FAN590’s New Vision For Drive Home

FAN590’s New Vision For Drive Home

by mike in boston / @mikeinbostonemail

 

Beyond the abrupt and short-lived change to 3-6pm, the 4-7pm slot has been sacrosanct at Fan590 for decades. The final hour, 6-7pm, was the supposed “national” hour and the first was the “local” one. In theory this meant the show could build from the parochial to the profound over the course of three hours. Prime Time Sports endured many lead-in shows of varying quality but did not seem to suffer much from the absence of a consistent set up man.

 

Dave Cadeau, Jason Rozon and the rest of the Fan590 management team have blown up the 4-7 slot while creating cost efficiencies for the television side. The new schedule on both radio and TV features Writer’s Bloc from 2-5pm and Tim&Sid from 5-7pm. PTS used to compete with Tim & Sid for viewership – a Scott Moore genius idea – often drawing the ire of the already cantankerous McCown. By shuffling the timeslots Sportsnet was able to cut a large number of producers and technical staff, and double-dip Tim and Sid as both a radio and TV product, paving the way for McCown’s dismissal.

 

We don’t know if Sportsnet TV is forcing this change on Sportsnet Radio, or if this new arrangement is genuinely mutually agreeable for both platforms. What we do know is that money is as tight as it has ever been at Rogers, and things took another bad turn in recent days. With all that by way of background, I have listened to two full weeks of the new shows on FAN590’s podcast feed and have some thoughts.

 

Writers Bloc

 

 

 

“Sharp takes, not hot takes”

 

It’s hard to listen to Writers Bloc without thinking of Bob McCown. The three hour show is largely based on the blueprint he developed. They discuss the big topics of the day and work in guests with expertise who can deepen the debate. They don’t take calls. This is perhaps the biggest change from what usually defines the 2-4 slot in Toronto sports radio. The dynamic between Brunt and Blair is excellent. There is clearly a lot of mutual professional respect and friendship which makes the conversation fluid for the most part. This is in stark contrast with the McCown mode of operation, where he tried to antagonize co-hosts into largely uninteresting debates. The overall sports IQ of the show is quite high.

 

In terms of content, the results are very mixed after two weeks. Their opening “roundtable” featured Shi Davidi (Sportsnet Jays) and Nick Alberga (Sportsnet Leafs + Fantasy). For anyone hoping for the end of the PTS tendency to force feed minor Sportsnet personalities onto the listening audience, this was not a good start. I’m sure Davidi has lots of opinions on the Leafs and the NFL but I’m also sure that I don’t want to hear them. Alberga may well have a bright future at the station but no one knows who he is right now, and if this is supposed to be their signature discussion show then this is not the place for training wheels.

 

The same mistake was repeated the following Monday when the roundtable featured Michael Grange (Sportsnet basketball) and Richard Deitsch. While these are arguably journalists who can function as generalists, the results were still very lacklustre. All of these people can be heard in spades across Rogers platforms. Why would anyone make a point to tune in for the Monday roundtable? Is there no one the two hosts know from outside the Sportsnet universe who could come in for an hour?

 

Beyond the roundtables, the other shows were a predictable mix of in-house experts with a few interesting outsiders. A perfect example of the uneven nature of the show came on Friday. Hazel Mae (Sportsnet Jays) appeared to discuss the Astros’ firing of their AGM Taubman. In other posts I have argued that Sportsnet continually devalues Mae by treating her as merely a sideline reporter. She has a wealth of experience both here and elsewhere and deserves a larger platform to speak on the Jays and baseball more generally. In her interview she was articulate and educated on the nuances of this story. However absent the gender angle, Sportsnet would have deferred to Davidi or any of the other insiders. Mae has proven her value many times over the years and did so again on Friday.

