Toronto Sports Hibernation Pt. Deux


Amazing how quickly we have gone from 7 days a week, non-stop sports to no local professional big three sports at all. The Maple Leafs didn’t make the playoffs, the Toronto Raptors and Toronto Blue Jays are both gone after their respective postseason runs. While we can follow the rest of the NBA and MLB postseasons and the entire NFL season, Corona notwithstanding, we have suddenly run out of content. Sports will once again retreat into their cave with an unknown return date.

Yes, we will have drafts, trades, free agency, hirings, and firings but let’s be honest it is the games that move us when the dust settles on all the changes in deck chairs we want to see games played.

It is about to be the return of the early March days at a time when many of us actually will need the distraction the most. Summer was awesome. The weather was good, we could escape the world around us by going for walks, swimming, and more. It was so good that ratings for pretty much everything were in the toilet (more on that later). No, however that weather is about to turn (in most places) and we are going to be confined to our homes and well, that’s going to be tough.

It’s shitty and unfortunate.

No, it’s not anyone’s fault and no there is not much anyone can do but I wonder the effect on the psyche of people as the weather turns and everyone’s ability to fight off seasonal depression. I for one never believed in it until I moved here to Seattle. However, as the grey days drag on each year I can start to feel it and I have learned over the years the importance of vitamin d and getting away to get some sun. In the past, I haven’t’ been trapped inside or restricted in any way. In the absence of a miracle vaccination soon it is hard to see how this doesn’t become an issue soon. Sports is not THE CURE for sure, but it is a nice distraction and an amazing vehicle for us all to come together and cheer on or against some player or some team. Sadly, as 3 of the four sports wind down we won’t have that. I think it’s going to be hard.

In the USA the sports ratings are NOT good:

“While Week 3’s full ratings aren’t in yet, through the first two weeks of the season the NFL’s TV audience is down 6.5 percent. The NBA’s decline is more pronounced, with ratings for this year’s playoffs down by as much as 40 percent for certain outings.

The NFL’s average audience for Week 1 was 16.2 million – down 8 percent from last year. Week 2 saw the average dip to 14.8 million, but that actually resulted in a smaller year-over-year decline of 5 percent.”

In Canada?

“An average of 2.65 million Canadians tuned in to the Toronto Raptors’ Game 7 against Boston Celtics on Friday night, setting a new second round viewership record, according to the NBA.” For comparison, and no it was not the final, last years final game drew a 7.7 just to demonstrate how high is high.

Over in the NHL?

“The first three rounds of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs averaged 844,000 viewers across NBC’s TV and digital platforms, down 28% from last year (1.18M) and the smallest average through the conference finals since the current playoff TV format began in 2012.”

And the Finals?

“Overall, the six-game series averaged just 2.03 million viewers, the second-lowest since the lockout. Only 2007’s Ducks-Senators series was lower, averaging 1.6 million viewers.” Game six was the highest at 2.88.

In Canada?

Once the Leafs and Habs bowed out so did, you. The nightly ratings were a hair under what we expect them to be across the board- they are all AROUND 1m-1.5m.. the actual reported numbers appear lower b/c the day time ratings are so low (to be expected). If you look just at night games they were fine.

The finals?

Not so much.


“Regional Major League Baseball on FOX (Braves-Mets or White Sox-Reds) averaged a 0.7 rating and 1.28 million viewers last Saturday night, MLB’s smallest primetime audience on broadcast television since 2016 (Rays-Yankees: 1.02M). The game overlapped with a competing Rays-Orioles matchup on FS1, figures for which were unavailable.”

In Canada, the Jays didn’t crack the top 30 rated programs in Canada after September 6th when it was #28.

There’s been a lot of debate as to why the numbers are tanking. Lots of people suggest, again, that it’s a sign of the times, that these numbers don’t include streaming and that’s how “the kids” consume content. I don’t think that’s it. Personally, I would think that the inability to go to bars to watch games would drive the number up. I think the issue with “the kids” and streaming is that they don’t watch games, instead they stream highlights. Again, this is just an opinion. My kids and their friends like to watch our teams live and on TV. They don’t stream games elsewhere.

I think a good chunk of this was psychological. I Can tell you when the weather was good and I was in Barrie the idea of coming up from the dock, or off the golf course or away from my desk in the middle of the day to watch hockey, or basketball was completely foreign to me. A hockey game at 7 pm at night I was okay with. The morning of afternoon games had little interest to me. More important, I think the notion of watching these traditional winter sports was just so off for our mental state right now. Summer is not the time to sit inside and watch these sports. While the broadcast teams did admirable work and the game was still the game it just didn’t feel right. I found that many of the things that people said they didn’t notice I did and they bothered me.

