Complete Carnage At Bell Media Radio: Vancouver, Winnipeg and Hamilton Sports Stations EliminatedThe Cuts at Bell keep coming...entire stations gutted

<span class="entry-title-primary">Complete Carnage At Bell Media Radio: Vancouver, Winnipeg and Hamilton Sports Stations Eliminated</span> <span class="entry-subtitle">The Cuts at Bell keep coming...entire stations gutted</span>

by TSM & Mike


Developing… Bell earlier this am flipped the switch at three stations from regular programming to ESPN radio with staff being alerted that their station was being gutted today, transitioned away from Sports. Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Hamilton are the stations gutted. More later …


Early afternoon update:



The rationale for the decision is as follows:


“While these are relatively modest changes to our overall radio business (we have more than 100 stations in 58 markets across the country), they align with our strategy of focusing on serving the largest possible audiences with the content they want the most while leveraging the efficiencies of our broader organization.” – Bell Management email


We are also hearing details about that this decision was not announced to staff prior to the shut down, and that employees were told they had 30 minutes to remove their personal belongings from the premises.


Jeff Marek provided some of the best commentary on the situation:



New Bell President Wade Oosterman addressed the recent wave of cuts in an internal email saying among other things that many of these changes would have happened in 2020 were it not for the pandemic. This implies that the structural inefficiencies in the media wing were seen to be systemic rather than circumstantial.




“We’re streamlining the way we work to enhance our efficiency, reduce our costs, and make Bell Media more accessible and easier to deal with for all stakeholders – audiences, creators, technology partners, advertisers and distributors. The adjustments were making to some of our radio stations this week offer a good example of Bell Media’s readiness to change when it’s right for the business, especially when our costs are too high to justify or we simply have a better model to serve a given market place. […] While these are relatively modest changes to our overall radio business (we have more than 100 stations in 58 markets across the country), they align with our strategy of focusing on serving the largest possible audience with the content they want the most while leveraging the efficiencies of our broader organization.”


While Rogers’ cuts over the last 5 years have been perceived to be responses to the weight of their underperforming investment in NHL rights, Bell has no similar liability. They have smartly diversified their rights deals to include the NFL, soccer, basketball, regional NHL games, some marquee MLB matchups, golf, and a sprinkling of other sports. In other words, Bell is positioning itself for what it sees as the future of sports media rather than trying to make up for past mistakes.


It’s worth noting that radio makes up a very small portion of sports media revenues. Running a sports radio station requires a large staff of hosts, producers, technicians, as well as salespeople and various other support services. This is much more expensive than music and other formats that rely on pre-recorded content.


However, as seen in Toronto, a strong radio brand like FAN590 helped develop the profile of Sportsnet’s personalities. Radio also provides cheap content for idle hours on TV. In abandoning 3 markets TSN now has 4 remaining radio stations: Toronto, Edmonton, Montreal, and Ottawa. Sportsnet competes with them in Toronto, and now has Vancouver and Calgary to themselves.


In other news, Brian Burke is leaving Sportsnet. We will discuss that more fully another day.



Analysis: (Mike)


We have many questions, but the most pressing one is why Bell is bailing on a market like Vancouver, where they have been the voice of sports for more than a decade.


Sportsnet has been competing with them for the last three years but TSN1040 is still winning the ratings battles. To provide some context for Toronto folks, imagine if FAN590 walked away from sports radio 5 years ago? What possible explanation would have been convincing for why this was a good decision?


Second, we have been talking about the demise of sports radio as a format for a few years now, but there is still lots of money to be made, especially for big media brands like Rogers and Bell. Sports radio helps fuel sports media in general, which in turn sells cable subscriptions and cell phone packages. To see the incumbent just walk away from a market like Vancouver is shocking. What do they know about the future that would make this make sense?


It’s striking that they didn’t even try a half-measure, like running ESPN content for most of the day while slimming the line-up down to just a morning and afternoon show. TSN1050 has been doing a version of this for years. Another compromise would have been to try a national format where content from some of the remaining stations would be syndicated across Bell’s network. This could have reduced costs, albeit at the expense of truly local content.



Third, Sportsnet did their due diligence and decided that Vancouver was a big enough market to make it worth their while to try to pull some advertising dollars away from incumbent TSN1040. If that’s right, why is Bell simply handing all of that over to Rogers at this time? How can it be a good business decision to abdicate when you’re in the lead? Some answers might be found in the fact that both stations are near the bottom in the overall market ratings. See this helpful thread:



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    The site is getting absolutely pounded. We will be updating throughout the day. If you’re one of the affected, send emails or DMs.

