Seen & Heard – Weekend Edition

photo credit: Schadenfreude


by mike in boston / @mikeinboston / hatemailaccount at gmail


Good morning sports media fans. I was off last week so some of the things on this week’s docket might be a little old, but hopefully still of interest. Also, there were too many things to squeeze in to this week’s column so I am leaving some stories aside for next week. Also, this week’s column is incredibly long. Sorry.


5 Questions with … Eric Koreen (National Post)


One of the main stories this week was Kyle Lowry and his penchant to be uncooperative with the local media. This is, of course, reminiscent of the stories about Phil Kessel’s attitude problem that eventually culminated in his public blow-up with Dave Feschuk. Neither Michael Grange nor Doug Smith wrote about thew Lowry situation. I found this odd since the entire Toronto media found time to fulminate about Phil Kessel.


I wanted to find out more about whether basketball players face the same pressures as the beleaguered Leafs, and more generally about the challenges of getting good quotes from guys who are just there so they don’t get fined. I reached out to Eric Koreen at the Post who kindly agreed to answer some questions.


Q: How did you get started covering the Raptors?


EK: My brother Mike started working at the Toronto Sun as a co-op student when he was 16. He was the biggest influence on my decision to go into journalism, despite industry experts and participants telling my peers and me that this was an objectively dumb course of action. While I was in school, I worked as an editorial assistant at the Canadian Press sports department. I was there for about 18 months, before leaving because of a lack of opportunity to do more. A few months later — April 2006 — the National Post was expanding its sports section (!!!) and getting rid of its subscription to CP at the same time, which meant they needed a few editors/writers to help create some more content. There were also opportunities to write longer pieces on the side, and I later did my internship in my final year at Ryerson, plus the Post’s summer internship, with the section. Shortly after that the Post cycled through basketball writers. At that point, Jim Bray decided to trust me, a 22-year-old malcontent/introvert, to become the Post’s basketball writer for reasons that only he knows. Bless his debatable faith.


Q: Has there been a noticeable change in the basketball IQ of the city over that time?


EK: Recently, Dwane Casey has been mentioning that the atmosphere in the locker room and around the team — read: stuff the media is saying/writing/thinking — has been negative, considering their success. And he is objectively right. Based on the franchise’s history, fans should be ecstatic with this season, and should enjoy the ride a little more. However, I think that scepticism is also a sign that the market is maybe growing up a bit. Fans are concerned with success not only this year, but in the future, and that might not happen if Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas do not take significant leaps, which they have not. They know that the team has failed to execute its defensive schemes for months now, and that the system might not match the personnel. That is not a basic observation to make. I think the team’s hardcore fans have always been smarter than they get credit for; but I think the conversation we are having about this team is more nuanced than it would have been back in 2008. Overall, I think that’s a great thing, even if it is exhausting on occasion.


Q: How would you characterize your working relationship with Kyle Lowry?


EK: Fine. Occasionally frosty (although this doesn’t make it different for me than it is for any other member of the accredited media). The first piece I ever wrote about him was about how big of a factor his reticence to trust others had been in the first two stops of his professional career. I think that is certainly a reason he keeps the media at a distance, with the exception of a few people. (Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Grantland’s Jonathan Abrams both wrote excellent pieces on him in 2014.) In general, Kyle is willing to talk about x’s and o’s, which is great, because he has one of the best basketball minds on the team. He does not like talking about his feelings. He has little time for the emotional B.S. that we sometimes crave. After almost three years, if I ask him how it feels to lose three games in a row, I deserve a sideways glance from him. It’s incumbent on us to learn a bit about athletes over time.


Q: Is this significantly different from the way you interact with the rest of the players?


EK: It’s not one of the more congenial relationships I have with a player. He doesn’t want to shoot the crap with me, so I’m not going to force my awkwardness or thoughts on The Americans on him. (I’m very excited about the potential of Frank Langella’s character, if you’re curious.) But that isn’t dissimilar to my relationship with a half-dozen other players on the roster.


Q: The fallout from the Feschuk/Kessel incident led to a lot of discussion about the pressures of talking to athletes in a group setting. What are the challenges associated with scrums?


EK: The biggest issue is that different members of the media need different things. Television and radio reporters need sharp, concise summations or statements. One print reporter might need a certain play described in detail. Another might need a player to answer a question about an opponent. And this often happens right after a game, an intense personal experience for a player. Now we’re expecting him to have coherent thoughts on multiple issues, all in a three- or four-minute window while he barely has room to scratch his face if need be? It’s unrealistic, but a product of the interest there is in sports, plus the limited time the players are available after the game. Media relations staffs generally do an awesome job of making players accessible — the Raptors’ MR staff is excellent — but there is simply too much interest and not enough time. A related issue that is perhaps my biggest pet peeve of this job: Can we let players get dressed in their locker-room stall WITHOUT cameras and reporters forming a semi-circle around the subject? (I would add a disclaimer about how every media member is just trying to ensure they get good positioning or a good camera angle in order to do their job as well as possible, but forget that.) We’re asking for athletes to treat us with respect and humanity, but we can’t let them get changed in relative privacy? Again, if that is the case, we all deserve short, terse post-game scrums.


