Lots Going To Change In Toronto Sports Media World

It’s been too long.

I could tell you why, but let’s just say it’s been an adventure and a personal struggle but I am happy to report it looks like there will be a happy ending.

Enough about me.

There is so much to talk about.

So, without further discussion here goes, and in no order:

The media consumption landscape is every changing but I think things in Toronto and Canada for that matter are evolving more rapidly than before.

The Globe and Mail is officially dead as a sports outlet. With all due respect to those who write for the paper, it’s gone, over, kaput. The Star and Sun remain, audiences are flat at best and the Athletic is dominating from a content perspective. I am not talking about business model the best damn content available to the sports fan on a regular basis online (text only) is on the Athletic (not including “blogs”). Where they go from here is anyone’s guess but I can tell you I visit the site several times per day.

Sportsnet has Michael Grange, in my opinion currently the country’s best writer. There are a handful of excellent other content creators there, Chris Johnston, Shi Davidi, Ben Nicholson Smith, Arden Zwelling, Gare Joyce, to name but a few. There are a handful of scribes at the Sun and the Star and literally no one writes at TSN.ca.

I have no clue how much money The Athletic is making, (or losing) but they have completely changed how I consume sports opinion. As the old guard gets older, no one new is getting hired at the traditional papers… it’s only a matter of time.

Huge congrats to Richard Griffin who is going to help eviscerate the notion that you can’t go home again as he returns to the world of team PR. Yes Griffin has pulled the chute on life at The Star joining the Blue Jays as head of Public Relations.

This is massive news kids. The Jays have been leaning more corporate lately, less baseball and more suit-like in all ways including PR. Hiring Griffin is a huge shift. While typically the who leads PR has little effect on the fans, I am holding out hope that maybe, just maybe, someone at Ted Rogers Way is getting the point that, perhaps baseball is best left to those who either know the game or maybe even like it. Based on the expert analysis on the roster as it stands right now this is a team that is going to be dying for good news this season. Let’s hope this is a great start of things to come.

Still with the Jays, TSN lost their mid-day host Scott MacArthur a few weeks back. TSN’s loss is a Blue Jay fan’s gain as MacArthur will be the new voice of the Blue Jays post-game call-in show once his non-compete clause expires. MacArthur will replace Mike Wilner who has been answering calls for eons now. Wilner has moved into the radio booth doing play by play. There is no more patient human being then Wilner, given the number of years he did the gig. I am curious to see how MacArthur who has a totally different style than Wilner handles the endless calls of insane trade ideas that are coming his way. This is a coup for those who handle things for the Jays media side of things. The bench is now Dan Shulman and then Scott MacArthur. As the team rebuilds on the field they massively need help on radio and tv too. Just my opinion.

Elliott Price didn’t last very long with the Fan 590 morning show did he? Two years and we hardly knew ya. I can’t say I am surprised. I have no doubt that Price is good at his trade. He was a complete mismatch in this role (this is NOT a new theme with the Fan btw (see Blundell and Krystal) where someone has been hired who is completely unsuited for the role they are asked to play. Brady and Price had zero on air chemistry. Like none. The fact they lasted two years is a testament to someone’s patience. The show actually made no progress from day one to day end.

The problem was, on a show filled almost entirely with old(er) men Price seemed to be the eldest. If the station had any interest in skewing younger he was the complete opposite of what a younger crowd would be interested in. He was, or seemed OLD. I also thing the audience resented the fact that in city the size of Toronto the largest sports station in the country had to look to another city for talent and in so doing didn’t even bring in the best and brightest from that market.

Radio is about relationships. We listen to those we can relate to. We like the banter, we want the questions insight and we laugh at the same things. Price never got there in Toronto. So while very accomplished, he was set up to fail. A poor hire on the part of management, they not he owns this.

So, where do they go from here?

Well, they have Brady. They have Hugh Burrill on the updates. Personally, I think they need to blow up the model. They need to do radio in the am differently and take chances. I’d go more in the way of a panel then necessarily finding a co-host. Let Brady drive and have several groups of Rogers insiders appear multiple times a week to discuss the topics of the day. Stop doing radio the old way and try to invigorate a newer, younger, social media consuming audience. No traditional updates, no morning show “bits”.. do sports radio differently.

What do they have to lose. The industry is so stuck in the dark ages with regards to ratings who cares. They have an enormous lead on the competition why not be a leader and re-invent the model. What do you have to lose?

No matter what they do it can’t be worse than what they have.

On the topic of radio, the best radio show in Canada right now is, without question Overdrive.

The end.

For what it’s worth, ESPN has some 38 million unique global streams of it’s 64 shows that are podcasted. While that number in the USA extrapolates to 4.8m streams in the USA, on an annual basis Overdrive is not that far off! Yes, sources tell me that Overdrive had over 35 million streams last year or just about 2-3 million per month. Those are serious numbers.

While McCown and Brunt/Deitsch are must listen to when a big story breaks the rest of the time….. If you are not listening to OverDrive you are missing out big time.

The reality is, you can now listen to a ton of great content all available on the radio and never turn the radio on. So while the geniuses at Numeris are trying to figure out their technology (think Mr. Mcgoo meets dilbert) the entire world is passing them bye and they have literally no answer.

Quick hits:

Elliotte Friedman’s features on HNIC are must see. The HNIC intros? Awful.

No, you don’t care but there is serious NHL buzz in Seattle these days. I see more NHL jerseys on the streets than Mariners.

I was a huge Roy Halladay fan. I can’t think of a more defeating result to the Canadian sports fan than Roy going in to the hall of fame sans Blue Jays logo. For whatever reason Canadians seem preoccupied with the notion, “did they like us” more than anything, and Halladay not self associating with the Jays (completely within his family rights) feeds that insecurity bigly.

In the same spirit many are already preparing the Raptor faithful for the possibility that Kawhi Leonard doesn’t really like us all that much after all by telling us not take it personally should he leave.

I loved the stories this week that Leonard bought a house in Los Angeles ergo he is leaving the Raptors. Right, because no athlete has an offseason mansion. I am not suggesting he is staying but the purchase of a home means little to me.

Curious, which team makes you more nervous into the playoffs, the Raptors or the Leafs? While Leonard is the bomb, personally as I see them right now they are not built to go any further than they have in the past. With the Leafs, if they meet Tampa or the Boston early, it’s over. Put another way, this deadline season should be most telling in both teams recent histories.

I love certain media types ripping the Leafs for signing Patrick Marleau. Money cannot buy what he brings to the younger Buds. Those suggesting otherwise are looking for faults.

There is no better personality on TV these days than Brian Burke. As he was always a great interview he is a great studio presence.

Don’t be surprised if the Blue Jays start tinkering more with their radio and tv crews during these predicted down seasons. They want a well oiled machine when the team is firing on full cylinders. I don’t believe the radio or TV crew will look much like they do now when that time comes.

Happy to be back

Jonah

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