This just in: There's no love lost between the competing all-sports radio stations in Toronto. Last week, Sportsnet Radio The Fan 590 issued a press release trumpeting its April ratings in the crucial 25- to 54-year-old male demographic in the Toronto market. According to the release, the Fan 590 increased to a 6.3 share, its highest share this year and an increase from a 5.2 share in March. The April numbers also represent the first 12 days of head-to-head competition with TSN Radio 1050, which began operations on April 13.
The Fan 590's program director Don Kollins, who's had a rocky tenure since taking over in 2010, says he's unsure where the added numbers come from in the demographic. "Typically a new entry in the market brings new ears to the format," Kollins told Usual Suspects Sunday. "AM640 [the Toronto Maple Leafs' rights holder]stayed pretty much where they were before. So it's not coming from there."
Kollins feels that Rogers' cross-platform promotion for The Fan 590 - something conspicuously missing in the past - is having results. Estimates are Rogers spent $1-million to push The Fan as TSN came online. "We did a lot of marketing and we're seeing our [TV]ads played on Omni, Sportsnet, City. That's a nice push for us."
TSN Radio says it's happy with the launch, which also included blanket cross-platform promotion on its TV stations. "We're really pleased with the results," e-mailed Chris Gordon, president of CHUM Radio, which produces TSN Radio. "But it's only a 12-day sample for us, and BBM [ratings agency] guidance is to look at the 13-week release which is next month." Privately, folks at CHUM/TSN were miffed by The Fan's bragging on early results. They claim that it's "a matter of principle" in the industry not to talk about partial results.
"We don't wish anyone ill," Kollins responded. "We don't see this as bragging. We're not that way."
The first proper litmus test for the competing stations comes June 9 when the first comprehensive numbers are released.
NO PLAYOFF PUSH
To complicate analysis of the spring ratings in Toronto, there's a vacuum at the heart of the market's sports scene. No postseason play (again) for the Maple Leafs and Raptors (plus tepid Blue Jays results) means no coattails to boost numbers for a rights holder or any other sports station. Because of the overall futility in the local teams, ratings are generated more by the talking heads than the spillover from a winning team - an advantage for The Fan with established personalities such as Bob McCown.
These preliminary ratings represent a portion of the potential market should there be a playoff run by a Toronto team. You only have to look at the enormous numbers generated by CHUM's Team 1060, the Vancouver Canucks rights holders, to see how a winning tide can raise all boats in a Stanley Cup run.
LEAFS' TV RIGHTS
The biggest question in that respect is who will control the Maple Leafs' radio rights this time next year. AM640 has another season left, and program director Gord Harris has insisted his station will complete to keep the rights. But industry rumours continue to suggest either Rogers or TSN buying them out before then. Even if they don't, the next rights' tranche will produce vigorous competition a year from now, with both The Fan and TSN Radio hoping to be the station dragged along should the Leafs finally get to the postseason.
Nice ad lib by Edmonton Eskimos general manager Eric Tillman during TSN's CFL Draft coverage Sunday. A light standard fell during Tillman's live talkback with the hosts, prompting Tillman to joke, "That's live television, something just collapsed. ... I hope that's not an indicator of our season to come." Small point, but if the hosts are going to tip off every pick, what's the point of having commissioner Mark Cohon doing Little Mister Echo moments later? The tip-off factor tarnished the recent NFL draft as well.
CINK OR SWIM
Finally, with Glendale, Ariz., deciding to fritter away $25-million for another year of Phoenix Coyotes hockey, Winnipeg may now get the Atlanta Thrashers. That led Atlanta-area resident (and pro golfer) Stewart Cink to tweet, "Considering weak US Dollar, if the Thrashers move to Winnipeg can I request my season ticket refund in Canadian Dollars?"