Q: Would anything of value be lost if we simply phased scrums out?


EK: Personally, I prefer the playoff set-up that puts the stars of a game at a podium. That would be my vote, as it allows access to key figures while also creating more space to talk with the other players back in the locker room. I still believe that a player’s insight can be valuable. When athletes scoff at our inability to understand the game because we didn’t play it at a high level, sometimes — sometimes — they have a point. In a perfect world, the media would ask questions only to fill a legitimate knowledge gap or to ease curiosity. (I fail to live up this standard, along with everyone else.)


Q: Do you think athletes have a responsibility – be it contractual or just professional – to be cooperative with the media?


EK: I’m not really interested in the contractual part of things. That is between the league, the players’ union and leaders of writers’. I also do not believe they owe the fans or us their insight; the vast majority of fans watch the game and don’t read or consume another thing relating to it. We’re lucky our jobs exist. Even when I’m tired of my job, I realize that it’s amazing that I get to do it. However, I think if we treat athletes with respect, they should do the same. That golden rule, etc. And I think 99 per cent of the time, that rule is followed. I really like when players are open and honest and forthcoming. This might be a controversial take, but I like when others make my job easier and more fulfilling. However, it’s not owed. And if we’re relying on quotes to do our jobs for us, we’re being lazy.


Q: The Leafs and Jays have disappointed recently and many stories have been written about “clubhouse problems” or “character issues”. You rarely read anything about that when a team is winning. Is the same character narrative equally applicable (or equally inapplicable) to basketball? 


EK: Everybody likes each other when they’re winning. (Notable exception: Shaq and Kobe.) People turn on each other when they’re losing. Masai Ujiri has extolled the virtues of chemistry and cohesion, and I think that matters a ton in terms of style of play. However, going out and trying to acquire a player because he will fit in in the locker room is largely wasted energy, in my opinion. High-maintenance players might make a coach’s life more difficult, but Kyle Lowry went from a divisive figure to the connective tissue of the Raptors the moment they went from bad to good. We’re going to call that a coincidence?


Q: Have you noticed significant differences in the character of the various Raps teams you have covered?


EK: Most of the teams I’ve covered have generally been populated by players who like one another. (Hedo Turkoglu’s teammates even liked him, for the most part!) It helps that every team I’ve covered has had one or both of Jose Calderon and Amir Johnson on them, players that are easy-going, positive yet hard-working. For that reason, among others, Johnson’s free agency this summer will be fascinating.


Q: Scott MacArthur of TSN Radio had a really compelling interview with Colby Rasmus that was the product of a relationship that took a long time to build. Without naming names, are there players with whom you have developed similar trusting relationships, either on or off the record? 


EK: As a general rule, time is a huge factor in building relationships, in the locker room or out of it. Now, I’m not sure a player would vent to me on the record to the extent that Rasmus did to Scott — that was a great piece — but I think the more time I spend with a player, the more productive that relationship tends to be. There are exceptions both ways: players that are immediately forthcoming, or players that are never going to share much of anything.


Q: The fan fervour around last year’s playoff run was remarkable, but it also coincided with a very unexpected winning season, a slick new marketing campaign, Drake, and bad seasons from the other local sports teams. Have the Raps turned a corner in terms of the sports consciousness of the city?


EK: I was 10 when the Raptors played their first game. I think people around my age have viewed the Leafs, Raptors and Blue Jays on a similar level for some time now. They are not covered with the same depth and intensity, obviously, but that is a different issue. People are into this team right now. It doesn’t hurt that a few Canadians are drafted into the league every year. I’ve written about We The North and Drake more than I’d like (just joking; I could write about Drake endlessly), but I think that the last 13 months have made a difference, sure. How much? We won’t really know until their next 32-50 season. It’s easy to care when a team is good.


Q: Charles Oakley was beloved by the media for being so quotable. Do you have a favourite all-time Raptor from an interview perspective?


EK: When I first started covering the Raptors, Chris Bosh was the face of this franchise. Now, despite Lowry’s transcendent play, it is probably DeMar DeRozan. Both have my unending appreciation for how professional they have been with the media. Both Bosh and DeRozan can be incredibly thoughtful, amazing when considering the demands that they face(d) as the team’s centrepiece. I have also done long pieces on Quincy Acy and Chuck Hayes on the nature of being a role player, pieces that would not have worked without their active and enthusiastic participation. I’m in debt to them. If I had to pick one player as my favourite to talk to, it would be Reggie Evans, though. He shared three things with Oak: 1) He was unpredictable; 2) He was honest; 3) He gave zero [poops] who might hear/read what he had to say.




Thanks very much to Eric for taking so much time with my questions. Lots of good and thoughtful answers here. He’s also a pretty good follow on Twitter.


Post-script 1: Arian Foster of the NFL’s Texans more or less sums up my feelings about athlete interviews.


