See also my story on this in The Gazette.
Though it had seemed cool to the idea previously, Rogers says it is now willing to make a “reasonable offer” to Bell Media to purchase CKGM (TSN Radio 690) and keep it running in its English-language all-sports format.
The revelation came through Rogers’s final submission to the CRTC dated Wednesday. Most of it focused on Rogers’s position that Bell should not be allowed to acquire The Movie Network. But it also included a proposal to solve the problem of the Montreal English radio market and the fate of the money-losing all-sports station.
The full submission can be read here. The relevant paragraphs are these:
45. Finally, on the separate issue of the radio station CKGM-AM and Bell Media’s proposal to obtain an exception to the Commission’s common ownership policy, the Bell/Astral panel indicated during the hearing that it would consider shutting the station down if the Commission did not allow Bell Media to operate 4 radio stations in the Montreal market. We understand that Bell Media was concerned that if an exception to the common ownership policy was not granted, then radio listeners in Montreal would be denied access to sports radio in that city.
46. With that concern in mind, Rogers Media is informing the Commission that it would be prepared to make Bell a reasonable offer to acquire CKGM-AM and that we would be prepared to operate it as an English sports radio service. Given our sports properties (which include the Fan 590 in Toronto) and the fact that we now have a presence in the Montreal market with our recent acquisition of CJNT-DT, Rogers Media is confident that it has the infrastructure in place to operate the station profitably.
47. If there are concerns that there would be no buyers for CKGM-AM and that Montreal radio listeners would be deprived of a sports service, we believe that our commitment to make a reasonable offer for the station should allay them.
This would seem to solve both the problem of Bell owning too many stations in the market and of wanting to keep an all-sports station here. But there are some caveats. First of all, the station wouldn’t be called TSN 690 anymore. Bell has no intention of licensing the brand, and Rogers wouldn’t want it anyway. So it would probably be called Sportsnet 690 The Fan (which would be easily confused with Fan stations at 960 and 590).
More importantly, Bell has said that if it sold the station it would not sublicense radio broadcast rights to Canadiens games, instead moving them to CJAD. And CJAD is already the broadcaster for Alouettes and Impact games. So The Fan wouldn’t start off with much in the way of local broadcast rights.
Nevertheless, Rogers is obviously aware of this, and feels it can make the station profitable, thanks to its recent acquisition of CJNT, which gives Rogers its first broadcast property in the market. Sportsnet’s existing resources in Montreal, added to those that will work on a weekly sports show on CJNT, and the national resources of Sportsnet TV and radio, will also help.
It’s unclear if Rogers was one of the two players that Bell told the CRTC had made “informal” inquiries about CKGM. We do know that the other was Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy Media, which has licences for news-talk AM stations in English and French and is waiting for a decision from the CRTC on an application for a French-language AM sports station in the market. Tietolman has not hidden that he would be willing to acquire CJAD in particular, and possibly other stations put up for sale as well.
Rogers was asked about acquiring this station during last year’s Bell-Astral hearing. They weren’t terribly enthusiastic, but didn’t dismiss the idea either. Here’s what Susan Wheeler, Rogers’s VP of regulatory affairs, told the commission on Sept. 12:
Certainly, we would be interested in expanding our sports radio network across the country. So that’s certainly something of interest to us. Whether it’s a viable business model without the Canadiens rights I think is something that we would have to do the math on.
But I also, I guess, would question the limitations that Bell, you know, has said in previous testimony that they don’t have the rights to sub-license the Canadiens rights. So I’m wondering whether that’s something the Commission could look into further.
Bell has until May 21 to provide a final written reply to the commission on this and other issues brought up by interveners based on new information brought up at the hearing.
UPDATE (May 21): Bell says this is the first it hears of Rogers being interested in the station, and “we question the sincerity of this claim.” Bell also questions why Rogers is only bringing this up now, instead of in its original intervention or at the hearing.
The full paragraph about CKGM in Bell’s reply is here:
Rogers made a last minute claim that they would make a reasonable offer to purchase CKGM and operate it as a English-language sports service. We question the sincerity of this claim or its appropriateness at this stage in the process given the guidelines the Commission set for final Intervener comments. There is no actual evidence on the record that they would or could make such an offer or that they could viably operate CKGM as a sports service. The claim was raised for the first time in the final paragraphs of their final comments after not having even been hinted at one time in the whole course of the proceeding even though the exception to the Common Ownership Policy for CKGM has been a consistent part of our application since it was filed. Even since this surprise announcement, Rogers has not attempted to contact Bell Media about this possibility.
