Pure Speculation: Is There Collusion Between Sportsnet 590 The Fan and TSN Radio 1050?

I'm going to preface this entry by saying there's no smoking gun here. Everything you read is pure speculation on my part, based solely on observations I've made as a fan of sports and sports radio.

In 2002, Rogers Media, a division of Rogers Communications, purchased CJCL, better known as The Fan 590. In 2011, Bell Canada's TSN Radio 1050 debuted. In response to that, "The Fan 590" was re-branded "Sportsnet 590 The Fan."

Since 2011, Bell and Rogers have been going head-to-head in sports media, both on television and on the radio. Bell has their stable of TSN analysts and personalities, and Rogers has their stable of Sportsnet analysts and personalities.

Earlier today, I was reading a write-up on Toronto Sports Media. I was curious whether my pals there would mention my recent podcast episodes with David Alter, Roger Lajoie and Eric Smith (they didn't), but took note of a couple of suggestions made by Mike in Boston.

Mike suggested that Rogers "poach Bruce Arthur from TSN1050" as a co-host for Bob McCown. Then, later in the same article, he suggests Bell "think about poaching one or both of Brady & Walker." The moment I read those two reasonable thoughts I laughed to myself. As if!

You see, I've long suspected there's collusion between The Fan 590 and TSN 1050. Nothing official, nothing in writing, just an unspoken agreement not to poach each other's talent. This would keep salaries down, of course, an ever important part of running a successful radio station.

I suspect collusion primarily because we haven't seen any poaching or movement from one company to the other since the sports radio war began almost five years ago. Can you think of an example since Rogers wrestled Damien Cox away from TSN in January of 2011, before TSN Radio even launched? If there are examples and I've simply missed them or forgotten them, please enlighten me in the comments.

Again, I present no evidence to support my hypothesis, it's all conjectural, but I do find it rather curious. You'd think 1050 would poach talent from 590 at least once since 2011, especially considering the ratings struggles over there.

I hope I'm wrong.


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Comments (17 - click here to join in!)

Neal

My guess is that there are contracts involved with anti-competition clauses so it would be difficult if not damn near impossible to have talent moved from one broadcaster to another.

September 26, 2015 @ 4:52 PM

Sam

Another thing is that if you jump once, you've extinguished your options and you have lost your leverage. So if you jump you better make it worthwhile!

September 26, 2015 @ 4:55 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Neal

I'm pretty sure that's only legal if you're still getting paid. So if you're a permanent full-time employee, and you quit, no contract can stop you from working somewhere else. But, if you sign a 5-year contract, and they pay you for the 5-years, you would have to adhere to the non-compete clause (if there is one) or they wouldn't have to pay you.

But then again, I am not a lawyer.

September 26, 2015 @ 4:59 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Sam

Like Dreger in 2006!

September 26, 2015 @ 4:59 PM

Anonymous

When you're not "cheerleading" for #JAYS you can raise some interesting arguments. I don't consider any of #ROGERS personnel "journalists" They are more PR Hired guns. Since ROGERS owns ALL the sports teams in Toronto, all the public receives is "fluff" stories on the athletes. TSN has the better "analysts and Sports Experts" despite dropping to 2nd Place in the ratings since ROGERS aquired NHL Rights.

September 26, 2015 @ 6:14 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Anonymous, or should I say @Northwind98 on Twitter https://twitter.com/Northwind98/status/647898072849231872

I'm not "cheerleading" for the Jays. I've been a fan since '83 and happen to love the 2015 Jays. They've earned this cheering.

September 26, 2015 @ 6:23 PM

Sam in Pickering

Where there's smoke...

September 26, 2015 @ 6:37 PM

matt

Cybulski left tsn radio where he hosted the afternoon drive to go to sportsnet.

September 26, 2015 @ 7:23 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@matt

Ok, that's a good one. James Cybulski left TSN in early February 2013, and joined Sportsnet in late June 2013.

This unspoken rule I write about seems to be mainly for the radio properties. Note that Cybulski is on TV at Rogers, not on 590.

