Friday, February 18, 2011

TSN RADIO IS COMING

So the big breaking news in Canadian radio this week is that the format switch has been announced for 1050 CHUM from its current rebroadcast of the CP24 cable channel on TV. It changes on April 13 to TSN Radio 1050, an all-sports format. (Photo courtesy TSN.)

The station returns to the all-sports format that used to be on the station for a brief time during the last decade, when they dumped the legendary CHUM music format to make room for sports. The station housed the TEAM national sports network. But the network collapsed and the station went right back to playing oldies before it turned into CP24 Radio 1050 a little while back. 

Now, the sports format is back with the backing of the TSN brand behind it. In preparation for the switch, 1050 has swiped Mike Richards from Sportsnet Radio the FAN 960 Calgary to do the Toronto morning show, and will also be taking on the Dan Patrick Show and Jim Rome Show as part of their programming lineup. It will also take over the ESPN radio programming in overnights that FAN 590 had recently gone back to running. As well, Dan Shulman has been signed to do work for the station.

You can also expect to see TSN branding and programming coming to the other stations owned by CTV, including to the TEAM stations in Vancouver, Montreal and Ottawa and Sports Radio 1290 in Winnipeg, which recently switched from oldies music to the exact same format that is coming to 1050 AM in Toronto.

All in all, this news is a win-win-win all around. It's a win for sports fans in Toronto who want to have an alternative to the usual stuff they hear on the other stations, it's a win for the once-proud 1050 AM frequency because the new station promises to be much better than the junk TV feed that occupies it now, and it will be a win for CFL fans because the station will have the rights to air all the Toronto Argonauts games. Up until now nobody in Toronto really wanted to carry the Argos, who have changed flagship stations so often over the past several years that it isn't even funny. The team ended up making a deal with the FAN 590 that basically saw the Argos bumped from the air every time the Blue Jays had a game.

Unfortunately, that was the best deal the Argos could do, because nobody else in town wanted their games, period. At least now they are on a station run by people with a vested interest in making sure the CFL is popular, given than TSN has all the TV rights to the league. So they'll carry every Argos game, you can bet on that.

Some local folks there think this could be just the start and that TSN 1050 could eventually swipe the Toronto Maple Leafs rights away from AM 640. Everyone says there's going to be a big bidding war for the Leafs rights between 1050, 640 and the FAN 590 in about a year, and a lot of people are noticing that 640's been cutting back on its Leafs coverage lately and cancelling shows. All in all, the big loser in this whole scenario appears to be AM 640. People think they are getting right out of the sports business, which is kind of a shame because they have a really good, booming signal that can reach a lot of fans.

You know, however, that the FAN 590 isn't going away anytime soon in spite of their problems at the moment. Their daytime lineup has gone downhill, with morning man Andrew Krystal's show getting pulled off the air quickly.  In general, the revolving door of staff and programming changes there have not been well-received by the sports fans. But in spite of it all the station is still worth listening to in the evening hours. They have rebranded to include "Sportsnet Radio" as part of the station's title, and they do have the Blue Jays and Raptors rights as well as Bob McCown with Prime Time Sports. 

They had better make sure they pull out all the stops to keep McCown, though. If TSN ends up making a big offer to steal McCown and he leaves, the FAN 590 is going to be in trouble because that's one of their better shows.

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