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    I live in the Fraser Valley of BC, and yeah, this was very sudden. The network switched to ESPN Radio, and then a short voiceover saying an announcement would be forthcoming about the future of the station. And then it hit. The entire station was gone. I feel for all the on-air talent and behind-the-scenes producers and staff.

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    In the last year alone we’ve lost Cole, Cherry, Kypreos, Shannon, Maclean, and now Burke from Rogers hockey broadcasts. Losing Burke is a massive blow to an already-weak crew. I think I speak for many fans when I say that I only watch hockey games for the game now; pre, post, and intermission shows have completely gone out the window. That’s a reflection of the era we’re in as people are more likely to use their phones during those times but it’s also a comment on how poor the talent level is.

    NBA on TNT, the FOX football crew, and even hockey on TSN all have popular broadcasting teams. It’s doable. Rogers falls so far short that it’s honestly embarassing given the institution that HNIC is.

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    Wetcoast2 months ago

    I’m curious as to whether the play by play rights are all that saved the Ottawa and Montreal stations, and if they will get chopped once those obligations cease.

    I assume they can’t dump the rights to another Bell station; teams like the amount of promotion they get from being on an all sports format.

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    It is possible Montreal was spared because of the old Astral transaction. If I remember correctly, as part of the approval of Bell’s purchase of Astral, the CRTC required Bell to keep TSN 690 an English language sports station for its 7 year license. While that 7 year period may be over (I don’t really know), I think the decision also required Bell to apply to amend the license to change it away from sports after the completion of the 7 years.

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    Wow is all I can say. What is Bell up too, following in the foot steps of Roger’s? Just blowing up people’s jobs like this. They were leading in rating Vancouver ?is a big city , look out Toronto .So much fan loyalty. Best of luck to all that are effective.

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    If being the “ratings leader” (sports) in a major market like Vancouver, is not a good enough reason to keep the format; then what is/will be the deciding criteria for maintaining broadcasting outlets in the future?

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    I grew up with 1040. I listened to the post-game shows after all Canucks, Lions and Whitecaps games, whether I attended the games or not. I loved their programming. This is a really awful day for Vancouver sports journalism and Vancouver sports in general.

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    Why not do a separate cjob sports radio channel? It’s needed for sure and yes There are some amazing personalities here that reach larger audience

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    This is a big loss for Vancouver, and I’m puzzled as to why it happened. 1040 was regularly beating 650 despite not having to pay for Canucks radio rights. 1040 just had better personalities and a better signal. Beyond that though, they provided coverage for MLS and the CFL, two leagues that Sportsnet doesn’t care for at all. Wonder what happens to the Whitecaps and Lions rights.

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    Cutting some staff, while it sucks to see or do it, is one thing, completely eliminating their sports radio stations in multiple markets, one of which is one of the biggest markets in the country is another. They were AHEAD of Sportsnet in Vancouver and just abandoned it and said here, you have it. How much money is Bell bleeding in it’s sports media divisions that they would make these drastic decisions? I have to assume it’s a lot.

    I don't know how much "Goodwill" companies like Rogers and Bell have, but whatever Bell had they flushed down the toilet today. Sometimes hard business decisions need to be made, and perhaps that's what they did today. However, they're a billion dollar corporation that make healthy profits and hand out dividends, and also took $121 million in covid relief funds. They could have done this in a compassionate humane manner - instead they gassed all of their employees at these stations with like an hours notice at best, and in one particular place, after informing employees they were losing their jobs, have 30 minutes to pack your shit and get out.

    Just awful.

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    @ Wetcoast: Purely speculation on my part but something tells me that the answer is yes.

    If Bell decides to shut down TSN Radio in Ottawa and/or Montreal, they might be able to put games on CFRA in the case of the Senators and CJAD for the Canadiens. It depends what type of language is in the contract for both teams.

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    Burke was a personality. Bieksa is another one. He’s very good and SportsNet found him. There are others out there. I hear Roenick is seeking work. But there must be other retired players that have strong opinions.
    Another option would be to build up their Insiders group. I believe they have a Mackenzie on the payroll and why not groom him into another insider? Surely his dad would help him with some contacts. And maybe Dreger would come back.
    Also, the Fan could look at those folks let go today at Bell stations and bring in a handful to their stable. Certainly the Fan in Toronto could use a lineup refresh. I have never listened to the Fan less in the 25 years I’ve been in this market. I listen to OverDrive every day. And I listen out of market (1260 Edmonton) in the mornings.

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    Let’s face it, radio has been in steep decline for a long time and when people started working from home that was lights out. Drive time with nobody driving. So if they’re going to hang in, they need way less labour intensive content.