 

Mae’s interview was stellar but it was sandwiched amongst Corey Hirsch (Sportsnet Hockey) and Gord Stellick (Sportsnet Leafs). This is, in my opinion, a complete waste of time, and a loss of momentum on an important topic that deserved deeper analysis. Sportsnet was carrying two Leafs games on Friday and Saturday, so these interviews serve the brand but not necessarily the audience. Listening to Brunt discuss Leafs line matchups with Stellick is painful. The other interviews on Friday were with TFC GM Ali Curtis and MLB discussion with Justin Morneau. They were fine, but Morneau also appeared on Tim&Sid.

 

This brings us to the nub of the issue with the new show. It seems that Brunt (and Deitsch) will be expected to put in a full three hour shift, as opposed to the two hours they did with McCown. A better approach would be to front load all the in-house and promotional guests from 2-3 and let Blair do that hour solo. Then devote 3-5 to meaningful stories that won’t be covered to death on the rest of the network. This was what made PTS special (at times), and there is no reason to throw that baby out with the Bobcat.

 

Overall, the show needs focus and structure. Right now it’s a soup of random Sportsnet stuff. The three hosts are very well connected, with Deitsch in particular having contacts that no one else in Canada can match. Given the weak time slot they occupy I don’t expect them to break the bank in terms of guests. However the show needs to distance itself from generic sports radio menu fare.

 

Tim & Sid

 

 

The triumphant return of Sportsnet’s viral video superstar and his trusty laughtrack sidekick remedies an unstable programming decision made back in 2015 when Tim & Sid were moved from their 1-4pm slot on radio to 5-7pm on television opposite PTS. For the last four years the two shows catered to very different audiences, on different Sportsnet channels, with one of them being a radio show that happens to be on TV and the other focusing on visual bits, clips, and gags.

 

The logic of the 2015 decision was fairly simple: Tim & Sid made a lot of money for the 1-4pm radio time slot and could be better used as a driver for Sportsnet’s ample offering of live sports content. Sportsnet committed to an expensive show with a new set and crew, replacing the looped clip show that had been running during this time. The hope was that Tim&Sid would bring in a lot of viewers and advertisers. Sources indicate that these windfalls did not materialize.

 

The end result was two “signature” shows on TV. On radio, it was business as usual. The problem is that when times are tough, the efficiencies are too obvious to resist. Why spend money on all these shows on both TV and radio when you can merge them and cut staff. As we know, this is what led Moore’s replacement Bart Yabsley to sign off on cutting ties with both McCown and Greg Brady, and several people whose names the reading audience would not know.

 

Now that Tim&Sid is back on radio we can compare the current version to the old Score podcast, the old Fan590 afternoon show, and the previous TV-only product that ran from 2015-2019. In my estimation there is about 20 minutes of visual content out of the 90 minutes that make it to podcast once advertisements have been removed. For podcast listeners this means scrubbing down the line until this is over but those of you stuck in your cars will need to endure segments mostly organized around video clips and funny faces. Whether this counts as a successful multi-platform show is a topic to be discussed in the comments.

 

In terms of the sports content itself, both Tim and Sid bring strong sports knowledge to the table and each can be enjoyable for a time. Together they can engage in interesting debates, though more often than not this involves scripted yelling. Fans of the old podcast may see elements of what made that product interesting in the new show. One of the problems with the 1-4pm radio show was the amount of time devoted to in-house guests and this continues with the TV/radio show. There is often a Leafs person teeing up that night’s game, which has little value to the TV audience, since they can just tune in to the pre-game show. It might be valuable to the radio audience. However your average PTS listener stuck on the 401 is not used to pre-game content, having been raised on this being the “national” hour.

 

This is the switch that Tim&Sid will need to try to flip: getting the radio audience to buy in to a much more local comedy-based show versus what they are used to. Presumably Sportsnet management has run the numbers and think this is a gamble worth taking. That having been said, these changes seem to be motivated by cost-cutting as opposed to revenue-generation. So maybe a shrinking of the audience has already been factored in to the decision.