I think Rogers has a master plan for Montreal
This would be Great !
Any idea how profitable actually having the sports broadcast rights are on radio?
I think 690 would be fine with the rights. Seems to me that many fans just want a place to celebrate or “misery loves company” kind of thing on the radio.
Only thing I would see as major culture shock would be the interaction between the totally Toronto centric 590 and the Montreal station.
I wonder what a “reasonable” offer would be?
It’s a good question. Directly, not so much. TSN 690 still isn’t profitable despite getting Canadiens rights. And I read a while back that even RDS doesn’t make enough money from Canadiens games directly to cover their costs. But being the official broadcaster has marketing power if it turns you into the go-to source for information.
I don’t think Sportsnet is inherently more Toronto-centric than TSN. Because of the Blue Jays and its stake in MLSE, it certainly has more Toronto-based assets. But I suspect the interaction between the Sportsnet stations would be similar to that of the TSN stations (in other words, not much). We’d probably see more Sportsnet personalities (hello Stephen Brunt) on the station and lose the TSN personalities. But it would still be a Montreal sports station talking about the Canadiens 90% of the time and occasionally mentioning the Alouettes and Impact.
For a money-losing station, probably not much. But if the CRTC decides it must divest, then Bell doesn’t have a choice — its options will be to sell to the highest bidder or turn in the licence.
Maybe Rogers can help us get our baseball team back now.l
I wish. Too bad they already own the junior Canadian baseball team.
Now we seem to be getting somewhere..Bell would seem is getting an easy way out of the money-losing station that they have subliminally, indirectly and directly made kinda clear they’re not really interested in and Rogers really wants in to the Montreal market..and will want to go next towards Halifax most likely and more presence in Ottawa.
So with Rogers and TTP Media, two new local ownership voices in Montreal..Speaking of whch, where is TTP, when are are they launching, any news of studio location..any personnel so far or going to be announced. It seems disturbingly quiet. Are they having financing difficulties?
I wanted to comment on one of your recent blogs about that lady commissioner who asked Bell about selling another station besides TSN 690, which I saw the CRTC seeing how Bell is serious about keeping TSN 690. Frankly, I think no company should own more than two two stations, one in each band. I can remember those three separate entities owning two stations each.it seems that everything was just fine. Standard having CJAD and CJFM. There was CKGM/CHOM combo, and CFCF/CFQR….Nice and convenient.Three voices.
Why would they ask for a special exception to the rules to keep a station they’re “not really interested in”?
They’re around. The French AM station is still on schedule to launch by the November deadline. Beyond that I don’t have details yet but should get them soon.
They say no. Their financing is based mainly on a bank loan, and there’s no reason to believe the bank would change its mind so quickly.
That’s the rule (though with the caveat that English and French are treated as separate markets). Even then, in a dual market like Montreal there are only so many frequencies available.
I have been saying it’s just to keep that nice clear channel frequency…and of course to try and keep in check the furor over their wanting to change it to a French station…
If the French TTP station, have you heard any names being bandied about poached from other outlets..
For what purpose? The frequency (along with fellow clear channel 940) was dark for two years because nobody wanted it. And while there might be competition for it this time if it opens up, why would Bell keep a money-losing station on the air strictly to hold on to a frequency it has no use for? It won’t move CJAD to 690, so having 690 has no purpose except for TSN Radio.
No. Other than the station managers, no one has been hired yet as far as I’ve been told.
All of this brings up the basic and simple point: If Bell has a monopoly on English radio stations, it would be very hard for any new players to enter the marketplace. TTP appears to have gotten one of the last AM frequencies that will be assigned to english radio, and certainly the last decent one (the new station on 990 only got it because TSN moved… ).
Rogers would likely want to buy it as much for obtaining a property in the Montreal market as anything else, they could over time shift it to a news / talk format without any real issues, as the license isn’t specifically restrictive. Without the Canadians – and with no hope of getting them thanks to Bell ownership of CJAD), staying with sports would in the long run probably not be a profitable way to work.
I’m not sure if it’s a fact that there wouldn’t be other frequencies available for high-power stations on AM. A station might work at 650AM, for example. Or 890/900AM. Or around 1150, 1240, 1350, 1500, 1530 or 1610.
