Forum: Toronto Sports Radio- sizing up the quality of the lineups on 1050 and 590

<span class="entry-title-primary">Forum: Toronto Sports Radio</span> <span class="entry-subtitle">- sizing up the quality of the lineups on 1050 and 590</span>

by mike in boston / @mikeinboston / email


Happy Wednesday. About a year ago I decided to focus less on radio for a few reasons. First, I noticed my own consumption habits had shifted to podcasts over radio. (By this I mean shows made for podcast, as opposed to shows aired live with commercial breaks then posted for listening on demand). Second, I realized that for a variety of reasons I had soured on both FAN590 and TSN1050. Once I stopped making a point to download and listen to radio shows there was no turning back. I have not missed it at all.


With the summer months coming up and the Spring Book due shortly this is a good time to reflect on the state of the sports radio lineups. From a productivity standpoint, outside of one or two multi-platform guys, radio hosts generate the most content in sports media. 3-4 hours of talking per day, 5 days a week, 40+ weeks a year. In an ideal world all of this will be some combination of intelligent, entertaining, informed, articulate, funny, and insightful. This is really hard work. Being able to do it for a segment doesn’t mean you could do it for 15 hours a week. By the same token, just because you managed to fill your 15 hours of talking doesn’t mean you said anything worthwhile.


Here are some reasons why I found it easy to walk away from the current offerings, in no particular order:


  • “insider” recycling and overload
  • pointless debates
  • call-in segments
  • lack of coaching of younger people
  • lack of quality control
  • too much bro talk
  • content that goes stale very quickly
  • lack of women and people of colour
  • much more efficient to read sports opinions + analysis


This list is hardly exhaustive and doesn’t apply in equal measure to every show, obviously. Here is another possible explanation:


  • I don’t drive to work


Ultimately, the format is designed for people who are stuck in their cars. The FAN has tinkered with their timing for 25 years and I assume they have ample data to inform their decisions regarding number and length of commercials. But there is nothing that can overcome the artificiality of needing to break for traffic, weather, and paying the bills.


In order to serve the interests of the readership I am contemplating dipping my toe back into these waters and I would like to hear from those of you for whom radio is a regular part of your day. Here are a few questions upon which to reflect:


  1. What was the most memorable interview from the last few days?
  2. What was a sports opinion I heard that educated or entertained me?
  3. What was an enjoyable debate between hosts?
  4. How much of the show was spent responding to twitter?


Here are a couple of polls to gauge where you spend most of your listening time. Help me decide what to listen to.




Change in radio is as normal as death and taxes. The current lineup still reflects some big changes from the recent past: Blundell, Tim&Sid moving to TV, removing Cox from HNIC, ending OTR with time left on Landsberg’s contract, etc.


My last question is: what one change would you make to improve the state of Toronto sports radio?



thanks for reading and commenting,

until next time …

mike (not really in boston)

photo credit: Scott Moore


  • comment-avatar

    I’d be interested to know how many readers/commenters are actually concerned about the “lack of women and people of colour” on the radio in this market. I’ve never found myself thinking “this NBA panel doesn’t have enough white people”.

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    Used to be a huge consumer of terrestrial sports radio. But I’ve also moved away to podcasts, especially over the last 2 years. I still catch Overdrive (best show in the city by a mile) and PTS via podcast almost every day, and occasionally the morning shows on 1050 and 590 as well. But the overwhelming majority of my sports talk listening comes from (mostly American) podcasts. Should also give a shout out to Dan Shulman’s absolutely superb new podcast, which is a must-listen the moment it drops.

    From my perspective, why bother with the radio when 50% of what I hear is of no interest to me? I don’t commute by car and don’t need traffic reports. I already know the weather from my phone. I’m also already well aware of the current sports news from my phone, so don’t need the sports updates either (they should be done away with IMO). I obviously don’t care to hear any commercials. All that combines for roughly 50% of what’s on – so why bother listening? It’s a massive inconvenience. Much happier downloading podcasts with limited ads I can skip through, thereby raising the amount of content I want to hear up to 100% vs. 50% on terrestrial radio.