 

Overall, if you loved the Tim&Sid TV show then you’re probably not going to notice much difference. If you’re hoping for a radio show with the breadth of PTS you’re going to be very very disappointed. If you were dreading a purely visual show crammed into your ears then they deserve credit for avoiding that result. It’s a listenable show for the most part. As with Writer’s Bloc, you can expect a steady diet of Brian Burke and Dan Shulman depending on what is on TV that night.

 

Parting Shots

 

 

Local radio has been a driving cultural force in Toronto sports media for 30 years. We now have two established all sports radio stations pumping out mostly local content every day of the week. At the same time, the economics of local radio are changing. The rise of podcasting is drawing advertising dollars away from over the air mediums, more and more people are commuting in ways that don’t force them to be captive to either 590 or 1050 for content, and as we are now seeing TV is driving the radio bus in new ways.

 

All of this explains why Fan590 has chosen the path it is now on. Whether these moves turn out to be good decisions or not remains to be seen. What is clear to me is that two of PTS’ distinctive staples are now definitively gone: 1) there is no more generalist journalists roundtable (arguably John Shannon and Ken Reid killed that concept a long time ago), and 2) there is no longer a “national” sports hour. This applies to both stations, by the way. If TSN were smart they would find a way to wedge a Reporters podcast into their schedule somehow.

 

Sportsnet needs to think about the future in the coming months. Is Tim&Sid going to be their signature show for the next 5 years? 10 years? They have already made the decision to blow up the flow of afternoons on radio. Are they committed to a shared 5-7pm radio + TV show for a while? The reason I ask this is because both Boston sports radio stations run their drive time shows from 2-6 as radio first shows. This leaves 6-7 to be filled with pre-game stuff and whatever else bridges them into evening programming. Both stations have massive audiences, far beyond what either Toronto station draws. What do they know that Sportsnet doesn’t?

 

Over to you: how are you enjoying the new radio shows? Do you miss Good Show?

 


 

thanks for reading and commenting,

until next time …

mike (not really in boston)

COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 26
  • comment-avatar

    What we have now is a “small r” roundtable; with only half of the previously allotted time along with 50% (at best) of the talent pool of years past.

    The “Roundtable” we new, is dead.

  • comment-avatar

    Should read “daily previously allotted time” and “knew“.

  • comment-avatar
    Mario 3 weeks ago

    I for one like many miss PTS as many do but realize changes had to be made, and Bob wasn’t given his due as a final ending for all did for the Roger’s brand.
    I do enjoy both new / old shows. Writers Block needs time to grow and hopefully get thing right with the right balance of guests. Tim and Sid picked up where they left off. Funny and entertaining with good knowledge of all sports, again the non Sportsnet guest will help both shows grow.
    Not sure why most don’t pay as must attention to 1050 programming as they do to 590. The flaws over there are laughable but get no resistance. Other than 4- 7 time slot no other even comes close. Mostly hockey pucks trying to talk all sports and failing in my opinion.

  • comment-avatar
    ReggieT 3 weeks ago

    Pretty bifurcated programming strategy at SN:  we have maturity and depth for those that want it (2-5) and jocularity & hot takes for those that want that (5-7)…and ne’er the twain shall meet.  I think SN has to figure out what they want to be when they grow up is all. 

  • comment-avatar
    Scott 3 weeks ago

    I was die hard PTS and FAN590 listener. To say Im not a fan now is an understatement.

    In my perfect world, Blair back to 9-12 (loved Baseball Central) Tim & Sid 1-4, and the old PTS back.

    Im open anything new for the morning show. Havent cared for it for years.

    A few years back I would tune in the station and rip the knob off. Now Im a definite grazer at best.Dial in to see whats up, then switch the station.

    One thing for sure, if Bobcat were to resurface, he would have my undivided attention

  • comment-avatar
    Raimee Stevens 3 weeks ago

    Good article agree for the most part. However, ‘Tim and Sid’ have completely turned me off, so I’ve tuned out of Fan590. They belong
    on Saturday morning children’s TV. Unintelligent and uninteresting. Bring back the Bobcat.

