2020 Sports Media Power Rankings: Radio

by mike in boston / @mikeinbostonemail


As 2020 comes to an end we thought it would be a good time to take stock of the state of the industry. With advertising budgets slashed, games canceled, low ratings, and an uncertain economic outlook it’s fair to say that sports media has been hit hard.


Radio is in a particularly vulnerable state, as it relies on local and regional advertising targeted at captive commuters. Both of those markets have dried up due to the pandemic. The size of the radio audience had already been shrinking as a result of the popularity of podcasts, and the work-from-home revolution will only exacerbate that issue post-pandemic.


However, radio will still matter in 2021 and for the rest of the decade. Live sports, especially baseball, thrive in an audio-only medium on long road trips. And while commuting will drop in the coming years, delivery will increase so there will still be an entrenched audience throughout the day. Lastly, the local sports radio stations are extensions of massive sports media brands – TSN and Sportsnet – and serve as advertising for the TV and digital side and their personalities. So their value goes beyond the advertising revenue they bring in.


Sidebar: radio often provides a home for TV personalities to extend their reach. The clearest examples of this from recent memory are Ken Reid and Arash Madani on Sportsnet. Both appeared on Prime Time Sports mainly due to their TV notoriety, rather than demonstrated radio credentials. That’s not a criticism, necessarily, just an observation.


My question is: are there clear examples of radio people whose reach is extended by regular TV appearances? Like, is Ben Ennis ever invited to appear on Sportsnet’s TV products? What about Bryan Hayes? To put my cards on the table, I think there is a double-standard in the industry that endorses the idea that TV people can do radio but radio people don’t belong on TV. A similar bias explains why newspaper people are often dropped in to radio slots. Would a newspaper give a radio person a column? Stephen Brunt is obviously excellent in any medium, but I would say he’s the exception to the rule. And then there’s athletes being given radio shows ex nihilo …



Back to the main topic, going in to 2021 a lot of legacy voices from the previous decade are no longer part of the local sports radio map. For example, five years ago the radio line-ups looked like this:


FAN590: Blundell & Co, Jeff Blair, Hockey Central with Daren Millard, Brady & Walker, Bob McCown with Damien Cox & Brunt (until he broke up with Bob to be with Blair)


TSN1050: Mike Richards & Co, Macko & Cauz, Bryan Hayes, Dave Naylor


Depending on who you talk to, Brady was fired and re-hired and then left of mutual accord; Walker went West; McCown and Cox have both been let go by Sportsnet; Blundell was fired; Mike Richards was let go and Naylor was re-assigned. Both program directors from this era have also moved on.


The current line-ups look like this:


FAN590: MacArthur & Ziggy, Ennis & Bunkis, Jeff Marek & Co, Eric Smith & Paul Jones, Blair Brunt & Deitsch, Tim & Sid


TSN1050: Landsberg & Colaiacovo, Andi Petrillo, Cauz, O’Neill Hayes McLennan


It’s an interesting moment in time to look at this group and speculate about how the next few years will shake out. As we discussed on twitter this week, if you were starting a radio station today and all of these people were free agents, who would you try to lock up first?


Here’s a poll intended to gauge your answer to that question. (I have left Smith & Jones off since I’m not sure if this is a pop-up or a permanent show). I’m asking you to select the “best” radio hosts. By that I mean some combination of insight and entertainment. Basically, the people you most want to hear from on the sports topics of the day. For that reason I’m not differentiating between hosts and co-hosts.


You can pick up to 4 people. Results hidden for 24 hours. As usual, program directors and management are not allowed to view poll results without written permission from TSM staff. Please vote and then discuss your choices below.





thanks for reading and commenting,

until next time …

mike (not really in boston)

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December 19, 2020 9:39 am

What money is there to be made in independent radio anymore? I foresee radio stations being shills more and more for teams, because that will be the value to the owner, it won’t come in the form of cash revenue. I subscribe to the Athletic and hope they can make a go of it, podcast quality is pretty good for Toronto fans.

Personally I don’t buy newspapers for sports content anymore – really just about supporting local politics coverage and investigations.

Where is the next Brunt (the old, good one) going to come from?

December 19, 2020 9:54 am

And, re Brunt I think its going to be tough to have another Brunt because no one is going to pay for it.

December 19, 2020 10:05 am

You’ve got Ziggy but not Scotty Mac. And I love these debates…always interesting. 
I don’t consider Noodles or Ziggy as hosts. They’re not capable of carrying show as a #1. Some of them are excellent personalities however. 

Paul G.
Paul G.
December 19, 2020 4:49 pm

@Sam I agree with your observations about Brunt and the current radio environment.

As far as radio is concerned, the days of an “independent” (at least as far as sports teams are concerned) outlet is a thing of the past…in many major urban markets. If the team doesn’t own the outlet, there’s a good chance that both fall under the same corporate umbrella.

What better example than Toronto where two Communications giants control between them five professional sports franchises.

Brad McLean
Brad McLean
December 20, 2020 9:03 am

On first point, Hayes does get TV time on trade deadline and was getting time on Reporters before it was shelved. Also, overdrive is simulcast on TV. Ennis does do Sportscentral as well but not as any time recently.

December 20, 2020 6:30 pm

J.D Bunkis is the worst. How that guy can be on radio and get paid to do it is one great mystery.

December 21, 2020 5:11 pm

Overdrive is king of the airwaves as evidenced bybgetting nearly 45% of the votes here.

December 21, 2020 9:13 pm

Love the question . For those curious, we do not actually plan these things out. So the question asked is who are the top 4 hosts, with the qualifier of “some combination of insight and entertainment”. That qualifier IMHO eliminates many of the options. This is not meant as a knock on Brunt, as I think he is one of the best on-air in terms of insight, opinion, and analysis. Entertaining? Not so much. At least as I define entertainment.

I will say this. If you listen to a lot of OverDrive and pay attention, again IMHO, Jamie is the unsung hero. Jeff is really good at what he does and he plays a great role. He represents so many Leaf fans. Bryan is currently the best driver in town and he knows his shit (are we allowed to swear on this site?). However, if you listen often, it will be Jamie who chimes in with the hot takes that are more often spot on. Recently the guys were on with Ray and they were talking about Dubas and Sheldon talking about needing more from the core. Ray, Bryan, and Jeff went on a long and winding distraction of “who the core was”. Thankfully, after 5-7 minutes, Jamie grabbed a moment of silence and said “How come we aren’t talking about the fact that Dubas and Keefe are saying the exact same thing that Babcock was saying about these guys?” Comments like those are perfect examples of why I think he is the most underrated of the bunch. Not flashy, but a provider of great content and humor too.

December 24, 2020 10:43 am

: Clearly Overdrive has developed into a great show. It shows in the chemistry between the hosts and it shows in the popularity of the show. As for Jamie McLellan, I would only add that he occasionally suffers from rather severe bouts of verbal diarrhea.

December 26, 2020 3:12 pm

Hello TSM I have a question about nhl start in the new year tsn has tv contract with 4 (or maybe 5 if they pick up calgary ‘s tv rights )of the 7 canadian teams how do you guys think this work for tsn with sportsnet owning national rights with 7 teams playing all 56 games against each other ?

December 27, 2020 12:04 am
Reply to  omardre

Great question. I am sure there are a lot of discussions going on right now to solve this issue with the league having to weigh in.

December 27, 2020 12:06 am
Reply to  Drumanchor

Thanks for the comment. You are entitled to your opinion. My comment was more that I think he his often considered #3 in the group and I think that he does more than carry his weight.

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