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    Why is Wilner regularly doing play-by-play? It’s clear the majority of fans do not want him in that position and yet Rogers routinely has him poach time away from Ben Wagner.

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    mark coale3 years ago

    The only sports talk I listen to live now are talksport and bbc from the UK. Everything else is podcasts. Too much talk about sports I do not follow (football,basketball, …) to sit through 10-15 minutes wasted.

    I think PTS has definitely improved with the Brunt/Deitsch switch. And Bob’s one hour spotlight show has generally been pretty good, depending on the guest.

    (Plug: dont forget my pod with Brunt last month.)

    I still do not like 590 changing their pods from hourly to whole show.

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    I too am a non commuter, so the “drive” factor is not relevant in my case.

    At home I have PTS/SN360 on in the background from 5-7 as I do other things. Otherwise I rely on online articles for sports info. Even when driving, the radio is usually on all news or music stations.

    The only recent change on radio that has gotten my attention is Bob’s Monday interview show in the 4:00 pm hour. The one on one in depth interview is a nice change from the usual shorter pieces.

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    Last week was a big sports week in Toronto and it seemed every day on PTS we were subjected to John Shannon. I usually look for something else to listen to even if it means missing somebody good. Brunt and Deitsch both improve the show.

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    @ Carl A Quite correct.
    That is why I avoid the first hour Tuesday -Thursday; although he still shows up as a “guest” at times in the later hours plus the Roundtable. It pays to be a Friend of Bobs…unfortunately!

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    David Toronto3 years ago

    Spotlight is a great concept but the quality varies greatly depending on the guest.

    Masai Ujiri should be banned by all radio stations after his performance last week. If you know you won’t answers any of the questions asked why agree to do an interviewer.

    Kevin Barker can be very annoying but his analysis of how and why players approach situations a certain way is very enlightening. It has made me want to watch more baseball instead of listening to the radio coverage.

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    …and sure enough, to open the final hour of PTS today…the King (NOT) of all things hockey: Gary’s boy at SN.

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    Joeybutts3 years ago

    George Rusic is 590’s best host. He’s come a loooong way and his stint with blundell has changed him. He’s fun and sometimes takes his cohosts out of their comfort zone. He should get his own show sooner rather than later

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    Brunt continually challenging Mcowan is entertaining in that Bob is at best a generalist and lands in trouble when called on to speak to specifics. While we may complain about our sports radio, much of local American sports radio falls into the Dog and Dumbo category. The hate and misogyny there makes our stuff look comparatively beautiful.

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    I’m going to keep results of the polls hidden for another day to prevent brigading. The votes so far are … surprising.

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    “I’d be interested to know how many readers/commenters are actually concerned about the “lack of women and people of colour” on the radio in this market. I’ve never found myself thinking “this NBA panel doesn’t have enough white people”.”

    I think this view is narrow in it’s thinking. I think guests like Mary Ormsby who has been missing on Prime Time Sports for a few years now did add a different view point from her peers. Diversity is just reflective of our society and the current offering on sports talk is very much divided on racial lines. Basketball has non-white analysts primarily, and hockey has white analysts primarily. Women are sprinkled through but you never see any women analysts who have the physique of Jeff Blair, if you get what I’m saying…seems like the women that you see on sports tv are really there for eye candy, and not much serious sports thought, like Mary Ormsby. Would love to see more discussion on this topic.

