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CHUM Group Radio has benched The Team, its all-sports radio stations, in Toronto, Winnipeg, Halifax, Kingston and Kitchener in favour of Elvis Presley and other golden oldies.

The broadcaster announced Tuesday that the five sports stations will switch to a music format, abruptly dismantling most of the Team Radio Network it set up about a year ago.

Team 1040 in Vancouver, Team 1200 in Ottawa and Team 990 in Montreal will remain as all-sports stations, CHUM said in a statement.

CHUM is also eliminating its national radio newscast.

Tuesday's moves wipe out 44 jobs, on top of a dozen executive jobs that were eliminated in June. Well known sportscasters Jim Van Horne and Paul Romaniuk as well as veteran newscaster Paul Cross are affected by Tuesday's cuts.

The Team's failure in Toronto - which had steep competition from long-running all-sports competitor, The Fan - came barely more than a year after its launch. That station - 1050 CHUM - will switch to a music format featuring hits from the 1950s, 60s and 70s, a format it had for years before The Team's on-air opening in May 2001.

"After over a year in the sports radio business, it became clear that the amount of investment in time and money we dedicated to the Team Radio Network, did not show signs of audience growth in the Toronto area," CHUM radio president Jim Waters said in the statement.

Waters said revenues for Team 1050 in Toronto, its biggest potential market, were weak and CHUM "just couldn't shoulder those losses any longer," adding that the company decided on the format changes this spring.

On Tuesday afternoon at 3 p.m. CHUM 1050 played Presley's A Little Less Conversation as it brought back the oldies format that had made the station one of Canada's best known radio outlets for decades. The station plans to stay commercial free through the Labour Day weekend.

In Toronto, spring listener numbers for The Team came in at the bottom with a 0.4 share, or 106,000 listeners, versus a 2.3 share, 396,000 listeners, at rival sports station Fan 590 - according to the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement.

Fan 590 is owned by multimedia giant Rogers Communications.

"Some would say that 15 months isn't long enough to give it to develop. But inside of those 15 months we had two or three BBM rating periods and we did not do well in Toronto," Waters said in an interview on CHUM-owned Toronto television station CP24.

"Really, it wasn't showing very many signs of growing much and we weren't really cutting into our competitor's audience at all."

However, ratings are better in Vancouver, Ottawa and Montreal, where there is less competition from other stations for sports fans.

"The key thing was being first in. There was no one else that was doing all sports in those cities," Waters said. "Toronto, which is where we really needed to make it, we had the big competitor in The Fan."

CHUM is one of Canada's biggest media companies, with 28 radio stations, eight local television stations, 17 specialty channels, as well as an environmental music distribution division.

The broadcaster is coping with lower third-quarter profits and higher operating expenses after launching new TV stations.

In trading on the Toronto stock market Tuesday, CHUM (TSX:CHM.B) shares closed unchanged at $49.



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