Toronto Sports Media Radio Ratings March 2020 – History Made


Sorry for the delay, but got bogged down here in the land of the Corona

Let’s get the usual ‘the system sucks dislaimer’ out of the way:

Numeris’ methodology is bad. 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.

Furthermore, those who have the PPM’s change. So, the audience from one book to another can materially change. There could be 3 45 year old males who is new to a book and that male hates sports and would never listen to sports radio as an example. 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. The powers that be, let it be known are the media companies themselves. If they pressure Numeris to change they will change. If they do not then they shouldn’t really bitch about the system. So, 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. These numbers are what advertising buyers look at too.

A wise man once told me the one book does not a trend make so we tend to look at these things over time not one book at a time. If you recall the last time we looked at numbers a few shows on TSN 1050 were nipping at the Fan 590.

One clear point from the trend, the younger male 18-34 has been completely eviscerated as a key demographic. A year ago, the Fan saw audience shares of 4.4, 4.3 and a 5.1 in that demographic in 3/4 of the measured time slots (1-4pm was the lowest at a 1.2). TSN barely registered at all in any time slot in this younger demographic. This year, the highest fan rating is a 1.6 and that’s in the 5-7 slot. Neither station registers above a 1 share in any other demographic! So, either the PPM’S have changed hands, no kids listen to the radio, or everyone is streaming or podcasting OR a combination of all of the above. The Fan lost almost it’s entire younger demo from the last book, continuing the downward spiral trend in this demo. Back in the day, McCown used to say that the younger demo was not the target demo for the sports stations so, we will have to agree with him and completely disregard it.

Here are the latest ratings:

StationM25-54M25-54 M18-34M18-34
 % Share of Hrs. Tuned% Share of Hrs. Tuned % Share of Hrs. Tuned% Share of Hrs. Tuned
 Nov. 25-Feb. 23Aug. 26-Nov. 24 Nov. 25-Feb. 23Aug. 26-Nov. 24
 20202019 20202019
M-Fr. 6a-9a     
FAN 5901.52.6 0.52.9
TSN 10502.12.5 0.10.2
M-Fr. 9a-12p     
FAN 5902.82.3 0.50.7
TSN 10500.70.9 0.10.2
M-Fr. 12p-1p     
FAN 5902.91.5 0.40.3
TSN 10501.61.4 00.3
M-Fr. 1p-3p     
FAN 5902.21.9 0.60.5
TSN 10501.30.8 0.20.4
M-Fr. 3p-5p     
FAN 5903.84.5 0.41.5
TSN 10502.82.9 0.30.2
M-Fr. 5p-7p     
FAN 5903.45.1 1.63.2
TSN 10504.14.8 0.20.2

So here is my take, and things are a little confusing as the stations no longer run mirrored time slots.

The morning drive: Scott MacArthur, Mike Zigomanis and the recently exited Ashley Docking vs. Michael Landsberg and Carlo Colaiacovo. In the male 25-54 demographic, TSN 1050 won 2.1 vs. 1.5 Some outlets may have the ratings as 3.5 to a 2.6 and that may be in part due to time calculation as the Fan cuts out at 9am and TSN lasts until 10. In any event there are two things going on here. First, TSN appears to be committed to letting it’s morning show (and other shows for that matter) figure things out over time, as opposed to the revolving door that has been the Fan morning show over the last 10 years.

10 years ago Nelson Millman exited the Fan 590 and no show has changed hosts more often since then than the morning show. Friend of the site Mike S. (no relation to other Mike’s and Mike in Boston) added this on Twitter that tells the story:

Change can be a good thing, constant change? Not so much.Hundreds of you have reached out to me asking about Ashley’s departure. No one is talking. All I can surmise is that this was not a mutual decision and the Fan decided to move on from Ashley. The manner in which it was handled and the speed of doing so immediately after her attending the NBA all-star games suggest the exit was not on good terms. So, when you couple Rogers NHL budget concerns with a constant revolving door your audience starts seeking change. The result is not just a ratings plummet but also the loss of the championship belt. It’s hard not to feel badly for Scott MacArthur for where things have ended up for him after leaving TSN. Scott is really good on radio. He knows how to drive a show. He is likable, engaging and a good interviewer. Nothing personal against Mike Zigomanis, but just one question? Why. They have brought back an old-timer to produce the show. This type of foundation should help. However, the rotation needs to stop.

Conversely, at TSN, Carlo has earned his stripes by putting in his time and like many other former players he is developing an audience. He is a good foil for the veteran Landsberg who has adapted his style and the show is growing on me and others. Whether it’s a 2.1 or a blended 3.5 it’s a greater number than the Fan’s and while neither is a huge number a win is a win.