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    Poker Guy3 years ago

    You didn’t include Leafs Lunch in the worst category…

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    Original Mitch3 years ago

    I once held lazy radio hosts as reason why toronto sports radio is (for the most part) not very strong. And while that still holds some credence, I’ve moved this perception into the show producers. Where is the effort to get good guests and/or good topics? Unless it’s some management mandate (which I’m sure it is to a certain degree, like a quota), having your own employees on as guests and experts and insiders is the single worst thing to ever happen to sports radio. But, even if management says you need x amount of SN guys on your show, why aren’t they chasing unique and engaging guests ? It used to be constant now it’s super rare. There’s a bazillion interesting sports stories a week. Do a better job as producer to find those stories and bring light to them with topics and guests. But nope, it’s always “Shi Davidi joins us next to talk about the blue jays and later, Kevin Barker, buck Martinez and Mike Wilner will join us to talk…blue jays game 42 of 162 game season”. It’s brutal!

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    You could not have said it better Mitch. My impression is that budgets are pretty tiny these days so producers don’t have much sway with potential guests. The other thing is that multi-platform folk are expected to contribute all the time so there is pressure on them to be available. Kind of a perfect storm for boring and repetitive segments.

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    This column is extremely timely for me – I had decided to try and listen to Toronto radio as there is NOTHING worth listening to here in London – I don’t like changing stations so stayed with 590 – The morning show appears to be an endless loop of the same commercials interrupted by endless useless updates – The three hosts seem to be constantly talking all at the same time – Very annoying – Can’t take Jeff ‘er a um’ Blair but did tune in for the 11:00 baseball segment – It seems Blair and Barker are both trying to out talk each other at the same time – And of course the ad loop goes on and on – Terrible radio – PTS has not changed much and I happen to be able to tolerate Shannon – I realize somebody has to pay the freight but again the ads are just overwhelming – 8 minutes of the same 5/6 ads every half hour is a little much and I just turn off the sound – However I don’t have an answer – My main beef is with the Blue Jays radio broadcast – I agree with ‘Ray’ above about Wilner – They have hired a pleasant voiced knowledgeable PBP announcer in Ben Wagner yet they let that insufferable jerk Willner take PBP time away from him – I can only think Wilner works for peanuts just so he can rub shoulders with the players – It can’t be because he is well like that they keep him on the payroll – Tonight was the straw that broke the camels back – I tuned in in the second inning and Dan ‘I never shut up’ Shulman was doing the PBP – I think Shulman is over rated and has to babble on just to show how much he knows(Not unlike Wilner) and I find his voice annoying – If they can’t let Wagner do the job as PBP at least get Wilner off there and put on a permanent laid back color guy – I am thinking along the lines of Harwell/Carey – I am back to following games on Gameday and will probably stop listening to live radio – Not that Rogers or anyone else cares what I think –

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    Now that the topic of budgets has come up I would really to know what the costs are of running a radio station. Other than wages and basic overhead how much are licensing fees? Should the government be giving radio stations big tax breaks in order for them to strive/survive.

    While I usually only listen in the car I think it would be a terrible thing for radio to vanish.

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    Like everyone I do find my listening habit change depending on how close I am to a radio or the time of year. Find myself flipping quite a bit to see what holds my interest, like the improvements made to PTS with the addition of new and old co hosts.

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    Pants Go Brown3 years ago

    Conspicuous by its absence on the Fan is any real discussion on Osuna.

    Surely a guy who is / was so critical to the Jays success deserves more conversation than is present.

    Clearly Rogers has invoked the cone of silence on the Osuna subject.

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    The Jays talk on the Fan/Sportsnet is way too much. Especially in a week with all the Leafs and Raptors news, they still shove the Jays down our throats. Its actually quite annoying. Toronto sports fans should want to hear about all the major teams and not just the Jays.

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    For those listening to the radio because they are in car commuting to work, downloading a podcast or two on your phone and plugging it into your AUX on your car radio is really easy. I’ve been doing it on my 30-40 minute per trip commute for the past 2 years and don’t miss the radio at all. There really is no reason to listen to talk radio anymore unless you enjoy 20 minutes per hour of repetitive commercials and the same corporate approved viewpoint over and over again

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    I agree that the endless rotation of ‘Insiders’ on both stations is nauseating; very slightly different spins on the same topics. Seek out regulars who are not based in Toronto and didn’t go to Western or Ryerson.

