Stephen Brunt and Bob McCown, one of Canada's most popular sports radio duos, are no more.
Several sources close to Rogers Media say the split was the result of McCown's unhappiness over Brunt's guest appearances on the new and popular Tim & Sid television show, which is broadcast nationally in the same time slot as Prime Time Sports with Bob McCown. Brunt has been McCown's longest-serving co-host, dating back to the late 1990s, but in recent years his television and writing duties with Rogers have reduced his Prime Time appearances to 20 weeks a year.
The tipping point, the sources said, came two weeks ago when Brunt filled in for Tim & Sid co-host Sid Seixeiro on a day he was not scheduled to be on Prime Time. While there was no direct confrontation between Brunt and McCown, the end of the radio relationship came quickly. Discussions about a replacement are under way, and Prime Time will continue with its usual variety of co-hosts.
McCown admitted Tuesday he was not happy with Brunt's appearance as a co-host on Tim & Sid with Tim Micallef. But he said the main reason for Brunt's departure was that he could not commit to being his co-host for more than 20 weeks a year.
Brunt, who is heavily involved in Sportsnet's television coverage of the Toronto Blue Jays march to the playoffs, will now appear regularly on Sportsnet Radio's Baseball Central with host Jeff Blair in addition to Tim & Sid. He will also continue writing for Sportsnet's magazine and website. At the same time, Brunt signed a contract extension with Rogers that one source said was for 10 years.
"No, I wasn't flinging ash trays, but I wasn't happy they chose him [as a substitute co-host]," McCown said.
"The issue is his deal is 20 weeks and, truthfully, he probably didn't work the 20 weeks last year. I think he felt he had other things to do, TV commitments or whatever, so he took days off when he was supposed to be with me.
"If Brunt wanted to do 40 weeks and commit to Prime Time, I'd be happy with that."
Brunt declined to say if his departure from Prime Time is official or discuss the details of the split. He said he does have a new contract with Rogers, although he would not confirm its length. But he did say he is happy with his new role with both Sportsnet television and radio.
"I'm fully involved in covering the first Blue Jays' pennant race in 20 years, I will be working with Jeff Blair a lot and I will be working with Tim and Sid a lot," Brunt said. "I'm having a great time and looking forward to finishing out my working life at Sportsnet."
Scott Moore, president of Sportsnet and NHL for Rogers, could not be reached for comment.
One potential replacement for Brunt is Damien Cox, who once shared Prime Time co-hosting duties with Brunt. Cox moved to television full-time when Rogers landed the national broadcast rights to the NHL, and he is willing to come back if it can be worked around his hockey obligations.
McCown, with a well-earned reputation as a curmudgeon, has not hesitated to make it clear he did not like the company's decision to move Tim & Sid from the afternoon radio slot that led into his own show to directly opposite him on television. Management's rationale was that Tim & Sid appealed to a younger audience than Prime Time, and boosted television ratings in the supper hour.
The move came on July 1, and Tim & Sid is heavily promoted in commercials on Blue Jay broadcasts as well as on McCown's radio show, which some staffers say is another sore point. McCown said his resentment does not stem from Tim & Sid.
"My issue is not the promotion they're getting. My issue is: why am I not getting that and never have gotten that?" he said. "The only thing I look at is if you are prepared to do this kind of promotion with them, why don't you do it for us?"