In honour of March Madness, perhaps we should draw up brackets for the upcoming TSN Radio/FAN 590 tilt in Toronto? The latest: A restored Daren Millard and the Hockeycentral @ Noon crew will be matched against Steve Kouleas, host of TSN's That's Hockey Two, when the clash gets under way on April 13.
With the tangle between the Mike Richards Show at TSN vs. Greg Brady/Jim Lang on the FAN 590 morning drive already scheduled, that leaves only the afternoon-drive battle. CHUM Radio president Chris Gordon says he'll have an announcement next week about the identity of the host(s) who'll take on FAN 590 fixture Bob McCown. TSN host Michael Landsberg has previously said he discussed the position, but no decision had been made as of last week.
The matchup with McCown's Primetime Sports is crucial for TSN. Long the king of sports-talk radio, McCown's radio numbers have shown some softness of late. While ratings fluctuate, year to year in the January/February book, McCown's numbers are off about 1.5 ratings points (25-54 males) and he's mired in sixth place in the 3-6 p.m. period. Starting (and ending) his show an hour earlier has had a distinct effect, so has the general turmoil in other parts of FAN 590's lineup. Advertisers, however, remain bullish on the show.
Can TSN come up with a threat to McCown from a talent pool that both sides agree is not that deep? Gordon, whose CHUM stations include all-sports outlets in Montreal, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Vancouver (two), would not reveal the identity of their new host - only that the company is doing a "soft launch" in April, supplemented by syndicated material such as Dan Patrick and Jim Rome from the United States.
"We'll start there, but we're looking at going all local by September," Gordon said. "We'll start from our studios on Richmond Street, but we're looking to move programming up to TSN [in suburban Agincourt] We're very excited about getting started."
The soft launch is risky, because you only get one chance at a first impression. Listeners might have made a judgment on TSN Radio before the next hockey season rolls around. Certainly, syndicated material has not worked previously in Toronto.
Outside of Richards, TSN/CHUM has taken a very predictable route so far. CHUM posted a number of available jobs from hosts to producers, and one source says they've been inundated by the response.
You couldn't have blamed Millard for saying "I told you so" when The FAN 590 restored him to his old position as host for Hockeycentral @ Noon. Unfortunately, Millard had laryngitis on Wednesday, the day he was to resume the radio/TV gig. So the veteran broadcaster - who'd gone hoarse upon return from another media tour in Afghanistan - took a Mulligan till Thursday.
Millard lost the job last year in the purge at The FAN 590 that saw morning hosts Don Landry/Gord Stellick sacked, along with Mike Hogan and Norman Rumack. Hogan and Stellick were later brought back in limited roles by program director Don Kollins. Andrew Krystal, imported to take over the morning show, was replaced with Brady and resuscitated recently with placement in Brady's former 1-3 p.m. slot, but it was decided to get someone else for Hockeycentral @ Noon.
Millard says he's okay with Kollins, despite their rocky past.
"He let me get a few things off my chest," Millard said. "Now I'm looking forward to getting back with my friend Kipper (Nick Kypreos) and Doug MacLean. The hardest part for us to remember to talk hockey sometimes because we get along so well."