650 and 900 would probably be the best bets. 890 would require a massivley directional array beceause of WLS and WCBS. 1240 and 1340 are restricted to 1 kW throughout North America.
The lack of frequencies is key here. As Marc mentioned, only 2 on that list are even potentials, as the rest are restricted in some manner. 1530 has a number of stations on it in the US, and would likely suffer in the evening on the edges of any contour with signals from these stations. At minimum, it would be required to be fairly low power after sunset, limiting it’s value.
The number of “high power” frequencies that don’t come with big restrictions are very small, it’s why the clear channels are so desirable and rare.
We won’t even get into any restrictions or limitations that the CRTC might put regarding content, as they may have desired community uses for certain frequencies.
The CRTC doesn’t allocate frequencies. Industry Canada does that. And frequency allocations are not based on content. It’s up to the CRTC to approve a station with proposed technical parameters (which must be approved by Industry Canada). It doesn’t reserve unused frequencies for specific uses.
You are correct, on a purely technical level, Industry Canada is in charge of the frequencies. However, without approval by the CRTC, it’s a meaningless concept, nothing more than a nice contour map and smile. You can’t run a radio station on a given frequency without the approval of the CRTC, plain and simple. You also cannot get approval from the CRTC until you have a selected frequency and all the technical requirements that must be approved by Industry Canada.
The CRTC has fairly solidly set uses for certain frequencies (ones which can only have lower power as a result of contours of other stations in other markets), generally designating them for more local community / cultural community stations. The space below 92 FM has been treated differently as well in the past, as has AM clear channels.
I’m not aware of CRTC policies on frequency allocation. Can you point to one specifically? I know the FCC in the United States sets certain frequencies for certain allocations with some channels deemed “local”, but those are few, and it makes no distinction between commercial and non-commercial. And the regional channels can be used at high power. It lists 600 kHz as “regional” and TTP has a licence for a 50kW/10kW station on that frequency.
Back in 2001, Industry Canada did a report on possible available AM frequencies in Toronto. I see no reference there to reserving frequencies for non-commercial use.
Oh. I thought they were going to use the same parameters CFCF/CIQC did? That being 10/5kW.
You’re right. I got confused there.
“Back in 2001, Industry Canada did a report on possible available AM frequencies in Toronto. I see no reference there to reserving frequencies for non-commercial use.”
Industry Canada is not in the content business. They are in the purely technical of signal, contours, equipment, and the like. The CRTC is there for content and licensing of broadcast undertakings. Industry Canada can tell you what frequencies are available, subject to technical limitations, subject to agreements with the US, and so on. The CRTC decides what is on a given frequency.
Oh, and did anyone say “non-commercial”? I didn’t.
That’s my point.
Then I’m clearly misinterpreting what you mean by “local community / cultural community stations.” Unless you’re referring strictly to the class of a station’s signal?
“That’s my point.”
But the point is meaningless, because obtaining a license for a given frequency for broadcast also depends on the CRTC approving it. You can’t have one without the other.
Right. The CRTC approves the licence, Industry Canada coordinates frequency allocations. Going back to the original point, there’s no CRTC policy reserving certain frequencies for certain uses.
“Going back to the original point, there’s no CRTC policy reserving certain frequencies for certain uses.”
It would take way too long to explain it to you. It’s right in front of you and you aren’t seeing it. The CRTC generally will not approve commercial stations on frequencies that can’t be run at any reasonable power levels, and instead they tend to end up with smaller station, cultural stations, etc. Conversely, in a market like Montreal where all the FM channels are pretty much used up, you won’t see a cultural community station running on a full power FM slot. It’s not an ABSOLUTE rule, but it’s the way it works. As a result, certain frequencies end up being reserved for certain things, and are not made available for others.
If you are looking for a simple document to read, you won’t find it. You have to stand back a little bit and look at whats happened since the start of the FM band. Sheldon, would you like to weigh in here?
The only thing that really puzzles me about this Rogers “offer” is why it didn’t materialize at the first Bell-Astral hearings or even during their testimony this time around. Of course, that pales to the biggest question here and that’s namely what Rogers would call a “reasonable” offer. I suspect it would be quite low. It’s pretty easy to establish that 690 is/will be one kind of revenue generator with Canadiens games in the fold and another without them, fervor of their fan base aside.