Post-script 2: I would have linked to TSN’s Josh Lewenberg’s piece on Lowry but clicking on it took me to not one but two auto-play ads with sound, followed by an auto-playing video recap of the game. Memo to both TSN and Sportsnet: this is far too high a price to pay to read a column. Find another way to monetize your web content. It’s painful to visit your websites at times.




The Paul Beeston Damage Control Tour rolled through town this week and delivered some interesting tidbits.


Let’s start with the slow-pitch party PTS threw for Paul. John Lott has your summary. Look, I understand that Beeston is not going to air his grievances now, so I am not going to get upset that Bob claimed to be asking tough questions while refraining from following up on anything Beeston said. As PTS producer Ryan Walsh tweeted out, this time next year Beeston might have a lot more to say. If we get the same interview at that time, then PTS will have let listeners down.


The highlight of the interview for me was Ken Reid asking Beeston how he felt about seeing his contractual status being discussed in public. Beneath the surface of Beeston’s answer there was something palpably raw and emotional. Nice work Ken. The lowlight of the interview was the nonsense that spewed forth when discussing Beeston’s thoughts about this year’s team. Anyone who is not a goldfish remembers all the same optimism from seasons such as … last year, and … the year before. It’s hard to look at this roster and the gaping holes at 2B, the bench, and the bullpen and think this is a 90 win team. It would have been nice if Bob pressed Beeston on some of these facts, or had he pointed out just how far another $20 million in payroll would have gone this off-season.


The next stop was the State of the Franchise. I hate everything about this event. The questions are pre-screened which renders the idea that this is a way of being accountable to your most loyal financial backers empty. I’m not sure why anyone would be hanging on to season’s tickets at this juncture. Scott MacArthur has a summary of the main talking points, which includes the grass issue as well as some fanciful talk about the All-Star game coming back to the Dome. The always excellent Shi Davidi writes about AA’s strategy of betting on young pitching. BBB also has a nice story on the Jays’ shrinking payroll. Fans were also treated to an up close view of the new artificial turf for this season. Looks just as horrible as the last one to me, but here’s hoping that it produces fewer injuries.


NHL Rights & Ratings


What’s Gary Bettman up to? His decisions about the World Cup of hockey exhibition tournament are very curious. First he screws over his jilted ex-partner in TSN in favour of his current sugar-daddy in Rogers. This was hardly surprising since the whole premise of the 12 year deal is that Rogers and the NHL are entering a partnership to “celebrate the game.” (I actually can’t believe TSN fell for Gary’s negotiating tricks, again.) But then he turns around and spurns his current partner in NBC for his abusive ex-lover in ESPN. How does that make sense?


My own opinion is that the more networks the better in terms of objective coverage, so I’m happy that the NHL is looking to diversify its media partnerships. However I can’t see the benefit for the NHL in pissing off NBC in the middle of its 10 year deal. Maybe Gary is excited about ESPN’s upcoming standalone streaming service. Maybe he wants back on the worldwide leader just to put pressure on NBC to start thinking ahead to the next deal. Maybe NBC wasn’t interested in spending any more money on hockey. Who knows? It will be curious to watch this story unfold.


As David Shoalts (whose employer is 15% owned by Rogers rival Bell) wrote about, and as TSM commented on already, Rogers whining about Numeris’ ratings is hilarious. Rather than looking at the quality of the product they are looking for someone else to blame. The whole incident smacks of desperation. SRG research confirms Shoalts’ reporting, though they also point out that there has been a mild increase in online interest from last year. It’s hard to know what this means since they include social media in this category, and as far as I know the NHL isn’t making any money off of people talking about Phil Kessel on Twitter. I’m sort of conflicted on this because I think that Numeris’ sample sizes on the radio side are problematic, but this is the first I have ever heard of anyone impugning the TV ratings.


Shoalts continued his winning ways by appearing on the Globe’s podcast to discuss things further and had a lot of great insights. He’s a great guest and I wish he were on the radio more often. One point with which I totally agree is that the NHL rights deal was as much about unseating TSN as the #1 cable channel as it was about making money off the games. So while they cannot be happy about having to make concessions to advertisers due to missed targets, Sportsnet is clearly invested in winning a much longer war. It will be interesting to see if some NHL games eventually make their way back to TSN via sub-licensing. That would be a pretty major indicator that the financial side of things is going much worse than expected.


Last thought on this: no one will talk on record or even give details off the record, but the rumblings are getting louder and louder of serious unrest behind the scenes at Rogers’ sports media wing.


Quick Hits


The UFC is once again mired in a doping scandal. This is really sapping the credibility of the sport as it tries to draw in new fans. It looks just as broken as boxing has been for a generation. That said, I’m not really sure why any current fans should care. It’s not like the purity of the sport is part of its appeal. Multi-platform Sportsnet contributor Jeff Blair was very excited about this news as it gave him a chance to be relevant in the marketplace.


