Fall & Winter 2018-2019 Sports Radio Ratings

by mike in boston / @mikeinbostonemail


If there’s one topic that has generated more interest than any other around here it’s radio ratings. The Fall and Winter books are important since these represent the time of the year when all four sports are making news and people are generally at work and in their cars. As we have seen time and time again, February and March are when the biggest changes tend to happen to the lineups. Spring matters too with Jays and playoffs but then summer is a big pile of who cares.


Before proceeding to the numbers, here is the necessary disclaimer: Numeris’ methodology is not good. The entire Toronto area market is modeled on the listening habits of a small number of people who wear electronic devices called PPMs. If these people wear headphones to listen to radio then the device won’t pick up the signal unless they also wear some special adapter. PPMs won’t work at all if they use bluetooth headphones.


This is a legacy issue since stations are now able to quantify the number of individual streams coming from their apps, and can also track the number of downloads their podcasts generate. However none of this data is currently factored into ratings, and Numeris has not announced any plans to do so in the future.


The consequence is that the numbers often have odd jumps and dips. When dealing with small sample sizes this is most likely attributable to random changes in the schedules of the PPM-wearers rather than the established audience intentionally tuning in or out of a particular show.


Despite all these flaws, this is the system that the industry itself has chosen and there seems to be little desire from within to aim for something better. Yet these same flawed numbers are what program directors use to make firing decisions because a) there is nothing better out there and b) these numbers are what drive ad sales. As the CRTC recently noted in a report, AM radio relies on local ad sales (versus national ads for FM) so program directors are slavishly wedded to the flawed system whether they like it or not.


With all that out of the way here is how the two Male demos look:


StationM25-54M25-54 M18-34M18-34
 % Share of Hrs. Tuned% Share of Hrs. Tuned % Share of Hrs. Tuned% Share of Hrs. Tuned
 Nov. 26-Feb. 24Aug. 27-Nov. 25 Nov. 26-Feb. 24Aug. 27-Nov. 25
M-Fr. 6a-9a     
FAN 5903.74.7 3.74.3
TSN 10501.21.7 0.10.1
M-Fr. 12p-1p     
FAN 5902.54.3 1.15.1
TSN 10501.21.7 0.30.2
M-Fr. 1p-4p     
FAN 5901.11.8 0.71.2
TSN 10501.31.2 0.20.1
M-Fr. 4p-7p     
FAN 5904.85.8 3.94.4
TSN 10503.12.7 0.20.2


As always, thanks to David Bray: David Bray is President of Bray & Partners Communications. Feel free to forward questions and inquiries:

Phone: (416)431-5792

E-mail: [email protected]

Web sites: brayandpartners.com davidbray.ca




I am going to leave aside the M18-34 demo for the time being. The chances of getting a representative sample about this group from PPMs strikes me as impossible. Can you think of a 23 year old who is going to walk around with one of these around his neck or on his belt?



If you answered yes to that question now ask yourself how much you think we can generalize to the rest of the 18-34 year olds based on this person?


The older demo is less implausibly accounted for by the PPM data since that technology captures the habits of people who tend not to stream, tend to be stuck in the car, and tend to conform to 20th century media consumption habits at home and at work. The older demo is also more plausibly the audience that will listen to radio ads.


If you want to look at last year’s data for the same time period go here. When you look at the older demo year over year – end of February 2018 to end of February 2019 – here is what you see:


FAN mornings: loss of 26%

FAN lunchtime: loss of 40%

FAN early afternoon: loss of 45%

FAN drivetime: loss of 26%


TSN1050 mornings: gain of 20%

TSN1050 lunchtime: loss of 20%

TSN1050 early afternoon: no change

TSN1050 drivetime: gain of 55%


Let’s start with the offsetting losses in the lunchtime. TSN1050 ditched POS Patrick O’Sullivan after a few incidents, including him berating show host Andi Petrillo. Over at 590 they replaced longtime host Daren Millard with Jeff Marek. The fact that both shows saw losses suggests to me a change in the PPM listeners schedules rather than a loss of confidence in either show. With interest in the Leafs higher than ever it’s not believable that both shows are losing listeners to competing programming.


On to mornings: the FAN recently tried to fix half of what they believed not to be working by hiring their first female host of the 21st century. Brady remains in the pilot chair, a seat he has filled for many of the last 8 years. The FAN believes in the Brady brand enough to build a 3rd morning show around him. At the same time, 1050 has seen promising results with the addition of Carlo Colaiacovo to the Landsberg universe, while at the same time rebranding the show to First Up.


Here it is plausible to attribute some of TSN’s gains to 590’s losses. Carlo is a known entity in the market while Elliott Price was not. Pair that with a renewed interest in the Leafs (and a refreshed dislike for Montreal) and the ratings make sense. The gap between the two stations is still 3-1 but that looks much better than the 5 and 6 to 1 we are used to seeing in the global numbers.


In early afternoons TSN1050 finally has a meaningful victory over the competition. Sadly Scott MacArthur can’t celebrate with the team since he recently joined Rogers’ Jays coverage via their broadcast wing Rogers Sportsnet radio.


The 45% loss of audience share by the FAN’s Good Show over the last 12 months speaks for itself. Things look even worse if you zoom out to 18 months when this pairing took over for Andrew Walker. I’d be inclined to chalk this up to the younger audience for the show but the lower demo mirrors the older one in terms of poor performance. This is arguably (or inarguably) the least important timeslot during the day so neither side is making any money off these ratings, but the 1-4 show has historically been a testing ground for young talent and new pairings. I’ll leave it to you to discuss whether any of the current personalities on either station are being groomed for higher profile positions down the road.


Finally, we get to the numbers everyone is talking about. Overdrive has closed the huge gap on PTS and are just one good year away from catching up completely. Here it seems obvious that TSN’s gains are exactly PTS’s losses. Overdrive owns the Leafs, and Bob couldn’t compete even if he were to start watching the games. Add in the recent co-host changes and the problems look even worse for the FAN. I love Deitsch but the average Canadian sports fan wouldn’t know him. While everyone loves Brunt, his stature in the Canadian sports consciousness has shifted since he moved to Sportsnet. He’s still an expert on the Jays due to his close relationship with the current management and his frequent profiles on the team, but the Jays won’t be making front page headlines for another few years.


Then there’s the question of whether the audience has finally grown tired of Bob McCown. I’ll leave that topic for another day.


My hope is that TSN takes these numbers and commits to putting on a proper mid-morning show. We don’t have numbers to share on Blair because there is no competition at the moment. If I’m the FAN I seriously look at bringing Tim&Sid back on radio in some way. They could easily do a 2-4pm show on radio and still stick around to do their pre-game show on TV. Another thing the FAN should seriously consider is adding an ex-athlete to compete with TSN1050. The Zaun fiasco will have made Rogers cautious about this idea however.


Over to you: what do these numbers say to you about the quality of the line-ups?




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