If I’m a Montreal sports radio fan by the way, I would not get too all “love-in” about having Rogers in the market. “Hello Stephen Brunt”? Heck, hello Bob McCown afternoon drive show which is big ratings in the Toronto market across multiple age demographics (and really not too “Toronto-centric”. He brings on many US guests and covers a wide range of North American sports topics) and what happens to Mitch Melnick who seems to have a much smaller (although pretty loyal from what I read) base. In fact, with no Canadiens or any other local sports to simulcast, I’d have to think the “profitability” strategy would be bare bones expenses making the easiest cuts coming in on-air personalities (heck, they did that for a couple of recent years in Toronto and that’s with their “flagship”.) Pick on Bell but for those sports fans seeking continuity, like it or not, they’re still the best bet for those wanting things to stay the way they are (or closest to it.)
Rogers was asked at the first hearing, and seemed unsure. It wasn’t asked during the oral hearing about radio at all. The response seems to suggest that its thoughts have changed somewhat, and the addition of the Montreal TV station and its sports show will help it create enough synergies to make it work.
“Reasonable” would probably suggest market value. The CKGM licence probably has some value being a clear channel, and things like its leases and equipment would carry a purchase price. But otherwise it would probably be low since the station isn’t making money.
I would imagine not since it also airs in Calgary.
Melnick would likely either remain with the station and its new owner, or move over to CJAD a part of an expanded sports focus. If CKGM stays sports, I would imagine the former being more likely.
Clearly the best way to maintain the status quo is to maintain the status quo. But Bell wants to engage in a $3.38-billion acquisition, so the status quo will change no matter what if that acquisition is approved.
Somehow I don’t think it’s as easy as rebranding to Fan690 and everybody would be happy. TSN690 built its brand with 10+ years of hard work. They built relationships with personalities.
To do away with TSN Tv personalities and switch to the Fan590/Sportsnet talking heads (with the exception of Stephen Brunt) is a real game-changer seeing the majority of Montrealers watch TSN.
And who is to say the current TSN690 personalities would stick around?
Any change would mean an end to our little radio station as we know it.
The TSN 690 brand has only existed for two years.
I honestly don’t think it will be such a huge change. It’s not like James Duthie is hosting a show on TSN 690. It just means different invited guests.
There’s no guarantee of this, of course. But there’s no reason to think they’d leave, either, unless they got offers elsewhere.
Barring another rejection of the Bell/Astral deal (and Bell doing nothing in response), there’s really no way to stop change.
What’s changed here since Rogers was first asked about it is that Rogers Media now has a presence in the Montreal market (CJNT) to build off of. It makes it easier to take on a second station when you already have a first.
Please, please, please…can the Gazette please come up with another photo from TSN 690 to accompany stories about the station? Bird was the last guy in at the station. How difficult could it be to get a Gazette photographer over to the station to snap a few new shots. Melnick, Marinaro and others have been around for years at the station and we keep getting Bird’s photo.
I pay the Gazette out of my own pocket to keep using that photo just to bug the shit out of you, Sheldon. Glad to see it’s working.
What does bug me is that long-standing, hard-working TSN 690 staffers work their butts off in the shadows, often with little public recognition. It’s disturbing, and somewhat of a slap in the face, to Elliott Price and Shaun Starr that the TSN 690 TV ads for the morning show have it billed as “Price, Starr and Ted Bird”. Hmm, maybe you are paying the Gazette after all!
That could also be interpreted as TSN 690’s listeners being so familiar with Price and Starr that one name is sufficient to identify them ;)
Honestly, I don’t think so.
With all due respect, I would much rather hear Bob Mckenzie and Darren Dregger as radio talking heads calling in than John Shannon and Doug Maclean.
A Sportsnet690 without any sports properties is doomed to fail.
So what would you rather see? A Bell monopoly on English radio or the end of TSN 690?
Hmm if I were to choose between Bell/Astral monopoly on English Montreal radio or the end of TSN690, I would choose keeping TSN690 because frankly I don’t think their listeners care about the background ownership issues. In the end public radio is there to serve the people.
That’s your choice. But don’t come back in a few years and complain that there isn’t enough competition in radio.
Excellent comeback..Bell is too bloody big…they need to be held in check.. Don’t disappoint us Mr. Blais
Assuming the following…BellMedia buys Astral, and RogersMedia picks up CKGM-AM 690
1 – BellMedia moves all sports properties to CJAD-AM 800. Result, this will create a news hole for the upcoming TTP station on 600 AM to fill.
