J.J. Adams: Even with Canucks games, Sportsnet trails TSN in Vancouver radio wars

The established TSN 1040 shows still lead all the time segments against their 650 competitors, three years on since Sportsnet outbid them for the Canucks broadcast rights

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They might carry the big stick when it comes to sports rights in the Vancouver market, but Sportsnet 650 AM is still the station getting battered in the local radio ratings.

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The Vancouver Canucks’ home station didn’t get the bump it was looking for from the return of hockey and sports in the summer ratings, still trailing TSN 1040 AM in market share across the board.

In the male 25-54 age bracket, TSN leads their competitors in every time segment, despite the Canucks getting back to action and going on a dramatic and captivating playoff run in Edmonton. Sportsnet 650 bought the Canucks broadcast rights in 2017, but haven’t been able to make inroads into the listenership of their near two-decade old rivals.

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“Obviously, we’re disappointed in seeing the numbers. But listen, we knew this was going to be a long, hard struggle,” said 650 program director Craig MacEwen. “That’s a great organization across the street in 1040. It’s a heritage brand, and has a lot of talented people working for them. We’d be naive to come in here and say ‘Oh yeah, we’re going to knock them off right away.’

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“It takes a long time to challenge and compete on an even playing field with a legend or heritage brand such as 1040. They’re a strong brand, and probably more of a listening habit than we are, because we’re new.”

TSN’s morning show with former Vancouver Province bloggers Mike Halford and Jason Brough is the ninth-most listened to show overall (4.6 share) locally, up three places from the spring. Their counterparts on 650, James Cybulski and Perry Solkowski, have a 1.0 share — 17th overall.

Don Taylor and Bob Marjanovich — Donnie and The Moj — dominate the 10 a.m.-2 p.m. slot with a 6.9 share (sixth place) while The Scott Rintoul Show on 650 has a 1.4 share (14th place).

In the 2-6 p.m. slot, Matt Sekeres and Blake Price are in sixth place (7.1 share) ahead of Dan Riccio and Randip Janda (1.9, 14th place).

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Sportsnet’s late afternoon show of Andrew Walker and Satiar Shah (4-7 p.m.) also languishes in comparison to TSN, with a 1.1 share (16th). Sekeres and Price, with other programming factored in, sits third in that broadcast time slot.

The summer numbers continue the same trend that was seen in the spring book, which didn’t surprise Aziz Rajwani, business instructor at Langara’s School of Management and the UBC Sauder School of Business — as well as an occasional contributor to 1040’s The Sport Market show with Tom Mayenknecht.

SUMMER RATINGS, Males, 25-54

Mornings (6-10 a.m.)

Mike Halford and Jason Brough: 4.6 (9th place)

James Cybulski and Perry Solkowski: 1.0 (17th)

Mid-day, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Donnie and The Moj: 6.9 (6th)

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Scott Rintoul: 1.9 (14th)

Afternoons, 2 p.m.-6 p.m.

Sekeres and Price: 7.1 (6th)

Dan Riccio and Randip Janda: 1.9 (14th)

“They’re the only sports radio show that’s been around 24/7 in Vancouver, and that carries a lot of clout with the listening audience,” he said. “They’re used to people, and they’re used to the personalities, particularly. People are tuning into sports radio, not just for information, but for personalities.

“Don Taylor? They’re accustomed to him, going way back. Moj? He has a long history. Sekeres and Price are newer, but they’ve built up a lot of credibility and, in fact, they probably have the highest ratings.

“If you’re a rival coming in, what’s the first thing they’re trying to do? You’re trying to get right to the top. They outbid TSN to get those rights, but the problem is, the Canucks haven’t been doing well. This year they did, but all of a sudden, what happened? COVID did. There’s a four-month break where there’s nothing to talk about. And to me, what’s really important is ratings are generated by personalities. Personalities is what drives engagement. If people like those personalities, they’ll tune in.”

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After losing the Canucks rights in 2017, 1040 doubled down by hiring former Canucks assistant GM Laurence Gilman and rehiring Jeff Paterson to act as a 24/7 source on the Canucks, travelling to every game and providing several updates each day. When 650 let Rick Dhaliwal go last October, the reigning scoops king of Canucks media was on 1040 within days.

Sportsnet boasts a more ethnically diverse lineup that they feel makes them more representative of the community, but in a COVID-19 environment where people’s work routines have been shifted from commuting to the couch or home office instead of downtown, changing the approach is a necessity.

“We had some massive numbers for Canucks … but unfortunately didn’t see the bump we were looking for when it came to other parts of the station, although we did see marginal growth when we didn’t have sports. In that regard, that’s the one positive we can look at,” said MacEwen.

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“I am surprised (at the low overall numbers) on some levels. The Canucks make us relevant. We are a player in the market. We’ve seen a bump in our streaming numbers which means maybe they’re listening from home, but unfortunately we don’t have a meter for that. That’s the way the system works.

“Radio is about ratings and revenue, and we’ve done exceedingly well with the Canucks. When it comes to the content side of things, we just have to be agile and smart enough about things to realize that, while terrestrial radio is our bread and butter, we have to branch out into other areas.”



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