Personally, I think our human calendars are now so programmed that these sports being played at these times just didn’t resonate. I think the crap going on in the world be it the pandemic or the election only made the problem worse. While sports can be an escape, having to sit in front of the tv increased the probability to see the breaking news of the moment. More deaths, more scandals, and the countdown to debates or elections. In general, we wanted to be entertained and our craving for normalcy didn’t get scratched by televised antiseptic sports.

This is just me, I personally reject the notion that people tuned out because sports became too political. Again, this is just me. I am not saying NO one didn’t watch I am saying that I don’t think that was the prevailing reason. Just me.

So, here we are on October 1. Hockey is over. NBA is in the finals. MLB playoffs are underway and the NFL is in week 4. Yes, golf, tennis, and other things are going on.. The big three are about to hibernate and I think it’s going to be tough.

So, what does it mean?

Well, I don’t think anyone has ever said that low ratings are good for the business of sports media. In Canada especially the market has been crushed by layoffs and shutdowns and I fear for where we may be headed.

Rogers had a re-rog on the media side a couple of days back and changes in org structure and reporting lines in media companies generally results in changes on air too. Of course, my heart breaks for those behind the scenes because no live programming will result in those folks being affected first. Don’t need camera people, technical people, editors, etc when there are no games. Don’t need nightly highlight shows when there are no nightly highlights. I’ve seen this movie before.

Radio ratings on both TSN 1050 and Sportsnet 590 are not good. The entire industry falls in that same category but sports in the absence of, you know, sports is especially hard hit. No, that is not a knock on those on air or producing the shows but the audience just isn’t there.

Radio is harder hit due to the lack of commute time. Personally, I am not driving anywhere or flying anywhere so the times I usually am streaming content have evaporated. The odd time I am headed out to the store or somewhere I will tune in. Obviously, if there is an interesting topic I will tune in but on average my listening habits naturally have deteriorated.

Greg Sansone is a name many of you may recall. He has been around the sports scene for a long time and he has now back in charge of Sportsnet radio offering. What does this mean? Don’t know. Clearly, Sansone has a plan or a vision that aligns with Yabsleys and Banks’s or why else make the move? Since all the massive changes the station has gone from the number one rated radio station in the country to irrelevant radio. In the 9 weeks, I spent in Toronto this past summer and I talked to many people, many of you, the number one question I got was when are they going to blow up the Fan and start all over again? Number two? When are they bringing Bob back? One would have thought that baseball and Blue Jays playoffs would have really opened things up, brought in some fresh air, but to be honest, it’s just been more of the same.

The morning show is fine. It’s not better than TSN’s and it has not established itself as a reason to listen. Scott MacArthur remains one of the top hosts in the city. Mike Zigomanis? Why? For my money, I’d say Landsberg and MacArthur are equals. Carlo is >> Mike.

I will take local radio over USA simulcast any day so Sportsnet gets the rest of the am.

Leafs Lunch > Hockey Central

Gameday is as fine as filler as the other shows are. Hit or miss depending on sports happening.

While I think Overdrive has really improved during Corona, Writer’s Bloc has really suffered with the lack of fresh content. In my opinion, it has really taken a step back. Of all the shows I think it has been hurt the most by the brutal time slotting.

So what does Sansone do? I think he needs to start with Tim and Sid. It’s supposed to be a radio and tv show and I am not sure it is serving either purpose right now to be honest.

I am not sure if you saw this, but the Blue Jays let coaches and other baseball personnel go last week:

“Going through a pandemic with what that has meant for the industry financially, what it’s meant for the Toronto Blue Jays financially, then having a minor-league restructuring process in the industry where we’re going to all but certainly be operating with two less teams, and a significantly less number of players, it would have been irresponsible us not to think about how we could operate more efficiently,”

If cuts were made “on field” I can assure that the entire Rogers organization is being looked at. Low ratings, loss of content do not bode well for the future.

did you catch that NHL promo the other day?

Not a good look. Have to wonder how that snuck through the approval process at the NHL

Damien Cox was back in the news raising the eyes of many on Twitter:

So, the Blue Jays ride is over. I am not sure I remember a year where there was such division between Jays fans and media as there has been this year. Wow, there are some who are desperate to crown Atkins and Shapiro gods and at the same time there are as many people looking to grab the dunce caps. Did you catch Tim and Sid when the Jays were on a nice roll basically lambasting anyone forever doubting the Jays management? I don’t think you heard that when the team went on a tailspin or bowed out.