  • comment-avatar

    With the departure of Bobcat my tune in time to Fan590 is almost at zero. Morning show is still hard to listen to. Afternoon is dead man’s land for radio, most are at work. Evenings are….well, uninspiring to say the least.

    Good comparison to Boston radio; I can’t believe that the biggest market in the country is served with this level of mediocrity. 🙁

  • comment-avatar

    Couldn’t agree more that we could use a “ reporters” type show that Utilizes serious journalists. One great thing about McAllen was his interviews were second to none. Blair is impossible to listen to with his rambling six minute questions. Brent is completely under utilized with the fighters and suppose it inside or is that they gave him. The fan 590 is no longer a viable option to listen to. TSN generally is superior to them in every time slot so certainly the need for some true journalists is evident 

  • comment-avatar

    @ Scott, Raimee Stevens & Omario…you have perfectly summarized how I feel about the current SN schedule and “talent” roster.

  • comment-avatar

    I have been so turned off of Sid & Tim that I listen to Newstalk 1010 now.

  • comment-avatar

    Loved pts but if choosing between Overdrive and Tim/Sid, I choose Overdrive every time because they are actually funny without appearing to try and be funny.

  • comment-avatar

    For me, Tim & Sid is just a shittier, knock-off version of Overdrive. Yes, each show as a distinct and different personality but at their core they’re doing the same thing: attracting a young audience by using an entertaining freeform style, delving into sports while also discussing a bit of pop culture, and producing comedic viral bits. As a result, the fans in this market are under-served by no longer having 2 opposing options, each excellent in their own way.

    As you alluded to MIB, PTS was much more journalistic. You could tune in to hear expert guests discuss the big issues of the day and hear roundtables where more national or profound issues were debated. When big news broke, the show had an “important” aura or feel to it – I knew I could tune in to hear both Grade-A relevant guests and thoughtful, insightful takes on the day’s news from the hosts. This type of show sadly no longer exists in the drive home time-slot.

    Switching from PTS to Tim & Sid is obviously a winner from Sportsnet’s perspective if the goal is cost-cutting, but it’s a BIG loser from a programming standpoint. I have zero interest in a show that tries to do Overdrive but doesn’t do it nearly as well, and even less than zero interest in a TV show simulcasted on radio. Seriously, when big news breaks, what’s the draw of hearing the usual and tired parade of Sportsnet personalities discussing it while Sid’s doing a bad Skip Bayless impression by giving a hot-take he doesn’t even believe in order to generate web hits? It’s a joke. 590 is now a farce. Watch for the ratings book for this Fall to start trending TSN 1050’s way even more than it already has before they usurp 590 altogether next year. 590 will have no one but themselves to blame.

  • comment-avatar
    Chris 3 weeks ago

    I agree with others. Bobcat was the only reason I listen to the fan 590. Sure he was grumpy, but he wasn’t afraid to ask the tough questions. He was knowledgeable and easy to listen to. 
    Tim and Sid are a joke and I can’t listen to them. I don’t know who they appeal to, 20 somethings? I mean I am only 35 and I can’t stand them. 
    Not a big Blair fan either…
    Baseball central is only good because of Barker 
    Hockey central is boring now with Stewart (would rather see Colby Armstrong on there)
    My favourite person on the radio/tv right now is Brian Burke. I hated him as a hockey manger but love listening to his perspective. 
    Obviously this is just my opinion, but I really have a hard time listening now that these changes have been made. 

  • comment-avatar

    For me, Tim & Sid is just a shittier, knock-off version of Overdrive.

    Considering Tim&Sid were around before Overdrive that says quite a bit.

    I’ve tried the TV version of Tim&Sid and it feels the same as it did beforehand: overly produced, scripted, directed and controlled. I really get the feeling sportsnet (and Rogers) didn’t understand what made the pair popular when they were in the original 1-4 slot and just saw the highlights and went with those for the show. Just a shallow shell of what was once a nice afternoon show to listen to.