That my friends has NEVER happened since the Fan took to the airwaves. The Fan 590 has never lost a morning drive (or afternoon driver to any other station that is either all-sports based or has an all sports show in either segment i.e. Bill Watters). That is a HUGE deal (more later).

I am not going to spend a lot of time on the “interior” shows except I will say that Ben Ennis and JD Bunkis are a nice shinning light for the Fan. They are doing a good job in a rather quiet time slot and they represent the next young group in a very shallow prospect pool. I hope they are afforded to the opportunity to grow as hosts and if so they will eventually land in a time slot with more ears.

Personally I listen to both noon times show 2-3 times a week. I don’t see much of a difference in either. The 2.9 for the Fan is a decent number, it’s up from a year ago (2.5) and up again from the last book too (1.5). The TSN number continues to be unimpressive. Sorry, I don’t have access to streaming numbers here either.

Writer’s Bloc on the Fan, in my opinion is the show that doesn’t get enough credit. It’s in the new 2-5pm slot so it’s stuck in between 2 times lots from the old standard. In terms of experience and interview cred, it’s hard to beat Brunt, Blair and Richard Deitsch. Personally, I think these guys are the right guys just at the wrong time-slot. The show is good. If you like that old style interview talk radio with 2 very, very experienced sports journalists (Brunt and Blair) with the listening gold of Deitsch this is a great show.They get part of the 2.2 (awful) 1-3 share and then part of the respectable 3.8 of 3pm-5pm. Blended you may see that as a 3.5 share. Which considering the time-slot is not that bad. Not great, but not the bad however certainly not the numbers Blair got in the mornings or any of the three got in the afternoon drive home slot. One final note here, Deitsch has really taken over as the driver of this show in my opinion. He has emerged as the draw and is now the attraction to what was once McCown’s interview skill. Don’t get me wrong, I am not comparing Richard to Bob. Richard is unique as was Bob, he is good in his own way. He’s the one guy the Fan cannot afford to lose right now.

Tim and Sid follow up with the TV show that is now shared on radio. They are on 5-7pm. There 3.4 radio number is low. It was a 5.1 last book and when in the old time slot, it was as high as a 12. The hosts are super, super talented. For me, and me alone it just doesn’t work on radio. I can’t listen live, I only podcast and it doesn’t work there either. The interviews are good. They can be really good. The other material just doesn’t work for me. They were must listen to when the Don Cherry incident occurred. They have not been for me ever since. I know they have their following, I am just saying it’s not my cup of tea.

The 4-7 combined block for the fan pulls a blended 3.5 share. Those are the types of numbers that Brady and McCown used to tease TSN and others about.

At TSN the leader is Overdrive. Generally, it’s Bryan Hayes, Jeff O’Neill and Jamie McLennan, however with games and travel there can be an assortment of guests hosts filling in. They get part of the 3-5 slot and also the entire 5-7 slot. Blended they are a 4.1 share vs the blended 3.5 down the dial, despite an embarrassing low signal which can’t be heard much farther north than Canada’s Wonderland.

The show is must listen to sports. I’ve said it a million times, it’s a couple of guys in a bar who have more experience playing sports talking about sports. Its what we all do with our friends. There is a little bit of each of us in the characters that we love about this show. Jeff blowing a casket about Mitch Marner not signing a contract of a certain amount is representative of how so many of us were feeling. Hayes lamenting having to get up for an early morning flight, Jamie’s battle with the dry cleaner..those are all not only relatable, they are things we wrap about with our friends with the same emotion and passion and the same ability to recognize the nonsensical nature of the topic too. It’s really important in the moment, but in the grand scheme of things- not so much. Many followers here and on Twitter lament the ‘Bro Talk or the focus on hockey. Given my position on T & S above I get it. I will say that they know what they don’t know and they are able to ask the right questions of the right guests on other sports that while it will always have a hockey first slant it is not void of other sports content. When Nick Nurse is on, or Steve Phillips the depth of the content is the same as when Ray Ferraro or Kyle Dubas is on too. The Bro talk? It is definitely part of their shtick and it works for them and their general audience. Personally I think they have the right balance and either that is coming from a producer getting them back on track or Hayes who drives the show.

Personally, I look at my podcaster twice a day. I look around noon, PST and then again around 4pm PST. In both instances I look at the shows and segments that interest me and I stream. The beauty if the combination of no commercial break and I can fast forward through the stuff I don’t want to listen to. My attraction to sports radio doesn’t effect the numbers.The only time I listen live is my 5 am drives to the airport and I can flip on Tunein to both morning shows to catch parts of them live.(I find the Seattle sports radio scene to be so Seahawk focused that while I am a fan, I personally can’t listen to either station here- so Toronto it is.).