    What makes it urgent for Rogers and Bell? How about Elon Musk ringing the planet with satellites that beam high speed internet wherever. Existential crisis, imo.

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    bell=shxthole rogers=shxthole Canada=shxthole What is being done about all this B.S. ? Just as I thought. NOTHING !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    What was the point of the Harvey Weinstein and Nicole Kidman picture? What do they have to do with this article?

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    @Derrick. I try to include candid rather than press shots of the people we write about. You’ll notice that in most other columns here. It’s a way of humanizing our subjects. This was the first image that came up via google. I take the point though. I’ll swap it out for a less controversial one.

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    Just awful what Bell has done these past few days. Cutbacks happen sometimes, but to kill stations entirely? Particularly one in a large market that’s beating the competition? It’s so strange. You have to wonder what the future is of TSN Radio in general. McCown pointed out on twitter that the TSN stations that survived all have major play by play commitments. Maybe that’s the only reason they’re still around for now. If you’ve killed your sports radio station in Vancouver, are you really going to keep your stations going in Ottawa or Edmonton long term? I wouldn’t bet on it. You wonder even about 1050. That station has been so uncreative in its programming over the years (white guy and a hockey player) and often just felt like a place to promote TSN TV. It has one successful show, and sadly, they could probably just put out Overdrive as a TV show/podcast and do away with 1050 if they wanted. Still, it’s hard to understand why. TSN has had such a strong brand, much stronger than Sportsnet in my opinion, and this has really hurt it. We’ve been hearing about how important sports content is going forward, why hurt yourself like this?

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    If TSN continues to abandon its markets, I hope Rogers expands Sportsnet radio into those cities to save some jobs and give sports fans an outlet. Bell seems to have given up, but there should be some way to make sports radio work in the 2020s, utilizing streaming and podcasts to your advantage. I mentioned this in another thread, but I really wish we had a strong independent sports media company in Canada right now. Even like The Score was. There’s so much talent out of work right now, and platforming yourself (via things like podcasts or twitch) has never been easier or cheaper.

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    @Herry…the first two, I share your anger; however as one who has served and worn the the Uniform…you can GO TO HELL on the third!!!!!!

    My apologies to MIB and TSM for pushing the boundaries, but for me this crosses the line.

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    Pulling the plug on 1040 without any notice reminded me a little bit of how TEAM 1050 in Toronto was suddenly shut down about 20 years ago……….but TEAM 1050 had only been on the air for a couple of years and their ratings were terrible………….that’s not the case with 1040

    Having your main competitor waive the white flag must be good news for the survival of 650 in Vancouver…………but if 1040 couldn’t continue with decent ratings and 20 years of goodwill how is 650 going to be sustainable, especially given the rights fees that they are currently paying for Canucks games?

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    It’s becoming clear that CKST Vancouver will relaunch Friday in the “Funny” format, playing standup routines and other comedy material. I’ve read that in Hamilton and Calgary these “Funny” stations rank at or near the bottom in ratings. But where they rank isn’t the point. Radio contributes such a small percentage of revenues to Rogers or Bell that they’re almost insignificant. The point is that they’re cheap to run (i.e “leveraging the efficiencies of our broader organization”-who doesn’t love corporate-speak?). Buying blocks of syndicated content to use across all of these “funny” stations is far cheaper than competing for Canucks broadcast rights and paying big-name hosts. I prefer TSN to Sportsnet in general, and it sucks that these people were canned in the worst possible way by Bell.

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    I’ve been trying to wrap my head around these moves and it just doesn’t add up. I can understand giving up Hamilton. I can even understand giving up Calgary if some bean counter in Bell thinks that Edmonton can serve both cities but to give up on Vancouver completely? Make no sense whatsoever at all to just leave the 2nd or 3rd biggest market in the country. There must be more to this than we know otherwise it’s not going to help TSN’s rep of being called “Toronto Sports Network”.

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    You’re circling it, Hans. What they’re giving up on is radio.

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    I really enjoyed 1150 in Hamilton, it was the only local sports radio I ever listen to, and only 680 other than that..,.too bad, Jason Smith at night was a great way to go to sleep. I gave up on 590 a decade ago, but I know I’ll never listen to BNN…

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    @Mike in Hamilton

    Same. The pandemic and working from home killed my radio listening habits, but while I was commuting, Marsh and Melo were always enjoyable to listen to. I can understand bailing on 1150 with 1050 down the QEW, but Hamilton has a neat underground sporting community and it was great to hear what was going on in the city – TiCats, Maurauders, Forge, Honey Badgers – without the Toronto influence. Felt like I was part of a secret club or something. 1150 will be missed.