Bob Babinski resigns as City Montreal Executive Producer

Bob Babinski was hired at City Montreal a year and a half ago.

Bob Babinski was hired at City Montreal a year and a half ago.

16 months after being hired as the first man in charge of City TV’s new station in Montreal, Bob Babinski is leaving. He announced the news on Twitter on Saturday:

I spoke with him shortly after that post, and you can read his reasons in this story, which should appear in Monday’s Gazette.

The decision was announced to staff at the station on Friday, just after the broadcast of Breakfast Television. This was by design, Babinski told me, “to have the least impact on staff.”

Babinski said it was “a difficult day yesterday.”

While he said he’d been thinking about it for a while, as one does for decisions like his, he called his bosses to make it official earlier this week, the same week those bosses were busy with Rogers’s upfront presentations, giving advertisers a taste of what is to come for the fall season.

I talked with Babinski on Tuesday at the Montreal satellite event for the upfront, and he said nothing about wanting to leave. He explained that he didn’t want word to leak out before making the announcement to his staff. That announcement, which shocked everyone, was made in the presence of Jordan Schwartz, Rogers Media’s VP of in-house production and Babinski’s boss, who is visiting to help tweak the morning show a bit. (The first minor tweaks to the format should be apparent on Monday’s show.)

Schwartz tweeted this somewhat cryptic message just before midnight on Friday night:

And this more direct one on Saturday:

Schwartz told me later that he was sad to see Babinski go, but “in my head I always expected this day. I didn’t know if he’d want to stay for the day-to-day-to-day.”

There was the thought of whether there was something Rogers could do to make Babinski happier in his position, Schwartz said, but “I heard it in his voice that it was the right call.”

Schwartz said “I thought that he was a gentleman in the timing that he picked,” because it’s at the beginning of summer and gives them time to find someone new before the fall.

Manuel Fonseca, the managing producer of local programming at City Vancouver, takes over as interim executive producer in Montreal until they find a permanent replacement. Schwartz didn’t want to put a timeline on that, but said he’ll look for someone “as soon as possible.”

“I need a change”

So why is Babinski leaving? Simply put, “I need a change,” he said, emphasizing that the decision was entirely his and to the disappointment of his superiors.

Babinski said the first year and a half was about hiring new talent, setting up a TV station from scratch, and developing a new show. As we enter the second seasons of Montreal Connected and Breakfast Television, his job is becoming more administrative, doing things like coordinating content from the network. “While that’s extremely important, that stuff is less close to my heart,” he said.

So, in the middle of summer, he’s leaving and will go back to being a freelancer.

He won’t be entirely disconnected from Rogers, he said. Without giving too many details, he said he will be working with the company to produce programming related to hockey, as Rogers begins finding ways to recoup that $5.2-billion investment in NHL rights over 12 years. It will definitely be an off-air role, though. The former CBC sportscaster says his on-air days are behind him.

Babinski also told me he plans to go back to pursuing his “basic passion” of training others to be better broadcasters. He wants to expand the stuff he’s been doing there and apply it to other industries, helping corporate executives become better public speakers, for example. Again, not too many details because he doesn’t want to tip his hand before it’s all figured out.

He remains in his job until Friday, June 13. He’ll be spending his last week doing his job as usual, and preparing files for a transition to a new boss.

“Amazing”

Babinski was hired in January 2013 by Scott Moore, who at the time was Rogers’s president of broadcast. Before Babinski’s hiring, Moore told me he wanted someone local for the job. The two knew each other because they had worked together previously at CBC Sports. Babinski was a sportscaster in Montreal until 2000, when CBC tried its dreadful “Canada Now” experiment. He left, and went on to freelance, producing Hockey Day in Canada content for CBC, and teaching broadcasting at Concordia University. (I was a student of his a decade ago for a class.) Moore is now managing Sportsnet and the NHL deal for Rogers, so the two will be working together again, though perhaps not so directly.

But while Babinski had a lot of experience producing television, managing a television station as something new for him. He said at the time that he was excited about the idea of building something like this from scratch.

Looking back, he’s happy how it turned out. “I’m extremely proud of the programming that we were able to build,” he said, and of the opportunity to build a TV station from the ground up and convince people like Alexandre Despatie to join. “I’ve never seen someone improve like he has in an on-air capacity,” Babinski said of the world champion competitive diver turned broadcaster.

He had good things to say about all six on-air personalities and how much they’ve grown over the past year. He said they’d become friends, and it was sad to leave them.

Schwartz echoed that, saying he was impressed by how close the team had become, and that he didn’t think Babinski had realized until Friday how much of an impact he had on the people there, both in front of and behind the camera.

Disappointing ratings

Local TV ratings for the spring came out last month, and Babinski said on Tuesday that BT’s were disappointing and headed in the wrong direction, and he could only speculate as to why. He hinted that once the Montreal English market moves to an automated electronic meter system instead of a written diary-based system this fall, the numbers will be more accurate.

