The Toronto Radio Wars Are Coming

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know a lot about how sports radio works in Toronto, and for the most part I don’t care since I don’t listen to any Toronto sports stations or care about any Toronto sports teams, but there is an upcoming battle between the two titans of sports broadcasting in Canada that makes this a very exciting time for sports radio. You would think that sports radio was a bygone with how popular TV has become. Instead, it seems, CTVglobemedia and Rogers Media are pumping more money into radio than before. In recent weeks both company’s have attached the TSN and Sportsnet brand to their radio stations (TSN Radio 1050 and Sportsnet Radio The Fan 590) and both have also made some top level hires. Rogers has brought back former HockeyCentral at Noon host Darren Millard to fill his old role, while TSN brought in Mike Richards to host its morning drive show. The war that was once only waged through TV has found a new medium.

Then came the announcement this afternoon that James Cybulski will host TSN Radio’s afternoon drive show and go head-to-head with Bob McCown on The Fan. Cybulski’s show will be called Cybulski and Company. In my opinion, Cybulski’s talent doesn’t come anywhere near that of McCown, but he does have some things going for him. First he is young, so he should do a good job in the younger demographics. He has also hosted basketball and soccer coverage on TSN, so fans of those sports (especially soccer) may tune in knowing McCown won’t talk about soccer until hell freezes over. Cybulski will also have exclusive access to some of the top analysts around, including Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger, Pierre McGuire, Dave Naylor, Chris Schultz, Dan Shulman and just about every other TSN employee because they have been restricted to only appearing on CTV owned stations.

Cybulski does bring in a host of sportscasting experience including hosting TSN’s coverage of the 2011 NCAA March Madness, the UEFA Champions League and Barclay’s Premier League. He was also CTV’s reporter for speed skating at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, where he was awarded with a Gemini Award for Best Sports Reporting in 2010. Cybulski also recently received great reviews for his report on the connection between Jay Triano and Terry Fox.

Here is a quote from Stewart Johnston, President, TSN

James is one of Canada’s most diverse sports broadcasters with a wealth of high-profile hosting and reporting experience both on television and on radio. He’s young, highly-entertaining, and he brings a refreshing voice to the Toronto sports radio landscape. His popularity and interests go beyond the sports world, and it’s his ability to work at the intersection where sports and pop culture collide that makes him the perfect fit to host TSN RADIO 1050’s flagship afternoon drive show.

And a quote from Chris Gordon, President, CHUM Radio

James is an exceptional talent who, along with the rest of our broadcast team, will be great ambassadors for TSN RADIO 1050 and the CHUM Radio brand. With many of our marquee shows now in place, we are confident that our diverse slate of programming will appeal to fans both in the GTA and across Canada. We are primed to take sports radio to a new level and give fans and advertisers alike the most entertaining sports talk from the country’s definitive voices in sports broadcasting.

And finally a quote from Cybulski himself

This is a new opportunity for fans in the GTA to connect over the biggest stories from the world of sports and debate the headlines beyond the stadiums and arenas. We’re going to be fun, entertaining and, in true TSN style, feature the best sports experts and insiders in the business, probing all the hot button issues of the day. For me, it’s an opportunity of a lifetime to be able to engage newsmakers and listeners on a station aiming to set a new benchmark in sports broadcasting.

TSN and Chum Radio also announced that Steve Kouleas will have a daily show at noon called That’s Hockey 2Day on TSN Radio. Kouleas’ hockey show will go head to head with Leafs Lunch on AM640 and Hockey Central @ Noon on The Fan 590. It will be interesting to see if Kouleas can gain a foothold against two well established noon hour shows during the NHL playoffs. Kouleas will also have the advantage of exclusive access to TSN hockey employees including Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger, James Duthie and Pierre McGuire. So far TSN Radio’s talent lineup looks like this

Morning Drive – The Mike Richards Show
Noon – Steve Kouleas (That’s Hockey 2Day)
Afternoon – Jim Rome Show*
Afternoon – Dan Patrick Show*
Afternoon Drive – Cybulski & Friends

Both the Jim Rome Show and Dan Patrick Show are 3 hours long. TSN Radio will probably only have time for one in the afternoon. My expectation is the other will air following Cybulski & Friends.


7 thoughts on “The Toronto Radio Wars Are Coming

  1. Boy, I have trouble seeing how Cybulski can compete with McCown. You need a very strong personality to host a radio talk show, and I don’t think Cybulski has it. When I imagine him hosting a radio show, I imagine it sounding something like a toned-down version Colin Cowherd’s awful ESPN Radio show – contrived opinions and outrage backed up by lame analogies sprinkled with unfunny banter.

    Maybe he’ll prove me wrong, but he seems way too weak to take on McCown. I would’ve given Michael Landsberg a puncher’s chance (he has the right kind of personality for talk radio), but Cybulski won’t last the rest of the year, in my opinion.

    (One thing I’ve always sort of wondered about in the TSN/Sportsnet wars, is how is it that Stephen Brunt is given license to appear on Sportsnet Radio when he writes for the Globe and Mail, which belongs to the same family of media entities as TSN. Same with Jeff Blair for that matter, who hosts a show on 590. I don’t get it. Why would BellGlobeMedia bar TSN employees from appearing on Sportsnet properties, but not Globe and Mail employees?)

    • I agree. Personally I’d rather listen to Dan Patrick than James Cybulski, but I guess TSN wanted home grown talent in that slot. I think that if Landsberg wanted the slot, he would have got it, but with OTR airing at 5:00 it seemed impossible to have him do both (even if OTR is pre-recorded). It would have been great if they could get Dan Shulman to do a show, but considering he has ESPN duties 2-3 nights a week and is on the road a lot, it probably would have been impossible.

      I don’t think CTV can bar Brunt and Blair from appearing on The Fan because they have existing contracts. Whereas anyone from TSN simply appearing as a guest doesn’t have a contract with Sportsnet. CTV could force them to choose one or the other, but I don’t think they’d want to take the risk of losing two very good writers.

      • Jay Onrait also would have been a better choice, I think. He’s shown with his trade deadline day blogs and on Twitter that he can be pretty funny. And he could’ve pulled younger listeners in the same way that you mention Cybulski might.

        Maybe for TSN it’s a matter of putting their assets in the best places, though. Maybe to them, Onrait is more valuable hosting the late/early-morning Sportscentre than in a role that essentially restricts his exposure to Toronto.

        • I figure that you might be right on that. If Onrait and O’Toole hosted a radio show, I’d probably listen (even though I don’t live in Toronto), but they are very good at hosting SportsCentre. Onrait also hosts the Sunday afternoon SportsCentre on CTV.

    • To answer your question, the Globeandmail is not owned by ctvglobemedia anymore.
      It was at one point, but I think when Bell bought ctv it sold off the Globeandmail portion, which is now run by the Woodbridge Company. That is why you hear those guys on Sportsnet Radio the Fan 590. Thats what I get as someone who is not in the media circle.

  2. The reason why I think that TSN doesn’t have a problem with Brunt and Blair being on the FAN is that the Globe and Mail was not sold to Bell. Also the Dan Patrick show will air in the mornings not the afternoons. And AM 640 does not have Leafs Lunch any more. In fact it was cancelled a year ago.

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