Two months ago, February 9th, the Vancouver sports scene was hammered hard.
TSN1040, where I’d worked for 15 years, was abruptly shut down.
I was on the board that day, entering the fourth and final hour of Halford and Brough – the morning show I produced and did sports updates for – when the ax swung.
How all that played out is a story for another day. And we’ll get to it eventually, but this is about how, in a two-month span, Vancouver has become a guinea pig for sports media changes.
It’s not fun when you’re suddenly unemployed. Dean knows that feeling. I hadn’t. 15 years with 1040, and it was a blast. Going to work every day, enjoying the people you work with and the ins and outs of your job is amazing.
I loved it…but I also knew the risks of sports media, and knew I’d be getting out if I was ever let go. And that hasn’t changed.
I’ll be going back to school to start my CPA. Yes, an accountant. Long story, but it’s the path I would have taken before I decided to give sports media a rip.
So for me, I knew I was done in sports media.
But my 1040 colleagues weren’t.
The path each group has made is different, but they all point to a sports media market undergoing a change, a metamorphosis, a preview of what sports media in Canada may become.
Let’s get to it.
We're Funny 1040! The best stand up comedy 24/7 – tune in for laughs throughout the day 😂 pic.twitter.com/bbHWp3gYCk
— funny1040am (@funny1040am) February 12, 2021
Sorry. Just felt like dropping that in…..
Radio, specifically sports radio, is built on personalities, on being local, on having opinions, and being funny. No, not like Funny1040. Come on, now.
The full package is truly needed to build a great show that listeners want to be involved in. That’s easy to write, but it’s really bleeping hard to find.
TSN1050 has it with Overdrive.
A wide variety of options as the boys each unveiled their Masters’ Champions Dinner Menu during today’s show👇
Which menu are you taking down?🤣 pic.twitter.com/G1OJ5jnZam
— OverDrive (@OverDrive1050) April 6, 2021
Does that look interesting? Maybe not on the tweet, but I guarantee it was a hilarious segment – off the rails food discussions usually are, for some reason.
Jim Rome magically does it solo. I’ll never forget driving one morning to BCIT for my broadcasting classes, and listening to a 15-minute solo rant by Rome, talking about a carnie getting his mullet ripped off in a circus ride. I shit you not. It was amazing. It was hilarious. Not a second of sports in 15 minutes – my entire drive! – and I was hooked on Rome.
— Jim Rome (@jimrome) March 24, 2021
Anyone familiar with Rome knows all about the Clones, the Smack-off, the listener names (Sean the Cablinasion, Rick in Anaheim) that 90% of sports radio listeners have copied.
The best shows have all of those attributes.
Look, shows can be very good with just 3 or 4. I don’t recall a lot of outright humour with Pratt and Taylor – 1040’s longtime afternoon drive show – but they were so good and Dave was so prepared, that it didn’t matter. They’d go off the rails once in a while, but it was mostly Pratt ranting and Taylor responding in his way. And it was brilliant.
That was the best show I’ve been around, until Halford and Brough came along. I’m biased, but they’re legitimately very good.
Humour, great takes, a passion for the Vancouver sports scene, and particularly the Canucks.
— Jason Brough (@SadClubCommish) April 7, 2021
It’s wasn’t a big surprise Sportsnet650 offered them the morning drive show, and a three-hour slot – as opposed to the four they were doing at 1040 – is manna from heaven.
Manna. Heaven. Look it up, heathens.
There’s not much more I can say – the boys deserve to be on air, and they are.
Horseface and the Coward are very strong at what they do. And people seem to be getting the jokes…
what they’re saying about the new halford and brough podcast. you’re hearing it more and more pic.twitter.com/MX11UM3cMd
— Mike Halford (@MikeHalford604) April 7, 2021
Karen Surman landed at 650 with Scott Rintoul from 9a-1p in the….let’s be honest here, rather tough double market of Calgary and Vancouver. Scotty was gamely plowing through that setup solo, but adding a co-host is almost always better. And that’s case now.
Karen knows sports bigtime. Almost scary, really. I’ve been texting with her while she’s watching curling. Who the hell under the age of 50 watches curling??
Anyway. The two have a really nice chemistry that brings out more discussion and humour.
Great call by the folks at 650.
Although I AM curious to see how a die-hard Oilers fan navigates talking Canucks and Flames daily…
My captain! https://t.co/dVpU2uy4wq
— Karen Surman (@karen_surman) March 22, 2021
So three have landed in what is viewed as “mainstream media”. A role in an established station.
Now, to where it gets really interesting.
On Monday, Rick Dhaliwal and Don Taylor, along with the oldest 29-year-old in the world, producer Ryan Henderson, debuted Donnie and Dhali on Chek TV.
I love this. Absolutely love it.
A two-hour sports radio show, aired on an independent TV station that already has solid podcasting, streaming, video services.
Chek is employee-owned, with a mandate to be local, and the station has been grinding it hard the past years.
Don Taylor is the goat in the BC sports media scene, Rick Dhaliwal gets more breaking news in a week than most broadcasters get in a lifetime, and Hendo is money.
So there’s a familiarity that listeners will eat up.
I mean, just look at Dhaliwal, already taking shots at Taylor, and casually dropping his Timmy’s into this pic.
What a pro! Should be Crown Royal, but he’ll figure it out…
Taylor still not here, what a shock.
First show in just over an hour.