Quite by accident I found myself reading about Serena Williams’ decision to play in a tennis tournament to which she vowed in 2001 never to return. The story is very moving. Her full account of things can be found in this Time piece. Highly recommended.


Rick Westhead of TSN teamed up with CTV’s W5 program for a fantastic piece of investigative journalism on the prevalence of counterfeiting in sports. You can read about the series here and watch the entire program this Saturday evening on CTV. Parts have already aired on TSN. As we move towards NHL trade deadline day and “insiders” crowing about breaking trades seconds before the competition, let’s be thankful for the real journalism that is actually taking place. Westhead is telling stories that nobody else is even getting close to. TSN deserves a lot of credit for the resources they are devoting here.


Low Hanging Fruit


  • Countdown to Blundell got off to a spectacularly bad, but hardly surprising, start with Dean fumbling a tweet about the Jays by claiming the team is owned by MLSE. The tweet has since been deleted (as far as I can tell), but can be seen here. I can only imagine the groans this prompted in the PD’s office, and especially amongst the current FAN on-air talent. Andrew Walker, meanwhile, must be hard at work building a repertoire of dick jokes  and ethnic stereotypes in anticipation of March 2nd.


  • Still no news about who Brady’s co-host will be in the afternoon. Kollins needs to get this one exactly right, as a poor pairing will tank the show with both Tim&Sid’s existing audience, and the people coming over from Brady&Walker’s audience. I don’t see a good fit with any of the FAN B-team players, so they might have to go outside. That’s also risky. Bit of a mess on their hands there.


  • TSN Drive was at the Superbowl last week but somehow still found time to wedge in MacKenzie and Dreger several times. These guys just can’t help themselves.


  • Still with TSN Drive, the combination of Naylor, Arthur, Simmons, and Lawless was not very good in my opinion. Too much yelling.


  • It’s funny to watch hockey go through the same growing pains baseball went through 10 years ago with respect to fancy stats. As much as the traditionalists are annoying, hockey stats people need to dial it back a notch with the condescension. Rise above it and just stick to the facts, men.


  • I’m going to take the high road and refrain from commenting on Bob’s embarrassing interview with Gillick.


  • I will however point out the abomination that was his segment with SI NFL expert Don Banks. Banks is as great a guest as there is on the NFL, in my opinion. Yet, Bob dominated the interview talking about his own views on the goal-line play (which he presumably spent other segments on as well) and ended up cutting off the guest mid-sentence due to lack of time. Painful painful radio.




thanks for reading and commenting,

until next time …

mike (not really in boston)

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February 7, 2015 9:14 am

“the NHL rights deal was as much about unseating TSN as the #1 cable channel”

Granted it has only been six months, but TSN is still number one (at least according to Bell):

I’m not sure this will ever happen though. TSN seems to be only getting stronger since losing national hockey rights and added the additional feeds. They now have money to pick up a lot of other programming (UFC, Champions League) that appeals to a wider audience while it’s hard to see Sportsnet paying big dollars for other sports when they can’t even make money on their main property.

February 7, 2015 9:40 am

Ben Ennis would probably be a fit with Brady if the 1-4 slot is looking to fill internally. They should give it a shot. I thought the few occasions Ben filled in with Brady on the morning show they worked well together.

Mike V
Mike V
February 7, 2015 10:15 am

I guess it would depend on what time frame Cope is referring to. If he’s talking about all of 2014 and not the broadcast season thus far, then TSN did likely stay on top.

Zelkovich had a column last year where he mentioned that 5 of 11 months so far were won by Sportsnet and believed December would go the same way making it an even split in terms of months. January 2015 will go to TSN I think because of the WJHC medal round but I can’t see them winning all that much more until the CFL starts up in late June.

I’m not all surprised ESPN won the US rights to the World Cup of Hockey. Very rarely do they lose a bidding war on something they want.

Blundell will be a disaster on the FAN. I give it 12 months before the next re-shuffle happens.

Steve Jones
Steve Jones
February 7, 2015 11:06 am

Why would a consumer care who the number 1 sports network is? People watch the content they like regardless of where it is found. The people that care are the suits. In the case of Sportsnet I get that small man vibe. When they inevitably, due to the NHL package, take the number 1 spot I somehow feel it won’t change. There’s something about Rogers in just about everything they do that is smarmy and self satisfied. Or maybe I get that feeling from having known too many marketers who work there.

The UFC. Is it still around? Does anyone without a shaved head and goatee care?

The counterfeiting story like it always does pulls me in two directions. I do believe in IP protections. I pay for my music and video. But having bought a Rolex (LOL) on the street in NY for $20 many years ago I also know that it was not a lost sale at the luxury watch shop. People who buy the knockoffs are not likely (highly I believe) to buy the real thing duento price. And to take it one step further and back to sports any jersey sale results in promotion for the team whose jersey it is. None of this of course mitigates the fact that the rights owner is not compensated hence my dilemma. Lastly by the nature of the fact you’re being counterfeited it likely means you’re a big, rich corporation. Not much empathy in the world for these types. Full disclosure, I own no knock off products. The Rolex lasted but a year.

