June 13 2009 10:01PM
I enjoy sports talk radio and I'm hardly an impartial party in this town, being a newspaperman who is trying to learn the art of saying something people want to hear after spending most of my career trying to write something they wanted to read.
I began tinkering with the wireless more than 25 years ago while I was in the weekly newspaper biz, then did more while covering the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL in the late-1980s.
Here in Edmonton, my job as beat man covering the Oilers for The Journal and The Sun until 2007 allowed me to occasionally wander into the booth with 630 CHED here and on the road.
I got a break when Bob Stauffer enlisted me as a co-host for his popular drive time show, Total Sports, on TEAM 1260. Later, when the Oilers hired Stauffer to ride shotgun for Rod Phillips with 630 CHED, Jason Gregor was good enough to retain me for Just A Game when it moved to take Stauffer's slot. For that, I'm grateful.
With that little bit of background out of the way, I read with some interest a piece in the Journal today by columnist Dan Barnes outlining TEAM 1260's challenge to attract listeners against the juggernaut that is 630 CHED, the voice of the Oilers and Eskimos.
It hatched an idea. If it's goofy, I'm sure you'll let me know.
OUTSIDE THE BOX
Like I said, I'm not impartial on this. I think it's to the benefit of listeners in town to have two radio stations with strong rosters of sports programming. That's why I'd like to see TEAM 1260 succeed. They provide a balance to the rights holders. Another voice.
That's why I'd like to see their numbers -- more on this below -- get better. I'd like to see them prosper. And, besides, they let me try to impart what I know over the airwaves without scolding me for being, as of now, only OK at it.
Likewise, I happen to think Stauffer played a significant part in providing that balance. Stauffer was the critical voice, the hammer on the TEAM 1260 roster, before, as I put it in an item leading into this season, he "took the hush money" and joined the Oilers.
When I add the two together, I wonder if sports talk radio listeners in this town wouldn't be best served if Stauffer wore two different hats with two different stations.
BY THE NUMBERS
For those who care about the actual numbers, here they are. All are for the demographic of males aged 25-54 over the last six survey books, which date back to January 2008.
Morning Drive 6 to 10 a.m. (14 Stations)
(Jan-Feb 2008) 6.4 share (6th) (Mar-Apr 2008 ) 4.2 share (9th) (Jun-Jul 2008 ) 5.5 share (9th) (Sep-Oct 2008) 4.5 share (9th) (Jan-Feb 2009) 3.2 share (10th) (Mar-Apr 2009 ) 1.9 share (10th)
Bottom Line: Yes, the morning show, More On Sports, has taken a dip, but in fairness, the most competitive part of the programming day is the morning the slot. Astral needs to regain a foothold.
Mid-Day 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (14 Stations)
(Jan-Feb 08) 3.4 share (10th) (Mar-Apr 08) 2.9 share (11th) (Jun-Jul 08) 3.0 share (11th) (Sep-Oct 08) 2.8 share (10th) (Jan-Feb 09) 1.8 share (12th) (Mar-Apr 09) 1.5 share (12th)
Bottom Line: Jim Rome had steady numbers through 2008, but TEAM 1260 switched from ESPN to Fox Radio and the numbers took a hit. Hmmm.
Afternoon Drive 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. (14 Stations)
(Jan-Feb 08) 8.0 share (4th) CHED 3rd with an 11.0 (Mar-Apr 08) 9.7 share (3rd) CHED tied for 8th with 5.2 (Jun-Jul 08) 7.8 share (4th) CHED 6th with 6.5 (Last Stauffer book) (Sep-Oct 08) 5.6 share (8th) CHED 3rd with 9.0 (Jan-Feb 09) 6.3 share (7th) CHED 5th with 7.7 (Mar-Apr 09) 4.2 share (9th) CHED 8th with a 5.7
Bottom Line: Generally speaking for sports stations throughout North America, the afternoon drive shows pull in the best numbers. This is the make or break slot Gregor took over from Stauffer.
Evenings 7 p.m. to midnight (14 Stations)
(Jan-Feb 08)-0.4 share (14th) CHED 1st with an 18.2 (Mar-Apr 08 ) 3.1 share (9th) CHED 1st with a 16.3 (Jun-Jul 08) 5.6 share (6th) CHED 2nd with 10.1 (Last Gregor book) (Sep-Oct 08) 3.1 share (11th) CHED 1st with 13.5 (Jan-Feb 09) 0.7 share (13th) CHED 1st with 21.4 (Mar-Apr 09)-2.5 (12th) CHED first with 13.1
Bottom Line: Inside Sports with Dan Tencer and anything to do with the Oilers rule the slot during the season. TEAM 1260 hasn't even contested this slot since Gregor moved to afternoons.
The quote from the Barnes piece that grabs me comes from CHED general manager Doug Rutherford.
"I don't really see (The Team) as competition. An all-sports radio station will talk to a specific audience, although small. What we try and do with CHED is talk to a more mainstream audience. All-sports is a niche format."
Maybe I'm taking Rutherford a bit too literally, but if TEAM 1260 isn't really competition, does that leave the door open for Stauffer to keep his night job alongside Phillips but cross town and fill a 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. slot on the Astral roster and form a solid one-two punch with Gregor during the week?
Let's not forget, Stauffer's an employee of the Oilers, not 630 CHED. Might team owner Daryl Katz, who already does business with Astral (TEAM 1260) with broadcasts of the Edmonton Oil Kings, be interested in expanding the brand by providing his product on two stations?
A SHOT IN THE ARM
Depending on where you sit with Stauffer -- love him or hate him with little room for indifference in between -- having him rev up the bombast that just won't fly on 630 CHED game nights back on TEAM 1260 is either a stroke of brilliance or just me having a stroke.
While I question Barnes' homer reference when it comes to Stauffer and Phillips -- I think they're more critical of the Oilers than any other team tandem of rights holders I can think of -- there's no question Bombastic Bob hasn't been able to let it all hang out since becoming an employee of the Oilers like he did when the saliva was flying at 1260.
Would the brass at Astral go for this? Would management at 630 CHED? What about the Oilers? Most important, what about the listeners, the people who tune in and pay the freight? Or not.
It sounds like a shot in the arm for sports fans to me.
-- Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.