10am – Donnie and Dhali
Text line – 604-200-9494 pic.twitter.com/s3v6UKjNcp
— Rick Dhaliwal (@DhaliwalSports) April 5, 2021
The test here becomes how many people watch on TV, how many listen live, how many podcast listens there are. But as Chek is established, I’m not sure that’s as huge of a concern as the station wants to take the gamble, and has made the commitment.
Okay, now to the real litmus test of this newfangled broadcasting thing.
On Tuesday, Matt Sekeres and Blake Price, the afternoon show on 1040, debuted the live streaming version of their afternoon show. It goes 3-6 pacific from the Wall Centre downtown.
Coming up on Sekeres & Price… so it’ll work out!
— Sekeres and Price (@sekeresandprice) April 6, 2021
I’m less thrilled about this, largely because I was enjoying unemployment skiing at Mt Seymour with their producer Andrew Wadden. Whatever, the hill is closing soon anyways.
This is the big test. and it’s one that my host on this site – Dean Blundell – has been exploring and driving for years now.
What’s the future of sports media in Canada…and more accurately, the future of sports media OUTSIDE OF TORONTO?
I’ve refused to take shots (in this article) at SN and TSN, but it’s becoming clearer and clearer over the past years that if it’s not a Toronto-related team, you’re not going to get a lot of info on the national broadcasts.
And it’s funny, because fans of Toronto teams simply do not get that. They just don’t. I’ve had the discussion a million times, almost literally.
Leafs fan: “but they’re the biggest team in Canada”
Me: “yes, but it’s a national network, it should serve all of Canada, not just Toronto sports fans”
Jays/Raptors fan: “but everyone in Canada loves the Jays/Raptors”
Me: “no, we fucking don’t”
For @TSN_Sports, apparently the news that Springer is starting the season on the 10 day DL for the Jays is worth a phone notification, but not the news that the Canucks locked up Demko for 5 years? So typical for the “national” sports network. @TSN_Parody
— CLEAN HANDS Canuck🇨🇦 (@Sea2Sky_Canuck) March 31, 2021
And on and on and on.
So the result is that if you’re not a fan of Toronto teams – and I’m not, not a Raptors or Jays follower – you absolutely have to get your sports information in different ways than TSN and SNET.
So local information, local talk, local discussion will need to be facilitated in other unique ways. In new ways. Well, new ways to some.
Look, I worked in radio for 15 years. I’m not a big podcast guy. I listen to some, but it’s not a habit.
To me, it’s like PVRing a game.
You know? Some guys love that, they love that they can zip through commercials and intermissions and only see the plays. I’ve never been that way. I like the full experience, even if it’s partially promos for CBC shows I’ll never watch.
This is why the live stream is so important. I’ll go to a live stream. I’ll open up my iPad or my phone and find the stream if I’m at home and listen for a stint. I did 90 minutes of their opening day, which is more than I normally would for a talk show.
And then, also critically important, show segments made available quickly.
The debut live streamed show is now up in podcast form.
Please rate, review and follow the show wherever you find your podcasts.https://t.co/Ahh8an8KqE
— Sekeres and Price (@sekeresandprice) April 7, 2021
So this is the big test, for me.
You’ve got the live stream, you have the podcasts, the great hosts and producer, the show infrastructure is there….now how do you convince the Neanderthals, like me, to give it a shot?
How do you show that 52-year-old that he can stream it while driving, that he can find it without having to turn on the radio?
Because there are people out there who are NOT on social media. No, seriously. Some can live without it.
Matt and Blake are terrific at what they do. They were a very good drive show for 1040 for years.
They have the backing of sponsors who wanted to continue their advertising relationship, they have people with strong media and sales backgrounds in their corner, they have great social media clout with the two hosts, and they have a stable of terrific guests.
The pieces are there.
But now the test – can established hosts make a go of building, maintaining, and living off their talents while being fully OFF of mainstream media?
And I know Matt and Blake are aware of that challenge.
It’s all in place for Matt, Blake, and Wadden to turn this into something really special. And the same goes for my other former co-workers.
And I’m fascinated by all of it.
As an aside, let me make one last point, and it’s one of the coolest things to see in all this.
For years now, there’s been a bit of a divide in Vancouver with TSN and Sportsnet employees not appearing on rival stations. And I guess rightly so.
But the 1040 death has opened up new relationships between all the local sports providers.
Donnie and Dhali’s first show had two Sportsnet guests, in Elliotte Friedman and Dan Murphy. Those guys hadn’t been on 1040 in years.
Donnie is doing a regular hit on 650. As are Dhaliwal, Jeff Paterson, Thomas Drance of the Athletic, and on and on.
And many of those hosts – Sekeres, Donnie – are popping up on podcasts like the Vancast, on Clay Imoo’s pod. You name it, they’re showing up.
The listeners are the ones who benefit, as the best hockey minds in the market are being heard more and in more formats than ever before.
Hey, I’m almost done. But one last emotional thought.
1040 being axed was brutal. It wasn’t cool to see a 20-year Vancouver tradition just slapped and thrown into the garbage.
But, much like Sports Page and the way it continues to weave its thread through the Vancouver sports scene, TSN1040 will have that impact.
It’s what you’re seeing now – in Halford, Brough and Surman on 650, in Dhaliwal and Donnie on Chek, and on the new Sekeres and Price live-stream show.
It’s still going. Support it.