    The ‘highlights’ on Starting Lineup are a serious twice an hour momentum killer. I’ve never listened to Brady less. And I like him. Anybody else notice how some 1050 shows have been beginning segments at five minutes before the hour then going right through until ten minutes after the hour? Sneaky but creative. Worked on me. Wish Overdrive would do it. But then I wouldn’t hear that there is a stalled car in the right lane on a street I’ve never been to.

    Cauz with Landsberg is good radio. But he still couldn’t get Landsberg up to do a 5:30 am segment. Naylor didin’t win the battle but Cauz did – no more 5:30-6 am segment for Landsberg in the AM. Five hour energy only works on Landsberg because he pours it in his eyes. The Fan should give the SL crew an extra half hour sleep and start at 6 as well. Who the hell is listening anyway. Be more rested to deliver a solid three hours rather than mumble for twenty minutes from 5;30-6. Seek out the Landsberg in the AM interview with Carcillo a few weeks ago about the NHL and concussions. Good listen. Eric Macramalla is one of the best guests on 1050. He delivers concise and actual information rather than a lot of misinformation that is often spewed when legal situations arise.

    And anybody else here feel like Burke is embracing his new media career like it’s penal labour? Burke’s best quotes were in the context of an adversarial relationship with the media. That context is gone and so are his quotes.

    I have to go because I can taste the Piri-Piri sauce now. Donate your Kar today. Seriously, how many cars are actually donated?? And if the commercial is free, why aren’t other charities with less torturous music given free time? If they pay for their ads I would really want to know what percentage of donations actually go to kids. And, 1050, six minutes and thirty seconds after the last useless traffic ‘update’, please stop aurally assaulting me with another one.

    I applove this apploved message.

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    Kars for Kids is a scam wherein all the money goes to one religious charity in New Jersey. Several states have banned them from advertising but somehow we allow people to be duped into sending our money to a dubious charity in another country.

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    These things always seem to come back to fragmentation. Just because I’m interested in the Jays does not mean I care about golf. Nowadays, for better or maybe worse, there’s no need to sit through anything that doesn’t matter to us.

    Pants Go Brown, great point about the burial of the Osuna story on 590. What a great opportunity for all the upstart media alternatives to fill the void once again.

    Yaz, great point about Burke and the context! I thought it was a little similar when Howard Stern left conventional radio and no longer had the adversarial situation with the FCC and his bosses. He has made a billion dollars so it’s no failure but any talk about “what Howard said this morning” is long gone.

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    With respect to the Osuna matter, I disagree with the criticism of the Fan 590’s radio silence. Osuna is on administrative leave, which was extended by MLB, and there are very few facts available to the public. This is a serious criminal matter and I prefer no discussion by broadcasters instead of a discussion/speculation of possible criminal and league actions, hypothetical roster moves, and implications for the team. We will know soon enough about how these events will unfold. At that point, a more useful and fact-based discussion can be held.

    There was an interesting FanGraphs article that analysed the Blue Jays press release. The author noted the absence of the words “allegedly” and “if true” in the team communication. The writer also opined that the “Blue Jays, with this one move, appear to have taken a real, if subtle, stand on behalf of women’s safety”.

    Perhaps the Blue Jays should be commended for a more forceful press release than what other clubs have issued in the past. In this light, the wording of the press release and the relative radio silence are actions that should be commended and not criticised.

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    @ Bob Canuck

    Totally agree with your take on the FAN/Osuna topic.

    The lack of discussion and speculation regarding a celebrity or athlete when no new facts are available, is a refreshing change from the usual over the top responses by media outlets in North America

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    I hate Rogers as much as anyone, but sometimes I find the conspiracy theory stuff really tiring.

    “Clearly Rogers has invoked the cone of silence on the Osuna subject.”