Fancy stats. I have to admit I am a bit of a dinosaur. Baseball is such a different game. It has always been more of a thinking mans game, and used stats in a more fullsome way. I just don’t get the fit in hockey. I’m sure there is some value there but like every Canadian I think I know if a player is having an impact by watching him. Hockey just moves too fast and is too reactive to be captured and analyzed for future reference. After all stats are used primarily to identify patterns and predict future behaviours or occurrences. That’s why it works in baseball where the game can be situation managed. Not to mention baseball is an individual sport at its heart and hockey is a team sport so any individual player stats are highly skewed by externals. Of course I’m more than willing to admit I could be terribly wrong.

Bob. I admit I’ve been a long time fan of his show. Still am. But it is slipping. For me its not the Gillick flub, or other occasional misstep its the co-host issue and his overall descent into his own world. He really does now seem to only care what’s importnat to him a lot of the time. It’s like he doesn’t even acknowledge the fact he’s there to do a show for an audience at times. I guess the only thing that matters is the numbers. If he can still dominate the time slot the powers that be don’t care. And on the flip side he still doesn’t the best and most interesting topics and interviews. Pity it’s not as often as it was.

February 7, 2015 11:13 am

Good Q&A. Bob had a caller yesterday around 4:30 talk about him saying they lost $18 million claims on the jays losing money, Bob pretty much admitted that the Jays don’t lose money and it is just paying with TV rights numbers.

Rick Westhead does seem to be getting alot of good work done. Thought when you were talking about Serena after the UFC you were gonna bring up how she once hid from drug testers 🙂

February 7, 2015 11:16 am

Shoalts. Thanks for the link was a good podcast.

Banks segment. Surely Banks must be paid for it right?

Lee (Oakville)
February 7, 2015 2:13 pm

I think the issue with Rogers’ purchase of the NHL TV rights is less about market value than it is about realizing a return on their investment. If they priced their ads on an expectant 20% viewership increase and instead have a 20% decrease (both numbers have been quoted by numerous media outlets) the 40% differential is disastrous and a good reason for the Board to be apolectic. No matter how big Rogers is as a business entity, it cannot continue to produce these ratings and the resultant disappointing financial returns without a major corporate/talent shake-up and unwanted attention from investors, media and probably the NHL.

February 7, 2015 5:19 pm

Bob has a history of pushing his opinion on his guests (and audience) and if they don’t agree with his usually uninformed opinion, he gets all indignant and responds with his tiresome: “I get that!”. The Banks segment (one of the few I listen to these days) was terrible. Banks had the nerve to actually disagree with Bob and Bob cut him off and went on to tell Banks – you know, one of the most informed and respected football writers today – why he was wrong.

Just retire, you old fart.

February 7, 2015 5:19 pm

Nothing really to say but the Brady Show will flop during 1-4 PM. TSN Radio is growing and overtaking the FAN 590, in my eyes? Also love that despite this disaster Leafs stretch of games, I love the fact that TSN Radio has their live show going till 2 AM unlike the other sports station down the dial who would rather have Scott “Just swallowed a pencil” Farrell on instead.

February 7, 2015 8:50 pm

I guess CBS Radio pretty much gave 590 the night programming, but I hate it wish they would just replay their own content if they don’t want to pay someone for the night-shift. Used to listen to 590 before I went to bed and now I can’t.

February 7, 2015 9:52 pm

To understand why fans of UFC would care you have to first understand that many of us are MMA fans and not fans of the UFC. We(yes, there is a very large contingent of intelligent, thoughtful fans/media) hate everything about PEDs, and shady money hungry promoters for the same reason people hated MLB for strikes/steroids. You don’t just stop liking the actual sport and the legitimate athletes who work their ass off to succeed. You hope the true fans and professional journalists keep banging the drum to get some positive reform.

WestDale Rocks
WestDale Rocks
February 8, 2015 9:48 am

Warning to The Fan: When you tinker with a good thing, you risk messing it up. Two cases in point: Ken Reid is single-handedly turning listeners away from The Fan’s signature show. This guy is a disaster and has the unique ability to make people flip the dial the minute his voice is heard. If you give people a reason to turn away, they probably will. And beware of those listeners who do so and find something else they like. I’d love to know the reasoning behind why The Fan keeps trotting this clown out. I can’t believe McCown is endorsing it. The second case in point: Blundell. This guy could be a colossal flop. If he is…and all signs are pointing to the fact it’s going to be a struggle for this non-sports guy to host a sports show….then Kollins has a big mess to clean up made by decision makers who took a good thing and wrecked it. Interesting times….and I’ll be curious to see the summer and fall ratings books to see what kind of inroads TSN makes.

