CKAC Radio announced Friday morning on air that it would no longer be airing live Canadiens games as of the end of the season so that it will have more room in the schedule for Habs analysis shows.
“It was just so frustrating having to cut short our discussions so they could do the play-by-play,” said Michel Villeneuve, one of the station’s personalities. “We have so many people here with so many interesting expert opinions, we needed more time to express them.”
CKAC has been trying all sorts of measures to cram more Canadiens-related opinions into its schedule. It has virtually eliminated all non-hockey programming except during the summer, it has expanded to add live programming in the overnight hours, it has pushed some overflow onto sister station 98.5FM, and it’s even experimented with technology to get analysts to talk faster so they take less time.
But, management says, the biggest obstacle was staring them in the face: That three-hour block three times a week of boring game coverage.
“Our ratings clearly indicated that people would tune out when the game was on,” said a person familiar with the matter who didn’t want to be identified. “It may seem crazy, but in reality it’s a no-brainer.”
Those who long for actual game coverage over the radio need not fear: Habs games will still be on 98.5FM, though the format will change next season. Instead of saying who has the puck and what he’s doing with it, announcers will spend the game analyzing their actions and complaining about stupid moves or overpriced contracts as necessary.
Cogeco Diffusion, which owns both stations, feels this new format will attract more listeners and reinvigorate the business model for airing live sports programming on radio.
“People who want to listen to boring play-by-play can always tune into Pierre Houde on RDS,” Villeneuve said.