    As for Writer’s block: it’s just PTS without the history and just more Rogers people and less “outsiders”. I have to wonder if Rogers/Sportsnet is just trying to ride out Blair’s, Brunt’s and Deitsch’s contracts and it’s just easier to give them a show instead of letting them sit it out.

  • comment-avatar

    I agree with your sentiments, Mike in Boston. Blair with Brunt/Deitsch can be very good, unique radio, but I agree the show should focus more on in depth meaningful stories. If the angle of that show is that it’s intelligent, non hot take sports radio – then lean into that and give us that. Leave chatting with Sportsnet employees about how local team x did last night to other shows.

    I think Tim and Sid are funny and informed, but the show just sounds too much like TV on the radio to me. I think they have to become a proper radio show, with a focus on the radio listener, or it’s not going to work. As it is now, you feel like you’re listening to a feed from something else, not The Fan. It feels detached. Such a far cry from what it was like listening to PTS.

    As someone who has listened to The Fan since the early 90s, it’s really sad what Rogers has done to the station. Corny as it may be to say, in firing McCown and simulcasting the drive home show – it comes across like the station has no soul anymore. It’s clear Rogers doesn’t have respect for listeners or the relationship they have with the station. Rogers should have found a way to ease McCown into retirement (maybe a shorter show) while grooming a replacement. What a disaster.

    I will agree with Mario – it is funny when comments imply that TSN is not as bad as 590 in this regard. TSN Radio has one show that has become a moderate success, and has been 100% mailing in the rest of it’s programming for years. That station is essentially Overdrive and nothing else – the show may as well be a standalone podcast. I’ll give The Fan credit that at least they program a full day and give something on evenings and weekends – even if it’s a shadow of what it used to be.

  • comment-avatar
    Original Mitch 3 weeks ago

    You get the feeling that Sid watches sports so he can come up with “bits” and “hot takes” and not because he actually genuinely likes them. I would think the first rule of being on sports radio is to have genuine enthusiasm for sports and not just see it as a means of self promotion. He’s a guy who wanted to be funny and got a job in sports television as opposed to a guy who loves sports, got a job in sports television who happens to be funny. 

  • comment-avatar

    “[Tim and Sid] belong on Saturday morning children’s TV. Unintelligent and uninteresting.” Agreed. That said, I’m not 590’s target demographic. Back to the CBC.

  • comment-avatar
    The Hedonist 3 weeks ago

    I agree with others – Bobcat definitely had a loyal following, and with him now gone, look for Overdrive to full out overtake the ratings in the 4-7 timeslot

    OVERDRIVE – obviously the kings of the drive home at this point. Personable, likable, like your having a beer with the boys after work talking sports. Love the format, also underrated is their 5 pm segment with Ray Ferraro (who does great analysis – when calling games and when on the air). Bryan Hayes the unsung hero, the captain lol, the even keel voice keeping O Dog in check. The best is when something Leaf related has happened the night before, either a bad loss or a trade…. you know the boys are going to get right into it at 4 pm. Segments like Gerry’s Percentages also add to the appeal. Mischa Porter, the new traffic girl, sounds like her nose is plugged 100% of the time.

    TIM/SID – I am early 30s and I think these guys may appeal more to millenials. Like others have said, a poor man’s Overdrive. Tim has decent energy, is knowledgable and level headed. Sid on the other hand just seems to want attention. It seems like they over-do much of their antics, its funny but usually they push it too far.

    LEAFS LUNCH – Andi Petrillo not a good host, goes on about stuff in her personal life too long, cool person but for the hour your on the air please stay on topic. As well, the panel she usually has are all trying to flirt with her, sometimes it is quite cringe. I love Gord Miller as a play by play guy but man he says some pointless stories while on radio. Running into Gretzky’s dad in 1985 in Red Deer, Alberta not very exciting for listeners. What they should do here is – bring in the Tatman Jim Tatti. Have Tatti host (he does a great job for leaf post game shows) and have rotating leaf media guests such as Joe Bowen, Jim Craig (Jim does great radio work and is not appreciated enough) etc.

