The long-rumoured changes at The Fan 590 arrived Thursday, and as expected, the station is headed in a new direction. Gone are the morning drive team of Don Landry and Gord Stellick plus morning show host Mike Hogan. Announcer Rick Ralph and long-time producer Brian Angus are also leaving the station.
In addition, Rogers Sportsnet host Daren Millard is being replaced as host of the Hockey Central package at lunchtime. Joining The Fan to work the noon to 3 p.m. shift is Greg Brady, formerly co-host of AM640's Bill Watters Show. Prime Time Sports will now air from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., with either pregame shows from the Blue Jays and Raptors or a repeat of Prime Time content in the 6 to 7 p.m. hour.
The morning drive show from 6 to 9 a.m. will be hosted on an interim basis by Jeff Lumby, a Toronto radio veteran. But Fan program director Don Kollins says he's putting out an ad to get the best person or team available in North America. Speculation had CBC Hour host George Stroumboulopoulos being considered for the spot, but after brief conversations the sides have not pursued the matter. His name might resurface later.
"The brand is incredible, but it is underperforming in certain time slots," Kollins told Usual Suspects Thursday. "The changes were not made lightly. We had a good book this spring in certain areas, yes, but if you keep doing the same thing, you'll get the same result. And these results weren't good enough. For instance, I need a 10 share in the morning."
There had been talk in radio circles that Andrew Krystal, now hosting a talk radio format at NEWS 957 in Halifax, might be joining The Fan to host the 9 AM to noon slot, but Krystal told Usual Suspects that he has no deal in place yet with The Fan and is happy with his job in Halifax.
Still, the move to consider non-traditional sports voices such as Krystal and Stroumboulopoulus indicates that The Fan is looking to move beyond pure sports early in the day. It is thought the station is looking to model itself on WFAN in New York, where morning host Don Imus does politics, not sports, on his show.
Kollins says the new media demand a new approach.
"I can't move into the new millennium of blogs and Twitter with guys who don't get it," Kollins says. "We are going to remain a sports station at our core. We'll talk 80 per cent sports, but we'll also talk about the hot topic of the day like the G20 or the new Twilight movie."
Ironically, the changes come in the wake of a strong spring book with Prime Time Sports earning unprecedented numbers in its 4 to 7 p.m. slot. But the expected boost from the Olympics didn't lift the other shows enough.
The malaise for all Toronto sports teams didn't help, either. The changes are the first major move since Kollins replaced long-time program director Nelson Millman after the Olympics in February.
Gord Harris, program director of AM 640 confirmed Brady's move.
"As of today we are actively looking for a co-host for The Bill Watters Show," Harris told Usual Suspects Thursday. "We haven't put any time frame on when that will happen. The person we choose will dictate that, but we feel we have plenty of options."
Harris confirmed that Watters will remain with the show, despite logging double duty at Rogers Sportsnet.