What’s Eating Bob McCown?

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With all due respect to the field, Bob McCown has owned the Toronto Sports Media sports radio landscape for years.

The ratings show it. The guests show it.

When it comes to sports radio in this market, or in all of Canada for that matter he is the man.

Given those facts, not opinion but facts, why does it appear that Bob McCown is a little sour these days?

For the second time in a few months, David Shoalts has written a piece on McCown where the Winemaker doesn’t exactly sound thrilled with his current lot.

The first article strongly suggested that McCown is bored.

The article he wrote today certainly sounds like Bob, to use a Bobism, AINT happy right now.

The times they are a changing.

That’s why.

The fine folks at Rogers have realized that in the grand scheme of things radio is second fiddle to TV and the internets.

Radio, AM radio, Sports AM radio just isn’t as important as it used to be. Until the CRTC relaxed the ownership restrictions talk radio will remain on AM and remain the ugly step sister to the FM stations.

AM sports radio is not where the money is today and as a result it’s not where the investment is going to be made.

If you need any more proof, look up the dial at TSN.

Radio is by far second fiddle to TV. TSN on tv is first, second and third compared to radio.

The issue for the Fan, and McCown is that Bob is still in the chair and he has earned the throne.

Back in the day, Bob got what Bob wanted. They needed Bob to be happy because he was delivering big numbers and big revenue.

The landscape has changed. He is still delivering big numbers. The revenue on the radio side compared to the tv side simply dwarfs the radio revenue.

It is not exactly an apples to apples comparison, Bob is on the air 4-7 and one hour is national. TV is national. The TV work that generates revenue is produced for TV; it’s not a radio show simulcast on tv.

What’s odd is that McCown didn’t just voice displeasure with Rogers he took aim squarely at Stephen Brunt- the “he” in the following quote:

The issue is his deal is 20 weeks and, truthfully, he probably didn’t work the 20 weeks last year. I think he felt he had other things to do, TV commitments or whatever, so he took days off when he was supposed to be with me.


I am not sure that can be viewed as anything but a swipe at Brunt.

It’s one thing if McCown said something like, I wish I had Brunt more than 20 weeks or something purely subjective; however he questioned Brunt’s compliance with his contractual obligations. Them’s fighting words.

Brunt, for those of you who read this site frequently already know, I believe is vastly under-utilized at Rogers.

If McCown is the best radio host in the country, Brunt is his equal in print.

As a consumer I do not get enough Brunt.

I realize that Stephen doing a a tv segment involves things like preparation, editing, travel etc. While the end product is great, the frequency isn’t there for me.

So, where do things go from here?

McCown has made his beef very public.

How do new new PD Cadeau, Scott Moore and new head hauncho Rick Brace respond?????

Let’s look at few interesting tidbits:

Bob McCown, the ringmaster of the afternoon drive-time radio show Prime Time Sports since it hit Toronto’s airwaves in 1989, says he has no plans to continue with the show when his contract with Rogers Communications Inc. expires in early 2018.

That’s from Shoalts’s first column. So, assuming the accuracy of the piece, Bob is under contract for another 2 + years.

No one will speak to it on the record, however word is McCown is one of, if not the highest paid broadcasters in the country.

Prime Time remains the top rated sports radio show by a country mile.

The roster of co-hosts was shaken up, with Brunt and Damien Cox, who once alternated as co-hosts, heard less and less. Appearances on Sportsnet’s hockey broadcasts mean Cox no longer has time to be a co-host and Brunt’s television obligations mean he will only be at McCown’s side for 20 weeks this year. Also limited is Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster Elliotte Friedman, who, like Cox and Brunt, has good chemistry with McCown.

The roster of co-hosts has been jumbled for a long time. As one insider said to me today, “let’s face it the number of print guys around let alone those who can commit or are willing to commit to a full time sidekick role is not what it used to be; There just aren’t that many print guys around anymore.

McCown is right about one thing, the show simply isn’t as good with the constantly rotating co-host seat.

The most frequent side kick of late has been Ken Reid, and I am not going there.

Elliotte Friedman did some shows this summer. Matt Devlin, Arash Madani are some others who have sat in the seat. Gone are the old reliable Shaky Hunt, Jim Kelley, Rob Faulds and John Shannon. Damien Cox, as Shaolts wrote is covering hockey.

The fact remains, that when Bob is engaged (Blue Jays) he is the same old awesome host. When he is not interested, it shows and the show is, to use Bob’s own words, BORING.

The show needs a permanent co-host.

Obviously, something happened with Brunt. Brunt was the best co-host the show has had in a while. According to Shoalts, Stephen has moved on: “I’m fully involved in covering the first Blue Jays’ pennant race in 20 years, I will be working with Jeff Blair a lot and I will be working with Tim and Sid a lot,” Brunt said. “I’m having a great time and looking forward to finishing out my working life at Sportsnet.

Brunt isn’t going away. He’s just going to appear on other shows- “a lot

Perhaps part of the challenge in finding the co-host is in what Shoalts wrote in article one “In the broadcast industry, McCown is famous for arriving at The Fan studio minutes before the show starts at 4 p.m. and hitting the exit equally quickly at 7 p.m.“.

Are there many out there who want to work on a full time basis with the character described in Shoalt’s article?

There simply is not a long list of potential sidekicks.

As a former co-host told me today, Bob’s best joke is that his favourite co-host is always the one who isn’t working that day.

Is it too hard to be in that sidekick role day in and day out?

I guess we will see based upon who starts showing up more often.

Is this the beginning of the end of McCown’s reign?

No, I don’t think so.

I think McCown works as long as he wants to.

However, I can’t imagine that the powers that be appreciate Bob airing this type of displeasure on the front page of the Globe and Mail. Companies tend to prefer for dirty laundry be aired internally.

Having said that, Rogers created this. They’ve benefited from and contributed to Bob’s success over the years. They’ve watched him become the star and treated him as such. The fact that the times are changing is apparently making Bob unhappy is no surprise. They can’t be surprised that he is not feeling the proverbial love from no longer being the center of their attention. McCown has taken to print to voice his dissatisfaction. The ball is on Rogers court to react.

Awesome times to be a fan of sports media wouldn’t ya say?

More to come later this week.


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