So, based on the trend and the last book, I am not the least bit surprised that OD is now the champ in sports radio Clubhouse in Toronto. McCown’s departure, the moving around of times-lots and having a TV show simulcasted on radio is not the ideal way to boost a sagging audience. That doesn’t even take in to account the other cuts in on air talent.

and yet….

When I take a step back and consider how dominant PTS was over the years always it is shocking that the Fan has lost the lead here. Shocking.

What’s makes it more amazing, is that despite years of various competition (TSN,640 and The Team) they really never had any competition- PTS was always the leader.

Now, McCown the given, the one constant is no more. When you add in real competition, unlike so many others who failed in their attempts to be compete with Bob, or to be McCown clones, but here is a show with talent who are the unMcCown doing a show that is different from PTS. Thank about it. Regardless of the station, think about all the shows that went head to head vs. PTS they all tried (and failed) to best Bob at being Bob. The format failed when it was anyone else trying to do it. What beat it? A couple of guys two of which were former athletes talking sports. Yes they conduct interviews, but they do them with a different angle than Bob did. The OD show is as far from PTS as one could get. Not better, just very different. What they have done is create a different format and succeeded in a time slot that was once dominated by an industry leader. They were given the opportunity and the rope to do their thing and were able to do so without trying to be Bob. The ratings win is well deserved and for a fan of the medium regardless of how one listens a rare moment of hope in an industry awash with bad news.

The loss for the Fan in the AM to me is more stunning. I did not see that coming this soon. It’s hard to believe how the Fan audience eroded so quickly. People have 590 programmed into their car radio’s memory button. While I don’t know this for fact, I would bet that a good number of people who have the PPM’s listen from a car. The fact that more people are listening to live radio on TSN vs. the Fan on their morning drive is shocking given the history. The fact people are changing that behavior is pretty crazy. Personally, and with respect to those on air at both shows, I think the morning drive routine is broken. I don’t know what the fix is, but someone will reinvent it and will just click. It is begging for a refresh. The way in which we consume sport entirely has evolved to the point that the traditional am radio show in my mind is stale. That isn’t a knock on either station or any of the hosts specifically, notwithstanding my comments above.

Right now the better of the two shows in my opinion is on TSN. That is purely a matter of taste. I think the Fan needs to empower Scott MacArthur to do the show he wants to do with the type of talent he wants to set the stage for the rest of the programming day. That is not to suggest he is unhappy with either his co-host or his news guy. I think that if they want to build a new brand he and Deitsch are the bookends. They have the younger talent in Bunkis and Ennis. Some of the parts are there. Will they find a solution? We shall see.

The most ironic thing to me about all of this is how it has all unfolded. I am a completely disinterested observer. I have always told you like Sergeant Schultz, I know nothing. I am a fan who wants both stations to produce content I want to hear. That is why I used to post the lineups. It is ironic, though that over the years, on many different occasions Fan talent took public shots at TSN. McCown did it almost every time ratings came out. Brady had an epic anti TSN rant one day. Others did too. When the NHL deal was announced the death of TSN was both preyed for and predicted. Yet, that deal was probably one of the biggest factors in leading to history being made. Money or the lack thereof didn’t directly change the fortunes but if you peel back the onion it certainly was a factor.

I can’t think of a more interesting time in sports media in Canada then right now.

For a good luck at the Vancouver radio ratings Thomas Drance has a good overview here. If you have access to ratings analysis in other markets please reach out to me.

On a personal note, things are nutty here in Seattle right. This is ground zero for the Corona Virus. The effect of the precautions being taken is scary. The streets are empty. Hotels are empty. Shopping malls are empty as are restaurants. It is said that our economy here in the USA is driven 2/3 by consumer spending. When events like ComicCon are cancelled those are hotel rooms unfilled and empty restaurants. There are thousands of people in the service industry who rely on that consumer spending. Retailers are already in tough in an Amazon world, the effects of the virus are not good. I hope those are sick and those who are vulnerable get well and stay well soon. I hope that those who are in the service industries are able to keep busy and find work that continues to put food on their tables.

One year ago today, I sat in an ambulance with my son on the way to the hospital with flu like symptoms. I had not idea that only a few short hours later he would be in the fight of his life in a coma as the flu and pneumonia led him to sceptic shock. He remained unconscious for 5 days. We lived in a hospital, helplessly watching and hoping that he continued to fight the good fight. Luckily he did. So, on this anniversary of his battle, I thank the staff at Seattle Children’s Hospital, I hope that everyone is wise enough to get the flu shot and to go seek medical help when you or a loved one don’t feel right. For those unwell or tending to someone unwell, I hope the end to your journey is as happy as ours was with our son. As it said, hug those close to you.

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

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