September 26, 2015 @ 7:40 PM

Alex

Not sure Cybulski is a good example. If memory serves, he was let go from TSN (his radio show was awful) although it was positioned as "leaving to pursue other opportunities." So that's not poaching, it's taking a cast-off.

September 26, 2015 @ 9:07 PM

Brian Gerstein

Doesn't pass my smell test too, but how hard can it be with your contacts to look into it, off the record of course.

One thing I have noticed when Sportsnet locked up the NHL deal longterm there was lots of speculation about TSN losing their personalities on the tv side due to the content, but that never happened, as TSN has a group who truly enjoy working with each other and appreciate the professionalism where they are. Wondering if there is some spillover there on the radio side as well, but I doubt it, since TSN has treated radio as a promotional tool for its personalities on tv, and with abysmal ratings, is there pretty much for that purpose still.

September 26, 2015 @ 9:28 PM

BC

David Amber (NHL Network), Dave Randorf (CFL on TSN and Mike Johnson (NHL on TSN), all Bell owned stations left for Rogers Sportsnet last year. And in the last year Toney Ambergio now with TSN 1050 swing host, Dean Brown Sens on TSN Radio, and Don Taylor now with TSN radio Vancouver. All left Rogers Sportsnet. I used to like watching Don Taylor read the high lights for the NHL recaps always had some great inside jokes . Hopefully TSN Brings him in to do the Sportscentre Late show during hockey season.

September 27, 2015 @ 2:27 AM

Bob Canuck

Mike,

Some thoughts to counter your speculation.

1. If TSN 1050 had made many changes to its lineup since its launch, then your speculation would have more merit. However, TSN 1050 has made few changes, not even with personnel from stations from other than the Fan. Perhaps the lack of poaching by TSN 1050 of Fan 590 talent has more to do with TSN 1050's decision to stay the course.

2. If Bell Media wants TSN 1050 to be a serious challenger to the Fan 590, why would TSN 1050 collude with the rival that is thumping them in the ratings? Given that TSN 1050 must be currently losing money, it would make more sense to poach Fan 590 talent, increase ratings and revenues, and thereby be in a better financial position to more than cover the added personnel costs.

3. How much poaching of radio talent occurs in Canada? My guess is not a lot.

4. It seems to me that the odds are long that companies within a regulated industry (CRTC) would even contemplate collusion. The risks of being caught would surely be high.

Your conjecture reminds me of what has been said of conspiracy theories: the absence of evidence is evidence that the conspiracy exists.

September 27, 2015 @ 9:57 AM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Bob Canuck

Fair enough, but this was a purely speculative slice of conjecture. I couldn't have been clearer about that.

It's just interesting that we're almost at the five year anniversary of TSN 1050 and they haven't poached a single member of the 590 roster. None of us would have predicted that.

As for your 3rd point, it definitely happens... The Team 1050 poached many, my pals Humble and Fred were poached by Standard from Corus, Jesse and Gene, Erin Davis, Rick Hodge... and let's see where Darren B. Lamb surfaces.

September 27, 2015 @ 10:11 AM

Too Much

Disagree entirely on the non-compete Toronto Mike. I'm not in the media business but certainly in my employment contracts, if I am the one who chooses to leave, the non-compete clause kicks in. I cannot work for another (competitor) company for X amount of time. Of course my employer could choose to waive that, but my employer is under no obligation to do so.

September 27, 2015 @ 10:23 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Too Much

True, many companies will have you sign a non-compete clause, but as a lawyer once told me, it's not enforceable in Ontario.

September 28, 2015 @ 8:42 AM

Chris

Interesting theory, didn't Rogers try to snag a few TSN employees, namely James Duthie, when they first got the NHL rights? I would think for the most part, if they're planing to poach on air talent it would be the big dogs. The guys with already huge profiles.

Damien Cox for example is someone who fans have very strong opinions about. Admittedly, those opinions are mostly negative but he's so hated that people will listen, watch or read his content just to reminded themselves of why they hate him. Bruce Arthur on the hand, brings brilliant content but maybe isn't quite the commodity as a Cox or Duthie.

October 2, 2015 @ 7:35 AM

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