February 8, 2015 10:57 am


Listen to Lee. It’s not about market value (which you somehow believe Rogers paid for this deal) it’s about ROI(which you also believe Rogers is somehow getting). In this viewing Climate where people are downloading, canceling their cable packages, and Rogers is hemeraging subscibers in it’s wireless division while Wireless should be the achor that helps avoid the sinking ship This deal is destined to turn into a sublicensing play, where Rogers will sublicense some of their national games back to TSN. The purchase of the NHL package reflects arrogance and ignorance, ignorance lives within the
promise to ad agencies for a 20% viewership increase and not realizing that pro sports thrives off all forms of diversity. Diversity which lives in Toronto and which is not hockey mad. Hockey has failed in this regard. and arrogance dwells within Scott Moore believing that he is getting shafted by the rating system, and also Rogers locking out all other providers when it comes to gamecentre live. This NHL package largely differs from that of an NFL,or NBA package. first of all none of the other leagues provide all their products to one broadcaster\corporation. Secondly fans in this city are not necessarily tied to the league itself but in fact pledge a huge aligiance to their blue and white. I would wager to say fans in most Canadian cities are more fans of their local team and care less about other games. In the other three sports many of the teams have fans all across North America this is why NFL playoffs gets the response it does. Oh ya and by the way NFL does not have a diversity issue like the NHL. NFL would not survive in the states if diversity were an issue.

If I’m a major shareholder here, Im really going to have a good hard look at the media portfolio and consider what’s a win and what’s not.

February 8, 2015 12:57 pm

@ WestDale Rocks. Excellent points made.

I would bet that the reason that Ken Reid is now a regular on The Fan’s signature show is purely about cross promotion. Rogers wants to pump up anything Rogers and they will use all formats formats their self promotion. Sadly, they don’t seem to be getting the big picture. Listeners are getting tired and are leaving.

These short-sighted decisions could very well bite them where it really hurts.

Their bottom line.

(Another) Andrew
(Another) Andrew
February 8, 2015 1:01 pm

NFL does not have a diversity issue like the NHL. NFL would not survive in the states if diversity were an issue.

Hispanics alone outnumber blacks in the US. Asians are catching up. Yet there is virtually no Hispanic/Asian presence in NFL or its media coverage. It doesn’t seem to be hurting the NFL. Diversity could well become an issue for the NHL in Canada but you have to keep in mind that Canada’s demographics are very different from America’s. Canada’s ethnic minorities skew heavily Asian and based on anecdotal evidence of having worked and done business with two Asian communities in particular the lack of black presence in the NHL is the last thing that would bother them. I think the NHL is more likely to be hurt in Canada by our improved access to international sports especially European soccer as well as MLB and NBA if the Jays and Raptors become winners. It’s also now in the interests of TSN to push other leagues and yearly events at the expense of NHL hockey and we all know good they at promotionalism!

In the other three sports many of the teams have fans all across North America this is why NFL playoffs gets the response it does

The NFL is exceptional. I believe scarcity plays the biggest part in its appeal. Each game is as close to must-see viewing as you can get in this day and age. The NBA fanbase is not spread out. It is also very fickle. Attendance is often lower in many US markets than for NHL games and with terrible local ratings. Only a few teams have the stars that garner most of the fans.

BTW the NBA has a serious diversity issue of its own in the US. According to the US 2012 NBA demographic profile blacks, who are only 13% of the population and declining, make up 45% of all the league’s fans. Whites, who outnumber blacks around 5 to 1 are at only 40%. Hispanics slightly underrepresented at 12% – Source.

On Rogers it would be interesting to see what would happen if a major sport property were up for grabs in the next couple of years. Would Rogers have enough left over to outbid TSN? Are there any up for grabs? Seems to me there are a lot more long term deals for broadcasting sports properties in recent years leaving very little available. (TSN timed things well getting Wimbledon, the US Open and other grand slam tennis events for the next ten years as Raonic was rising and just before Eugenie Bouchard burst onto the scene).

mickey b
mickey b
February 9, 2015 7:57 am

Thanks again for the awesome reading. Really enjoy this website. I mentioned this a little while ago but just to follow up on the unrest with Rogers these days. Also, this is third hand knowledge so take it as you like but I’ve heard this multiple times. A high ranking employee who had a lot to do with getting the nhl deal wishes that he was never involved in that at this point. Not because they think it was a bad decision at the time but the aftermath has not been enjoyable from a personal standpoint. Not saying that it might not work out one day but the whole experience the last few months has made this person regret ever getting involved with this in the first place. I’ve also heard that there is huge differences in opinion on the quality of their broadcasts. There are those in the Rogers world that strongly agree with what seems to be an overwhelming majority of the public’s opinion that broadcasts are just simply not very good and some are even embarrassed by the product (again agreeing with what it seems to be like the common consensus). There are also those in the Rogers world that are stubborn as heck and believing that the product will grow on the public in time. Again, this is all 3rd hand knowledge so take it as you will. I’m sure many of you out there know better than I, just thought I’d share with you what I’ve heard and believe to have some substance.

Rob in Aurora
Rob in Aurora
February 9, 2015 8:11 am

Sportnet paid $5.2 billion to force the viewing public to watch their terrible hockey coverage rather than someone else’s. That doesn’t mean more people will watch hockey. I’m not sure who came up with the idea of a 20% increase in viewers.

