Sports Radio 1994

Stories and info about those no longer involved in the industry

Sports Radio 1994

Postby cart_machine » Fri Aug 02, 2019 1:49 am

There was a brief time, ball and puck fans, when a whole pile of sports talk shows blossomed on the Vancouver radio scene before the first of the all-sports stations.

A feature column in the Vancouver Sun on April 23, 1994 gave an overview of the sports-gab situation. Interestingly, the talk show hosts critique each other, while one C. McCoy makes some observations from his perch at 2440 Ash Street, long before it entered the let's-talk-some-more-about-the-Canucks game.

JOCK TALK
There's a whole of of sports talkin' going on at Vancouver radio (and TV) stations
GARY KINGSTON

NON-SPORTS types at work starting to tune out your Canucklehead theories? Wife bury her head in a novel when you mutter about the Lions' big hole at linebacker or the Kent Austin debacle? Therapist nod off when you moan about the Leafs' Stanley Cup drought or the blown knee of the top scorer in your hockey pool?
Fear not, sports junkies. As gabbers (and listeners) across the Lower Mainland are discovering, jock talk is hotter than a regular-season Pavel Bure. With apologies to the Coasters, it's now a case of 'Yakety Yak. Let's talk back'.
Oh, Vancouver doesn't have one of those trendy 24-hour all sports radio stations, (More than 70 bill themselves as such in the U.S., leading CBS basketball analyst Billy Packer to lament the rampant "diarrhea of the mouth.")
But there now are five local shows — four on radio, one on TV — where you can talk athletics to yachting and everything in between. Except, of course, when the talk is hockey, which seems to be about 95 per cent of the time. NHL playoffs or not.
"The beauty of sports talk radio shows is that it's all about market segmentation," says Rick Gruneau, an SFU communications professor who has extensively studied the relationship between sports and popular culture.
"You get guys at a certain age range, typically 18 to 35; these are people who drive trucks, drink beer and use power tools."
The point is, says Gruneau, that media outlets now realize it can be economically viable to "go after smaller audiences, where the audience is more homogeneous."
More important than numbers for the hopelessly addicted (and you know who you are), is the time slotting of those programs. On some nights, it can mean 9 1/2 uninterrupted hours of W-GAB.
"There's just so much exposure to sports now — cable, pay per view, sports bars — there's so much more available, so much more to talk about," says Farhan Lalji, producer of David Pratt's Sports Machine on CKWX. Pratt, who returned to the air in March two months after the classic rock station he was on found God and showed him the Stairway to Unemployment, kicks things off from 4-7 p.m. weeknights.
Lee Powell, when he's not doing a half-hour Canucks' pre-game and an hour-long post-game show, hosts Prime Time Sports from 8-9 p.m. weeknights and from 6-8 p.m. on Sundays on CKNW. The Fan's Forum with Doug Finley, recently expanded to five days a week from two, runs 9-11 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday on CKLG and Dan Russell is host of Sports Talk from 10 p.m. to midnight weeknights on CFMI-FM.
Last week, BCTV entered the fray, giving marble-mouthed John McKeachie, who might be out of a job if he ever learned to read and speak, his own half-hour show. Titled after its phone number 280-JOCK, the program follows the late news.
"You've got to be risk-takers, rather than risk-avoiders," said BCTV general manager Ron Bremner. "John's a good personality. We got tremendous feedback from his (irreverent) work on the Olympics. And we don't think we're entering a crowded market. There's nobody on TV. I'd say it's pretty uncrowded."
Russell, the dean of the genre after 10 years, and Powell, whose ratings are aided by 'NW's over-all dominance and the fact it has the Canucks play-by-play rights, are easily the leaders. And, clearly disdainful of the competition.
"It's a two-horse race and I haven't seen any indication that's changed," says Powell, adding that the sports-talk market is "being somewhat oversaturated."
Russell, who started at the former CJOR in October 1984, moved to CKWX in September 1988 and then joined CFMI a year later, also feels the market is over-served.
"Everyone wants to put all four shows on the same level. The fact is anyone can start a talk show; having a successful one is a different thing. We've been on longer than all the other ones combined and probably make more money than all the others combined.
"Obviously, we set the tone in the marketplace. Most of (the competitors) have been imitators of what we do."
Ouch. That's enough to make Pratt and Finley swallow their mikes.
Pratt, who has carried his retro-hip, disc-jockey pacing to 'WX, insists he's more of an entertainer than any of the others. Finley, the youngest and least experienced of the four, tends to give his callers more of a free rein, suggesting he's more mediator than commentator. Pratt and Finley, taking their cue from callers influenced in part by a couple of Vancouver Province columnists, also like to play off the anti house-station sentiment. The theory goes that Powell and, to a lesser degree Russell, whose station is 'NW's FM sister, go softer on the Canucks, whose ownership is closely tied to the radio empire.
"The anti-house atmosphere out there has helped us tremendously," said Finley.
That's enough to make Russell and Powell swallow their mikes.
"Anyone who says we're not accepting of or willing to discuss criticisms of the team isn't listening carefully," says Powell, clearly aggrieved that he can't shake the label.
He says other media are envious of 'NW's sports profile and "will do what they can to knock it down." CKNW, which also does play-by-play of 1988 and the Lions, is clearly the sports radio leader in B.C. The corporate dominance will become more complete if CFMI, as most everyone suspects it will, is successful in landing the play-by-play rights to Vancouver's NBA team when it begins play in the fall of '95.
"(CKNW-CFMI) cannot afford to have another station catch the basketball rights and become (all) sports talk," said Chris Pandoff, station manager at CKLG.
For that reason, the Vancouver market is unlikely to see 24-hour sports programming. Industry people say it can't work without the anchor of at least one play-by-play of a local team.
But CKNW, so phenomenally successful with its current programming, won't make the switch.
However, CKWX general manager Chuck McCoy, insists it's not a given that 'NW has the Canucks locked up.
"If somebody felt (24-hour sports) was a viable enough format, they could go after the Canucks. I certainly think it's within the realm of possibility for someone to outbid 'NW."

WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT THEIR ROLES AND EACH OTHER:
Powell on Pratt: "I'm a little surprised that he was given another chance given the undistinguished previous performance."
Russell on the competition: "I'd like to see someone come on 10 to midnight, but they're not very eager to do that. It's easy to slag a show, but let them go head to head with It , and we'll see what happens."
Finley on the competition: "Competition is healthy. It keeps everyone honest. What was that Kim Campbell quote, I'm not scared about them, but, I bet they're scared about me. They all underestimated us from day one."
Powell on Pratt and Finley: I believe Dave has toned it down. He does better work when he's not bouncing off the wall. Doug is trying to establish a niche, but that fan's man thing is somewhat dubious. You aren't just the fan's man because you say you are."
Russell on cross over listeners: "My personal feeling is that the cross-over isn't near what people think it is. I think people choose a favorite show and go with it. You can't have a life and listen to every show."
Pratt on the competition: "We're here to stay. You're not going to see our show go anywhere. The only concern we have is how long we have the afternoon drive time to ourselves."
Russell on his role: "I ask the tough questions, allow people to answer and then have the listener make up his own opinion. Ours is not a confrontational show. My job is to bring out the best in a guest."
Pratt on his role: Talk radio must do one of two things. It must be entertaining or good company. Information is about fifth down the list. The listener either likes me or he doesn't. It's black and white. There's no grey area."
BY THE NUMBERS: Radio ratings can be interpreted any number of ways, depending on which set of demographics are looked at. But here are the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement ratings from the fall (the last book available) for the region's open-line sports shows. The numbers represent listeners 12 years-and-older on an average weekday night, except for Doug Finley, who was only on weekends last fall.
LEE POWELL (CKNW, Prime Time Sports): 33,000 at sign on, 27,000 at finish.
DAN RUSSELL (CFMI, Sports Talk): 20,200 at sign on, 16,000 at finish.
DAVID PRATT (CHRX, Sports Machine (now on CKWX): 6,100 at sign on, 4,500 at finish.
DOUG FINLEY (CKLG, Fan's Forum): 5,700 at sign on, 3,900 at finish.
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