosts have with each other, as well as the amount of time they put into scripting some aspects of the show. Why would you take time away from that to drop in boring old Wilner?
My recommendation would be to devote the first hour of each show to T&S only. If you must interview the in-house reporters then put that in the 3rd hour after you have exhausted all your good content. Also, keep up the show prep. I can always count on the people behind the glass on T&S to have cut up all the relevant audio.
Beyond this, the show also might think about its Twitter reliance too. There's this hysterical thing Jim Rome does after every interview. He spends the ensuing segment reading tweets and emails about what a great interview it was. It's transparently self-serving and a waste of the audience's time. I understand that T&S spent a lot of time building their show via Twitter, but that doesn't mean we need to listen to them respond to tweets on air.
TSM: They are truly the fun part of the show, and while I find the constant air horn annoying, I get it. They have a huge following and people love their shtick. They're actually better as radio hosts when split up, as they don't appear to be trying to outdo each other so much, but they have the best on-air chemistry of any show on the radio
Last year's report card = Mike C, TSM C
Mike: The fact that Hayes was passed over (for his Dad no less!) to cover for Naylor during his extended summer vacation makes me wonder if TSN is planning to dump his show. I had high hopes for Bryan when he first appeared. I liked his down the middle approach and reasonable opinions. But the show just feels stale. Hayes desperately needs a co-host who can drive the discussion forward. Most of the time when I tune in he is giving a boring opinion that is couched in all kinds of cautious language. This show does nothing for me.
TSM: If there was an award for the host most in the wrong time slot, Hayes wins hands down. TSN is not getting any value here and his exposure couldn't be worse. He's a really smart guy who can talk sports on any level and is buried at a time when no one cares. I'd love to hear him at a better time with a good cohost.
Prime Time Sports
Last year's report card = Mike B+, TSM B-
Mike: Where to begin with PTS … The flagship show has finally started to show its cracks, relatively speaking of course. They are still miles ahead of the competition from TSN, but they are also miles behind the standard they established over the previous decade. The additions of Cox and Shannon have hurt in so many ways. Brunt was previously keeping the show afloat, but he seems to be permanently checked out over the last year. As many readers have commented, there are entire segments and interviews where he contributes next to nothing.
Bob had a timeless quality to him for a very long time, but that is no longer the case. He's old, his opinions are outdated, and he clearly lacks the energy he used to have for the show. I'm sure all parties will ride this gravy train until Bob retires, but then what? There is no clear heir apparent. and there is now a viable alternative for people who want a journalistically driven talk show that includes wider issues in sports. PTS doesn't need my advice, so I won't offer any.
TSM: There is no host who can turn it on like McCown. When he is on, he's an A+. When he mails it in, he's plain old ordinary. No one, and I mean no one, does interviews like he does when he cares. He remains the one guy and the one show that I want to hear when something happens. The problem is he mails it in more often than not. He's the one show that really is non stop sports. It's true sports radio and it's good. What they do when he's done…. No idea.
Last year's report card = Mike B+, TSM B
Mike: I had been beating the drum for Naylor to replace Cybulski for months so I was thrilled when that actually came to pass. He has been as advertised: sober, smart, and well spoken. That's the good. The bad is that the show has not drawn an audience, and the grade I gave reflects that fact. Here are some ways the show could improve.
1) Stop relying on Hodge as a regular co-host. He has little traction with people under 50, and none whatsoever with people under 40. Bring him in once a week for a roundtable.
2) Get a regular rotation of co-hosts, but try to keep them around for most of the week. Continuity is good. Simmons, Arthur, Feschuck, Mirtle … these guys are all solid co-hosts on the radio, unlike what the competition is putting out. Find a way to leverage that advantage.
3) For the love of God, keep CFL talk to one day a week, like Football Fridays, or No One Cares Tuesdays. Until Toronto embraces the CFL, stop trying to make it happen on the radio. It's not going to happen.
4) Wean yourself off your dependence on Dreger and MacKenzie.
TSM: A great McCown alternative. Great guests with good analysis. This is where TSN has to double down and decide they are in the radio business. The show, while vastly improved, still seems like nothing more than a tv promo tool. Break news, bring the best and perhaps you can take on the leader. Until then the show seems like a promo for what's coming on tv.
This is a time to give free advice to the station managers and show hosts, so let them have it in the comments section.
As always, thanks for reading.
mike (in boston)