    “FIRST UP” with Landsberg and Colaiacovo – I understand that Landsberg is an original at TSN. I understand he does great work with #BellLetsTalk. This doesn’t give him a pass to subject listeners to cringe radio every morning. I am so sick of him kissing Carlo’s ass constantly – whether it’s repeating his full name once every 10 minutes or asking random NHLers if they remember certain moments in Carlo’s career. Landsberg comes across as a big fan boy for Colaiacovo – more than anything Landsberg just wants to fit in but his actual sports takes are all garbage. One of his recent quotes TSN would showcase in their radio ads was something along lines of “If leafs want to take their game to the next level, their best players need to play better” no shit! Landsberg’s is more interested in name dropping minor celebrities than giving sports takes. Carlo continues to be a work in progress, he’s still a bit raw but at least you know he’s genuine when he gives a take.

    The Hedonist

  • comment-avatar

    I like your sarcastic title. Vision suggests proactivity while the latest 590 hubub is equivalent to the reflexive reactivity of throwing X amount of lifejackets off the deck of the Titanic to X + Y people floating in the frigid North Atlantic waters below. 

  • comment-avatar
    Poker Guy 3 weeks ago

    Right now on Leafs Lunch…..
    They’re talking Toronto FC
    Ya…okay.

  • comment-avatar

    @Poker Guy….A perfect lead-in for Blair. He can barely get through a show without talking about soccer; aided by his enthusiastic co-hosts.

  • comment-avatar

    I gave up on 590 and TSN 2 months ago. I now listen to Fox Sports Radio live or by podcast.

  • comment-avatar

    i will never miss good show….. good riddance. and will never miss brady

  • comment-avatar

    I think Blair is an excellent radio personality, and brings plenty to the show, but he should never have been groomed as a host. That experiment has failed miserably.

    I have no interest in listening to Sidiot & the other guy.

  • comment-avatar

    I subscribe to every Pod (except never have to Sid and Tim) and my habit has been to scroll through them all every day or two and listen to what interests me. Been deleting Leafs Lunch and Hockey Central so much I just finally unsubscribed.

    Not sure what afternoons are on 1050, haven’t listened and I don’t think there is a Pod for that. Not interested in 590’s Dead Man Walking 2-5 slot waiting for their contracts to expire. MacArthur is getting watered down with his middling co-hosts unfortunately. Landsberg’s four hours packs the most sports content than any show on both stations and has the fastest pace. At least I still have Overdrive.

  • comment-avatar
    chiming in from the '6' 1 week ago

    The Hedonist is right on with his take on Land and Carlo. ML and even Aaron K.keep complementing Carlo on daily basis – like complementing a kid able to tie his shoes or ride a bicycle for the 1st time – for the most basic comment on a sports topic that any competent sports radio host in any North America city can and does say in any broadcast you can hear or download or hear on a podcast.

    Carlo is an uncouth individual who played some audio and laughed at a TSN morning intern who was tending to his bathroom needs. The fact last week when ML asked CC if he knew who Larry OB Trophy and Stanley Cup were named after, he said he didn’t know and was actually somewhat proud of that fact.

    Nog knowing who was first Prime Minister of Canada was just shows everyone he’s just an ex athlete trying to establish a end career as a competent and succesfull all sports radio broadcaster in Toronto. Never going to happen for CC or for that matter ML.

    The idiotic and constant horns and noise blaring seemingly ever several minutes on Tim and Sid will never have me as viewer or listener. Like Hayes and JM on overdrive and think JON also uncouth individual especially on his twitter feed using swearing when disagreeing Sith someone tweeting him in proper manner.