    A) They have talked about it on The Fan. B) It’s not like TSN is going buckwild talking about this either. It’s an uncomfortable, delicate story and there’s only you can say without knowing the facts other than it’s terrible.

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    I know not everyone feels the same way, but I’m really enjoying the Wagner/Wilner play by play combo. Interesting that both Ben Ennis and now Alex Seixero seem to have had tryouts as Jays talk host/3rd man in the booth.

    Personally, I think Ben could be great for this job, as he is very knowledgable on baseball, and I think listeners might find him a lot less divisive than when Mike was taking calls. I don’t know if that is a promotion or demotion for him though, since I assume it’d mean he’d lose the afternoon show in that case. Will be interesting to hear Alex.

    Also – I was expecting to find Chris Leroux terrible (his main credit is the Canadian Bachelor), but I actually think he’s been pretty decent on Jays talk. Did not see that coming at all.

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    Pants Go Brown3 years ago

    Re. Osuna and Rogers invoked radio silence.

    Not sure if you caught PTS a week or so ago when Bob was talking that he was not surprised by what Osuna had been accused of / charged with. He said he had heard a bunch of character / behaviour stuff about Osuna before. The conversation made Brunt very uncomfortable. Nevertheless, what Bob spoke about sure did sound like Osuna’s activities were a well known secret within the ranks.

    Not sure how this character stuff and the indication that others knew about Osuna’s activities jives with the ‘forceful press release’ (an oxymoron if there ever was one) that Rogers issued, but I maintain there is more here, but few are looking very hard.

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    Landsberg In The Am lazy Podcast descriptions:

    In the 1st hour of the show the guys discuss the departures of Mark Hunter and Lou Lamoriello from the Maple Leafs, game 7 between the Capitals and Lightning, the Blue Jays win over the Angels, the NBA Playoffs and more as well as a replay from Overdrive’s interview with Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan.

    In the 2nd hour of the show the guys discuss the departures of Mark Hunter and Lou Lamoriello from the Maple Leafs, game 7 between the Capitals and Lightning, the Blue Jays win over the Angels, the NBA Playoffs and more. NBC Hockey Analyst Pierre McGuire joins the show as well.

    In the 3rd hour of the show the guys discuss the departures of Mark Hunter and Lou Lamoriello from the Maple Leafs, game 7 between the Capitals and Lightning, the Blue Jays win over the Angels, the NBA Playoffs and more. Guests include TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie and ESPN Radio host Mike Golic Jr.

    In the 4th hour of the show the guys discuss the departures of Mark Hunter and Lou Lamoriello from the Maple Leafs, game 7 between the Capitals and Lightning, the Blue Jays win over the Angels, the NBA Playoffs and more. Guests include Former NBA C Ryan Hollins and NBC Hockey Analyst Pierre McGuire.

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    So if it’s a serious matter, it best not be discussed? That’s bonkers.

    Arguably the biggest star on the team is gone indefinitely. There are humongous baseball issues, societal issues, business issues, regardless of the specifics of the case.

    This is a thousand times bigger and more important and frankly more interesting and educational than “stretching Joe Biagini out”. It warrants coverage and input from experts who have more broad knowledge than me and my barber.

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    mark coale3 years ago

    On the round table, bob tried to compare Osuna and Zahn and both Brunt and Blair were quick to shut that down.

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    @mark coale Do you know what date/hour that was?

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    It was during the May 25 Roundtable, but I was watching on air so don’t have a time.

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    @yaz The Osuna/Zaun comment was made by McCown in the 6 PM hour of the Friday May 25 roundtable at about the 6 minute mark………..or to make it easier for you it is at the 1:36:57 mark of that May 25 PTS podcast

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    Thx guys. Was interesting. Brunt corrected Bob and said we can’t compare what Zaun did to what Osuna did because the details of each are not publicly known.

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    mark coale3 years ago

    Bob has made the comparison at least 2 more times now, usually anytime Osuna comes up.