2 – RogersMedia uses CKGM-AM 690, and CJNT-DT 62 to create a synergy between the two stations to further establish itself in Montreal as an important media outlet. Melnick stays with CKGM-AM, and perhaps has a hand doing sports headlines on the new BT Montreal show, and is the regular host of the new sports show on CJNT-DT?
3 – We might finally start to get some baseball games on radio. Okay, Blue Jays games. But the team has to play other teams, such as the Red Sox, Yankees etc. You may not be a Blue Jays fan. But you might care a bit more about the other teams that they will be playing.
4 – In the end, the English Media in Montreal will have a much healthier market if we have more players in it.
1) BellMedia (CFCF-DT 12, CHOM-FM 97.7, CJFM-FM 95.9, CJAD-AM 800)
2) TTP Media (New 600 AM station)
3) Cogeco (CKBE-FM 92.5)
4) ShawMedia (CKMI-DT 15)
5) RogersMedia (CJNT-DT 62, CKGM-AM 690)
6) CBC (CBMT-DT 6, FM 88.5, and 93.5)
7) The Gazette
In the end, more options will probably lead to better stations, news, etc. Less options will only encourage a slow death.
Interesting speculation. But I highly doubt Mitch Melnick would get up at some ungodly hour of the morning just to read sports headlines on TV. There are plenty of other people at that station who could do that job, though.
And it should also be noted that in your scenario, Bell Media is the only player owning more than one profitable property.
more stuff to point out…CJAD would probably become like a CHMP, which as I see can’t be a bad thing..especially weekend afternoons and evenings. where it’s all repeats. like they have no idea what to program there.. I like Barry Morgan in the evenings, he would probably become an innocent victim but they would probably more him to the newsroom..
1 – The sports tend to be more at nights and weekends, which means there isn’t that much of a hole for TTP, except at the times when listenership isn’t that strong.
2 – It’s more likely that, unless absolutely restricted by the CRTC, that Rogers would turn the 690 station into a more direct competitor for TTP and CJAD. All sports is a pretty tough sale, especially when you don’t have any of the major franchises on your side.
3 – See #2 – it’s more likely that Rogers moves to a more profitable format that doesn’t involve piping in out of market baseball (which they may not even want to pay the rights to do anyway)
4 – More players, yes, but percentage wise, it’s almost all Bell, all the time.
Extra on 4: You have to consider all that Bell would actually hold, it’s not as simple as you paint it. Add in all the cable properties, the phones, the IP tv, the sat TV, the cell phone business, and so on, and they are a huge power, well beyond any other player in the market.
If you really want options, stop Bell from expanding, piece out the Astral stations all over Canada to other companies (preferably new players, non-incumbents). That will get you more competition, and more voices in the field.
Rogers owns the Blue Jays. So they’d be paying rights to themselves. Why wouldn’t they do this?
“So they’d be paying rights to themselves. Why wouldn’t they do this?”
Well, perhaps because they could sell those rights to Bell for Montreal… or perhaps that there just ain’t any money in doing it, taking a money losing station and piling on more costs (real or artificial) isn’t going to help anyone out.
I can’t imagine there being a ton of people in Montreal who are such huge Blue Jays fans that they cannot live without hearing the game on radio. I can’t imagine a ton of advertisers looking to spend money to be there either. Can you?
Since it would cost them zero net money to do it, that sounds kind of ridiculous. This is the entire reason behind vertical integration of media companies. Clearly they think there’s money in it.
“Since it would cost them zero net money to do it, that sounds kind of ridiculous.”
It’s never zero net. Even in a left pocket / right pocket sort of transaction, you have to consider what is potentially lost by not being able to sell the rights to others.
It is very likely that Rogers would run Bluejays on a Montreal station because they can, but not because it’s a particularly profitable business model.
But, but, but…. Bell said if allowed to expand and gobble up Astral there would be MORE choice and MORE competition.
…and is the regular host of the new sports show on CJNT-DT…
As far as I can remember, haven’t they already announced the host and reporter for the new Rogers sports show? George Athens and Alison Lozoff?
George Athans was hired as the producer. Lozoff will participate in the show, but her exact role hasn’t been made public yet.
This would be great news for English Sports Radio fans if Rogers is really sincere in adding CKGM to the Fan Radio Network