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One of the longest-running and most successful acts in Canadian broadcasting is looking at a curtain call.

Bob McCown, the ringmaster of the afternoon drive-time radio show Prime Time Sports since it hit Toronto’s airwaves in 1989, says he has no plans to continue with the show when his contract with Rogers Communications Inc. expires in early 2018.
The roster of co-hosts was shaken up, with Brunt and Damien Cox, who once alternated as co-hosts, heard less and less. Appearances on Sportsnet’s hockey broadcasts mean Cox no longer has time to be a co-host and Brunt’s television obligations mean he will only be at McCown’s side for 20 weeks this year. Also limited is Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster Elliotte Friedman, who, like Cox and Brunt, has good chemistry with McCown.
Sportsnet television anchor Ken Reid has taken Cox’s place and tries to bring a hip, pop-culture sense of humour to the show. The kindest thing to say is the chemistry with McCown is still developing. However, when Brunt or old hand John Shannon or Sportsnet broadcaster Arash Madani are in the co-pilot’s seat, McCown is still at the top of his game.

Some of McCown’s colleagues also say he is not pleased with the move of The Fan’s popular afternoon duo of Tim Micallef and Sid Seixeiro to Sportsnet television. They went from a strong lead-in to McCown’s radio show to direct competition from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays.

Management’s thinking is that Tim and Sid appeal to a younger and less sports-oriented audience, so they will boost Sportsnet’s numbers while not stealing McCown’s audience. “There’s room for both,” outgoing Rogers Media president Keith Pelley said in an e-mail message.

McCown said Rogers executives did not consult him about any of those moves. While he said he likes working with Reid and would have resisted if he did not, he also said, “I’m at the point in my life where I don’t fight any more. I spent my whole life trying to fight people who, quite frankly, don’t know much about broadcasting.”
While Prime Time no longer gets the 8- to 10-per-cent share of the overall radio audience in Toronto it once did thanks to the splintering of traditional media audiences, especially among younger people, the show maintains its rule of sports talk in the 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. time slot. This is especially true for sports radio’s target audience. For the spring ratings period of March 1 through the end of May, Sportsnet says Prime Time’s share of the male 25-54 audience was 6.8 per cent, compared with 2.5 for TSN Drive with host David Naylor on TSN Radio 1050. McCown’s fade from the show will begin shortly, as he negotiated a reduction in the number of weeks he hosts annually to 37 this year from 43 to accommodate the first of two television shows on Rogers’ Sportsnet network. The TV show, which is expected to air six times this year, will see McCown interview a major sports personality and give viewers a glimpse of the person’s lifestyle. By 2016, McCown says, he expects to be Prime Time’s host for no more than 30 weeks a year.

“I do not see myself doing this after this contract,” he said.
Prime Time Sports host Bob McCown ?is a little bit bored,? plans to call it quits - The Globe and Mail
 

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Bob is Being Squeezed Out

OK so that covers what Bob wants and why the FAN should give it to him. Here’s the other side of this. When I was a kid Bob would open his show by saying that he hadn’t watched the Leafs game and not to bother calling to ask him about it. It became a bit of a running joke, as callers would want to talk about the team’s 4th line centre and Bob would tell them he doesn’t care. His expertise was with the Jays, some dated basketball and boxing knowledge, and being a Browns fan.

There have been two big changes in the last year, each of which is making Bob less relevant at the station.

First, the $5.2 billion dollar Rogers hockey deal has meant that the FAN has devoted way more airtime to the NHL. This is not Bob’s strength. It may be his biggest area of weakness. “There’s no question the hockey contract has changed things and not for the good for me.” (Shoalts, quoting Bob) Beyond the mandate to talk more on-ice hockey news, there is the pressure to give the station’s hockey experts more and more exposure. If you thought we had too much Shannon and Kypreos before the deal, then I have bad news for you. Having a heavy NHL focus with a host who is not that in to the game is not a good recipe.

Second, Sportsnet decided to take Tim&Sid off radio and put them on TV opposite PTS. “McCown said Rogers executives did not consult him about any of those moves.” (Shoalts) Now, one narrative is that this will have no effect on Bob since the shows appeal to different audiences. This is not really accurate. There may be some people in Bob’s audience who would never listen to T&S and vice versa but let’s be honest: most of us in the 25-54 demo will listen to one or the other depending on what’s on offer. So the idea that people aren’t being put in a position to make a choice is false. And Bob knows that.

So Bob is facing internal competition for the first time ever. He’s no longer the only important brand at the network. But he’s also facing external pressure. As Shoalts notes, Naylor and TSN Drive are trailing in 25-54 males 2.5 to Bob’s 6.8. But if you look more closely at the numbers you’ll see that in the younger demo of 18-45 Naylor trails Bob 2.7 to 5.7. That’s a significantly smaller gap. No one is suggesting that Naylor is going to overtake Bob in either demo — he will retire as the king of his timeslot for a generation; an astounding accomplishment — but the trend is that TSN radio is building an audience and will have some kind of home-team advantage when Bob moves on. Management at Rogers have to be thinking about that as well, and many of their recent moves seem aimed at the post-McCown era at the FAN.
Seen & Heard ? Weekend Edition Toronto Sports Media Blog
 
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