Sportsnet has always done a terrible job and many people seem to be ignoring the pregame and intermission coverage now. That doesn’t help the “we’re #1” claim at all, does it? I predicted TSN would eventually buy some content because SN paid way too much and they would lose money on the deal. Now I think the over/under should be October 2015. Sportsnet is really screwing this up – someone is going to be shown the door. Looks good on them, there was a lot of smugness when they “won” the rights deal.

February 9, 2015 8:58 am

Nice insights by Eric. I especially liked his point about younger people growing up with the Leafs being on an equal footing with the Raps and Jays. It’s been 10+ years since the Leafs were good. Kids and immigrants are no longer automatically Leafs fans first. The Raps have a real chance to make their mark this season, building off the momentum from last year.

Does anyone know if MLSE still forces Leafs season ticket holders to buy Raps tickets?

February 9, 2015 10:33 am

Hey Jake,

MSLE is owned by two conglomerates in the telco space that push the envelope on bundling in their core businesses (internet,home phone,TV) it would not surprise if they continue to try to bundle raptor tickets with that of the leafs. Bundling is their of applying force to the fanbase in regards to tickets.

February 9, 2015 10:42 am

Had to laugh last week when McCown had Gillick then the Harlem Globetrotters in back-to-back segments. He could have titled that 1/2 hour “Things that were relevant in this market 25 years ago”

Sam in Scarb
Sam in Scarb
February 9, 2015 11:24 am

Actually,i kind of enjoy seeing rogers taking a hit.Their smugness is coming back to get em.

Would also like to see a reporter (print,radio TV) actually do their job and investigate and report on the Blue Jay ticket sales…

Some rogers suits were “alarmed” at the drop in season ticket renews and rogers is very tight lipped that their Flex Pac sales are down 60% from previous years.

McCown seems also to be looking forward to the up-coming Ali vs. Frazier fight.

Chef Mike in Burlington
February 9, 2015 2:28 pm

It’s been almost 3 years since I intentionally listened to a Toronto sports radio station, after 2 decades, I’ve just given up, its the same noise…

I don’t commute anymore so I don’t have to fill those 2 hours, but aren’t you all tired of hearing the endless rotation of Leafs suck, Jays suck, Raptors suck, fire the coach, Bob’s dumb, fuck Rogers, fuck Bell, we need a bullpen, where’s Shaky Hunt, Wilner is brilliant, spend more money, sign more free agents, trade the star, Bob’s smart, spend less money, Blair stammers, promote Mike Hogan, Blair whines, Wilner is an apologist, dig up Pat Marsden, fire Mike Hogan, Tim and Sid are the new Sklar Brothers, Dean Blundell…

Sorry, but 680 or 1010 are great for traffic weather and sports updates, Dan Patrick, Rich Eisen and Mike and Mike podcasts are commercial free and talk about other stuff, not just Toronto teams 24-7-365.

You have a million options, TuneIn Radio, IHeartRadio, ESPN app, Stitcher, FoxSportsRadio, even Sirius if you want to spend money.

It ain’t gonna get better as long as you still listen to them…

February 9, 2015 4:37 pm

I’m with Chef Mike, just a year later and totally agree with his post!! Well done…

February 9, 2015 5:39 pm

@RobInAurora – agree – last few years I have rated Hockey coverage in this order 1. HNIC 2. TSN 3. Sportsnet. Rogers paid 5.2 billion and moved a 3rd rate show to the #1 timeslot. Aside from that clumsy set they built, and a few mix and match talking-heads, I feel like it is the same damn show I watched on Sportsnet prior to the NHL rights deal. Weeknights I now look forward to the TSN Leafs coverage more than I ever did before.

@Chef – I have been Podcasting a lot more. I play a bit during the week then binge-listen all weekend to the previous week’s TSN 1050 and Fan Pods.

Chef Mike in Burlington
February 9, 2015 7:54 pm

@Mike in Boston……I was thinking more…blunt…or maybe I’m a bit of a dick too, you’ll have to ask Daniel.

As for the key media folks who are reading, they clearly have a formula that they are slavishly sticking to, regardless of the fact it’s based in the 2000’s when 550AM was the only other option and podcasts were a dream.

Their single-minded fetish for all things Toronto, all things Leafs-Jays-Raptors, all things 18-34, repetitive constant call-in segments and the same style of host, regardless of the station, is just tedious. I know there is an audience for it, so I hope they enjoy their declining share, it was at 2.4 and .7, with no where to go but down. Even if they hold their numbers, their ad dollars are going away far faster…and in case they’re not sure, those numbers are never coming back…

I hope the big thinking PD/brand managers enjoy it while they can, meanwhile I’ll take my 50 year old ears, my non-Toronto interests and my buying power and be on my way. Free WI-FI is everywhere, and Patrick, Eisen, Golic, Greenberg, Jason Smith and Jay Mohr are to me better shows, nationally based, less repetitive, commercial free listening experiences, all while the locals stick to the broken plan.

