TSN Radio is a reality, and Mike Richards has been signed to become the morning drive host in Toronto.
While officials at TSN declined comment Friday, The Globe and Mail has learned that the long-rumoured radio operation will go ahead later this year, after BCE Inc. takes full control of CTV Inc., the parent company of TSN. The radio initiative to challenge The FAN 590 and extend the brand to its TEAM stations across the country has been one of the prime projects championed by BCE's Bell Canada unit as it takes over operations.
Richards has signed on for the proposed new station that will broadcast on the 1050 band in Toronto.
Richards, who declined comment Friday, did not appear on his FAN 960 show Friday morning and his identification is being removed from the website. Sources tell Usual Suspects that the 47-year-old sent his resignation late Thursday night to the station where he's worked the past six years. While no dollar figures were revealed, it's believed that Richards will have full creative control over his show, which will likely be simulcast on TSN or TSN2.
Richards will no doubt be a controversial figure. His comic subjects include everyone from Foster Hewitt to TSN's Darren Dutchyshen to John Daly, and he has been the subject of listener complaints about his satirical material. But he gives TSN an immediate presence in a market where Richards worked in the past on The TEAM and the FAN 590.
During his time at The FAN 960, the former comic took his sports-talk show from virtually nowhere to No. 1 in the lucrative male 25-54 demographic - virtually unheard-of for a sports-talk format in radio prime time. It appears that Rogers made some efforts to keep Richards within the company, but wanted him to remain in Calgary for the time being. The Toronto native, however, had decided for family reasons that he wished to return to Toronto.
It marked the second attempt by Rogers to sign Richards, who's been operating without a new contract for the past few weeks. Last summer he was the first choice for The FAN 590's morning show, but the sides could not reach an agreement. Richards will likely be positioned against Andrew Krystal at The FAN 590, the man who assumed the job last September when previous negotiations to bring Richards to the station broke down.
No announcement has been made on who will host TSN Radio's afternoon show against Bob McCown's powerful Prime Time Sports.