Why do some feel so compelled to defend the duo? Equally, why do so many feel that they need to run them out of town. I am talking by the way mostly about media. No, this is not just a Rogers vs. the world thin either. I just don’t remember a time when there was such a stark contrast on the current state of the team and the competency of management as there is right now.

I am not smart enough to know what this season taught us. It was a shortened season and in the end with expanded playoffs we snuck in and got swept. In my opinion, which is nothing more as a casual fan, the whole thing was not that much to get excited about. Wow did some try to shove this down my throat as this being THE sign..

My favorite?

“Expanded playoffs or not, clinching the eighth post-season berth in franchise history is a watershed moment, capping a young group’s transition from club-on-the-rise to club-that-has-arrived, completed at the unlikely refuge of Sahlen Field in Buffalo, without playing a single game at their Rogers Centre home.”

A watershed moment?



Overly meaningful? Ummmmm
Watershed???? Isn’t it just a wee bit premature for that?

This is NOT a knock on what they did at all or where they may go. Just a little bit of hype in that comment.

Don’t ya love the follow-up article after being swept?

“Now, though, the Blue Jays have to be real about how far they’ve really advanced the program this summer. The series loss to the American League East champion Rays, capped by Wednesday’s 8-2 thumping in which ace Hyun-Jin Ryu didn’t survive the second, underlined how wide the gap is between the two clubs.

There’s much work to be done”

so on the watershed?? nevermind….

I’ll say it again, the fact they have done NO work to the Rogers Center while it has laid fallow is inexcusable, a total waste of an opportunity.

Want to read a great article and learn why there will not be another NHL bubble? Read this on promised made and promises broken.

how great? look at the response from Bettman:

Last couple of points…

You know Rod Brind’Amour is currently the coach in Carolina. He’s the name being whispered in my ear the most as the potential first head coach in Seattle. Yes, he has a gig… but…..

I will probably wake up to find he has signed, but lots of banter that the brakes on Bobby Webster’s deal is the result of uncertainty around Masai’s deal. While it is rumored that Masai wants to take care of his people before signing the word is perhaps the people aren’t so interested in being taken care of in the absence of some assurances that Masai is going to sign too. Without question, the prevailing wisdom is that if Masai is going to stay in basketball he will re-up with the Raptors. The question is does he want to stay in basketball or take on something with a deeper meaning to him.

My prediction? We don’t see the return of the NHL or NBA until fans can be in seats. Very different in outdoor football stadiums vs. indoor arenas. I don’t think that happens until February or March. Can only imagine the resulting let down after whatever hype comes from the draft and free agency in both sports if they are both then off for another 4-5 months. There is pressure on the NHL, by the way, to right the ship on their calendar for the expansion draft and entry of Seattle following next season whenever that may be. Lots of money at stake.

Finally, earlier this week someone on Twitter tweeted out that old, tired notion that the folks at MLSE don’t really care about winning.  The timing could not have been more perfect.  Doug Smith did a nice job alluding to it, but there’s a very rare glimpse into MLSE and it’s chairman, Larry Tanenbaum in the Sports Business Journal this week that really is a must-read for sports fans.

“It’s almost as if I would never otherwise know that he has a full-time day job running a huge global construction firm, and then he also has teams in multiple other leagues, because he never says, ‘I don’t have time,’” Silver said. “He never says, ‘I’m busy with something else.’ I mean, I honestly don’t know when he sleeps.”

I’ll grant you that we don’t read too many interviews or comments here.  I find it fascinating how will we do hear about these kinds of stories from the Toronto media.  With the exception of a very rare story like this one, we don’t get very much at all.  It’s funny because part of the knock on the Jays is being so corporate and not having an ownership face.  What we have heard of Edward Rogers hasn’t been positive (meddling or handling of Beeston and Shapiro with Alex in between). Harold Ballard was the crusty, crazy and cheap owner.  Bruce McNall was the thief, I seem to recall stories about Harry Ornest.  Steve Stavros was the man that would not bring Gretzky to Toronto.  Bitove and Slaight brought the Raptors to Toronto but both had storied ownerships.  Here it takes an article from out of country to educate many on what we currently do have. As I said, Simmons wrote his piece.  Others have been kind in their words.  There is no comparison to this type of article getting this kind of feedback from the most influential and important people in sports.  I know many of you who read this are in the business.  I honestly am not throwing stones here.  I think sometimes we forget to recognize or take advantage of the things we have around us in longing for our watching the outside world.  No, no Stanley Cup.  Not close.  This is a good story, and one I think many fans should know.

Thanks for reading..

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