February 10, 2015 9:10 am

This is well trodden ground but I want to bring up the disaster that is Ken Reid again. I understand the theory of putting him on PTS to drive listeners to his TV show Sportsnet Connected. I think the opposite may occur as he is getting exposed as not very knowledgeable and a lightweight.

For example, it is very clear that Ken does not follow (or perhaps care much about) NBA basketball but every interview where he talks basketball person or participates in a segment about the Raptors it is abundantly evident he has no clue what he is talking about and can not add any value to the discussion. I doubt Reid is the only Toronto broadcaster who falls into this category but his higher exposure on the FAN I think hurts his credibility. Because I’ve heard him bumble through NBA topics, when he makes claims on his TV show that “Westbrook and Durant need to find a way to share the ball” or “Sacramento made a mistake in firing Mike Malone” I know some producer is feeding him with this information as his lack of knowledge about the NBA is readily apparent every day.

Reid’s increased profile, I’d argue, hurts Connected not helps it.

February 10, 2015 10:29 am


I would say this is also the case with Bob Mcowan, Im not sure how a real sports fan can tolerate listening to him, every time he is asked an in depth question about current basketball, baseball or football games or players it seems as though he defers to the producer who will fill him in during a long pause. I think the business of sports was the right role for Bob or some form of investigative journalism, his knowledge regarding players, games and stats outside this market is abysmal.

Lee (Oakville)
Lee (Oakville)
February 10, 2015 11:01 am

I may be in the minority here, but I think McCown’s knowledge on the business of sports is vastly overrated. I’ve been involved in business and finance (including league/franchise financing) my entire professional life and McCown does not come across as sophisticated or technical in his business acumen. His use of buzzwords (like EBITDA, for example) are over-used and improperly utilized. We chuckle about this all the time in our office. I think the fact that McCown surrounds himself with business neophytes (and sycophants to boot) makes it seem like he’s the dean of business sports when in fact he’s not.

February 10, 2015 1:56 pm

Surprisingly, Ken Reid was better than Bob with the Frank Nobilo interview yesterday.

Interesting 2 articles on analytics.

St. Louis wants to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a new stadium to keep to Rams. Will still be paying the cost of the old dome until 2021.

Darren K Johnston
Darren K Johnston
February 10, 2015 6:57 pm

Sperk, great point about Reid/Connected.

Who in their right minds would watch/listen to two hours of Reid on PTS and think to themselves, “man, I can’t wait for Connected to get more of this guy”

Hockey on Sportsnet (Unless it is a Wed night rivalry game with the NBCSN feed) has diminished my interest in the sport X’s 10.

McCown gets worse and worse as the days, weeks, months go on, he is simply collecting his paycheck, end of story. Tonights 4:00 segment with Brian Cooper was GREAT, Cooper wouldn’t back down during the Vegas to the NHL segment at all, it’s nice to see a guest have some balls with Bob once in a while, but then the 5:00 hour starts and there is the channel changer himself, Reid congratulating Bob for being correct about some part of his argument with Cooper, he couldn’t praise his greatness enough, pure agony.

February 10, 2015 8:22 pm

It really is odd, I think, how I went from looking forward to hearing Bob to actually flipping over to their rivals. I still think he has a great to offer, but I almost know what his take will be and what his arguments are… In many ways, he reminds me of Letterman and his decline on TV when he too became too corporate.

That being said, I really do hope he reverts to his old form and then retires with some sadness on my part.

Oh, one last thing, I am sick of his dependence on Red Kelly’s switching from D to center in support of his argument for Gardiner to do the same. Hockey had changed dramatically for it to be as successful. Furthermore, as professionals, I’m sure one of the coaches, scouts, etc would have realized the potential if it were plausible. Or, they may have tried it in a team scrimmage and found Gardiner’s hockey sense, or lack thereof, to be highlighted more at center than at D.

February 10, 2015 10:31 pm

As ive wondered before, if reid is there to cross-promote connected, why dont they have Ovanka on too?

(Another) Andrew
(Another) Andrew
February 11, 2015 12:28 am

Say what you want about Reid but based on the 4 or 5 times I’ve listened he can hold his own in a discussion of numerous sports, especially hockey. Maybe Evanka can’t do that.

Tonights 4:00 segment with Brian Cooper was GREAT, Cooper wouldn’t back down during the Vegas to the NHL segment at all, it’s nice to see a guest have some balls with Bob once in a while

It was a good segment. I know nothing about Las Vegas but listening to Bob talk about its lack of viability as a major sport franchise town I wondered if he’s maybe stuck with an outdated perception of the city based on his own experience living there which, I think, was over decades ago.

(Another) Andrew
(Another) Andrew
February 11, 2015 12:30 am

correction: was over two decades ago.

February 11, 2015 6:27 am

Why not Evanka? Probably because Bob doesn’t want to be embarrassed by a women when she shows she knows more that him about sports.

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