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)

About the Author