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Bill Watters. Toronto Maple Leafs. 2002 - 2003 season.
Bill Watters. Toronto Maple Leafs. 2002 - 2003 season.

USUAL SUSPECTS

Toronto sports radio gets a shake up Add to ...

Leafs Lunch is no longer being served at AM640 in Toronto. The daily hockey program, with Bill Watters and Darren Dreger, has been cancelled by the Toronto Maple Leafs' host broadcaster after making a concerted challenge to the Fan 590 in the noon-to-1 p.m. time slot. The station will instead go with a syndicated talk format with Charles Adler from noon to 4 p.m., followed by the Bill Watters Show from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. The station will apparently direct its sports resources to the Watters show. "The Leafs Lunch brand is not going to die," program director Gord Harris wrote in a staff memo obtained by Usual Suspects. "It will live on -- in a modified form -- beginning in September."

While Leafs Lunch achieved some ratings incursions against the Fan 590's offering of Hockey Central (from noon to 2 p.m.) it was not considered significant enough to justify breaking up AM 640's lineup of Mike Stafford and Adler. "Providing listeners with a solid block of talk programming, not interrupted by a sports show in the middle of the day, should extend our ratings success," Harris said. "[And]reduce confusion over what we are [a talk station or a sports station]and reinforce the fact we are a talk-radio station that is the home of the Leafs, with a strong sports-oriented drive show."

Informed of the change, Fan 590 program director Don Kollins replied, "Our focus continues to be to super-serve the hockey fan in that time slot. Hockey Central at noon has performed very well and I am looking to its return this fall."

No, By George

Hearts were all a-flutter in Toronto radio land earlier this week with the purported news that CBC TV host George Stroumboulopoulos was taking over the morning-drive gig at the Fan 590. Alas, the story was a blogger getting too far off the leash. While all parties have adopted a vow of silence on the subject, Usual Suspects has learned that the station is looking in another direction for a successor to the current combination of Don Landry/ Gord Stellick. But it will not be Strombo -- who worked at the Fan in the 1990s as a host and board operator before gaining national prominence as host of The Hour. (Too bad, he might be fun.)

As we've mentioned before, the Fan feels its brand is strong in Toronto as long as Bob McCown dominates afternoon drive. But the rest of the schedule is due for some updating. The Landry-Stellick combination, in particular, has stalled creatively and new station management will look to re-energize the key morning-drive slot.

Part of that process is to diversify the tone and subject material of the programming. The successful Vancouver afternoon show on the Team 1040 -- which regularly strays into lifestyle, entertainment and politics -- is a ratings winner. The Mike Richards Show on the Fan 960 in Calgary -- another ratings success -- is a comedy program with sports thrown in. Look for something closer to a combination of the sports format with the MOJO brand that was tried last decade by 640.

Great Scott

CBC's World Cup coverage is finding strong audiences on both TV and live streaming. The unlikely classic of Brazil and the mighty North Koreans attracted 1.2 million on TV and 223,108 live streams. That led CBC Sports vice-president Scott Moore to break his self-imposed radio silence with Usual Suspects to defend the Corp's choice to present e-mails and bar scenes before halftime highlights. Moore wrote, "the record ratings might indicate that not every viewer is a hard-core soccer fan. Perhaps they are interested in some entertainment/context and local flavour?" Fair point. Although nothing says Canada quite like a drunk in a bar with a flag over his head.

Small Mercies

CBC viewers are no doubt relieved they won't face the prospect of punmeister Ron MacLean dealing with Nigeria's Danny Shittu at the World Cup. And how did the BBC play-by-play man resist, "... and the Greeks are going for broke!" ... BTW: MacLean used to be host of the NHL awards in Toronto. Then last year's lame show was done without a principal host. Bad idea. So we'll have comedian Jay Mohr. That would be the same Jay Mohr who has said, "Hockey sucks" and, "I've never been into hockey" in the past. Reminds us of some NHL owners.

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