In this week’s issue… Massive shakeup at Canada’s SportsNet- Garabedian sells Cape stations – Beasley flips in NJ – EMF launches Lancaster signal – Remembering Adelphia’s Rigas
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*How do you make a format like sports radio that’s been largely unchanged for 30 years adapt to the different needs and wants of consumers in the 2020s?
When you own all the platforms at once – not just radio and TV but also the teams themselves and the venues they play in – it’s easier to make the kind of sweeping changes now underway at Rogers’ Sportsnet outlets in Toronto and elsewhere.
We got our first taste of the new priorities at Rogers back in the spring, when Sportsnet embarked on what turned out to be an unsatisfying experiment of combining its radio and TV broadcasts of the Rogers-owned Blue Jays, a move which really just meant simulcasting the TV audio (and all of its “look at this replay” moments) on the radio.
Last week, Rogers went even more extreme, pulling most of its local hosts off CJCL (Sportsnet 590 the FAN) in Toronto and plugging in CBS Sports Radio ahead of some massive schedule and philosophy changes that start taking effect today. Billing it as “an original slate of multiplatform audio content featuring both new and familiar names and voices,” Rogers says its goal is to make Sportsnet audio content more flexible both in platform (lots of podcasting along with linear radio) and focus (more ability to shift hosts and topics depending on what sports are in season and what the day’s news might look like.)
The moves include what might be one of the most sweeping sets of personnel changes in recent sports radio history. Mike Zigomanis already left the 590 morning show a few days ago, and now his co-host Scott MacArthur is also out, as are talk hosts Richard Deitsch and Rob Wong, Blue Jays reporter Josh Goldberg, assistant PD Jason Rozon and update anchors Alex Seixeiro and Andrew Nie, according to reporting by the Athletic and Awful Announcing.
Seixiero is out in part because the new format gets rid of anchored score updates, a fixture of the format all the way back to the earliest days of WFAN in New York 35 years ago (and to CJCL’s sports launch 29 years ago). Instead, Rogers says, the new format will feature shows that “can and will move timeslots and increase or decrease frequency to reflect the news of the day,” including adding on-demand episodes that are only available as podcasts.
There’s still a fairly fixed morning show, of course, now hosted by JD Bunkis with new arrivals Blake Murphy (who’d been covering the Raptors for the Athletic) and Ailish Forfar.
“Sportsnet 590 The FAN’s new morning show features resident Sportsnet host JD Bunkis joined by two newcomers to the network – former Raptors beat reporter for The Athletic Blake Murphy and former Yahoo! Sports digital host Ailish Forfar. The morning show will air live Monday to Friday from 6-10 a.m. ET and be available on-demand.
During Jays season, there will also be a 10 AM Jays show with Ben Ennis, with Blair and Barker returning for a postgame show later at night. Jeff Marek will host a national hockey show at noon for most of the year, and Will Lou gets the 2 PM hour during Raptors season for “The Raptors Show.” After that? It will vary by season – Nick Kypreos returns to Sportsnet for a 3-5 PM shift to talk hockey with Jeff Bourne, followed by a 5-7 PM show that will have different hosts and formats depending who’s playing. If it’s hockey and football, it will be Stephen Brunt and Ben Ennis on the air, whle Jeff Blair and Kevin Barker will host when the Jays have the spotlight.
Confused? We imagine listeners will be, too, at least for a while, and it will be fascinating to see whether they warm up to the immediacy of the ever-changing lineup or balk at the uncertainty of who’s on and what they’re talking about. Our guess? It’s all in how well it gets promoted and communicated to listeners – and that’s something radio in general isn’t doing especially well in most places lately, is it?
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