Schwartz was on the same page there as well. He said it’s a “blind comparison” because we can’t compare the ratings year-to-year. He also wasn’t too confident in the diary-based ratings system and is eager to see the Portable People Meter system introduced in the fall, which can give out overnight ratings and much more accurate numbers.

For Montreal Connected, the ratings were also disappointing, showing only 500 viewers in the latest BBM report. If that’s a true figure, it likely has more to do with lack of promotion and an unsexy 6:30pm Thursday timeslot (opposite the sports segment of CTV Montreal’s newscast) than anything else. And with NHL coming to City, there’s opportunity to fix that, by say having the show air Saturdays before the game. Decisions on changes haven’t been made yet.

Babinski is the second person out the door suddenly at City Montreal since it started airing local programming a year ago. In March, Rogers let go of Alyson Lozoff, the Sportsnet reporter in Montreal and co-host of weekly sports show Montreal Connected (and the only local on-air person at City Montreal whose hiring predates the station’s creation). Babinski and former co-host Wilder Weir told me they felt bad for Lozoff. The decision to let her go was made in Toronto. Her position remains unfilled.

Thanks from staff

In addition to Schwartz, Babinski’s announcement prompted tweets of support from BT and Montreal Connected personalities:

The memo

Here’s what Schwartz sent to in-house staff on Friday:

I’m writing to inform you that, Bob Babinski, Executive Producer & Local Content Manager for City Montreal has decided to leave Rogers to return to talent performance training and freelance producing.

From day one with the Montreal team, Bob has proven himself to be a passionate and driven team leader. He was instrumental in launching Breakfast Television and Montreal Connected, and played a key role in casting a solid and dynamic team of talent in front of the camera and behind the scenes. We are lucky to have had his expertise and experience during our start up phase.

Bob’s last day with us is Friday, June 13. Please join me in thanking Bob for his contributions to City Montreal, and in wishing him success with his future endeavors.

In the interim, Manuel Fonesca will oversee all in-house production at City Montreal in addition to Breakfast Television Vancouver. In the interim Jeffery Feldman and Genevieve Skelton will support Manuel by managing the day-to-day operations of Breakfast Television in Montreal. And, George Athans will continue to manage and oversee Montreal Connected.

Thank you in advance for your support during this transition. I know the spirit of this team will continue to drive the excellence of the shows.

Jordan Schwartz
Vice President, In-House Productions

18 thoughts on “Bob Babinski resigns as City Montreal Executive Producer

  1. Dilbert

    The suddeness of the decision tells you that they two sides don’t see eye to eye on something fundemental. My guess would be that Babinski wanted more staff, likely in the news area, to try to give the morning show more meat. City / Rogers doesn’t want to go down that road, and thus… the end. The Jordan Schwartz tweet sounds like something that came right after telling the staff that Babinski was on the way out the door (and likely has already put his stuff in a box and been lead out of the building, no matter what his tweet says).

    Good try to make BT go, but ratings wise a failure so far.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      The suddeness of the decision tells you that they two sides don’t see eye to eye on something fundemental.

      Both sides say that’s not the case.

      My guess would be that Babinski wanted more staff, likely in the news area, to try to give the morning show more meat.

      Everyone can always use more staff, but BT is pretty well stocked as it is. Babinski knows that City doesn’t have a news department and BT has positioned itself with that in mind.

      The Jordan Schwartz tweet sounds like something that came right after telling the staff that Babinski was on the way out the door (and likely has already put his stuff in a box and been lead out of the building, no matter what his tweet says).

      It was Babinski who made the announcement. And he’s still working there for another week, and will maintain a working relationship with Rogers. Unless both he and his boss are lying to me. Perhaps you could enlighten me about why they’d do that.

      Reply
      1. Dilbert

        “Perhaps you could enlighten me about why they’d do that.”

        Because they have agreed to play it that way.

        Want some fun? Call City next week and see if you can reach the guy in his office. My guess is no.

        “Everyone can always use more staff, but BT is pretty well stocked as it is. Babinski knows that City doesn’t have a news department and BT has positioned itself with that in mind.”

        It appears that the issue at hand is ratings. If things were going well and they saw eye to eye, the guy wouldn’t be suddenly resigning from the company. Either the job suddenly got really bad, or someone else has offered him a truly amazing position that he is unwilling to discuss.

        Just because both parties are telling you the same thing (aka, reading from the same termination agreement) doesn’t really make it true – just mutually acceptable. I would even go as far as to say when both parties say exactly the same thing, it’s not completely true.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          Want some fun? Call City next week and see if you can reach the guy in his office. My guess is no.

          As much as I’d like to humour an anonymous Internet troll, both Babinski and his boss say he’s working next week, and both of them called me on a Saturday afternoon for interviews about this story. Neither of those things would have happened if this was an unamicable departure.

          If things were going well and they saw eye to eye, the guy wouldn’t be suddenly resigning from the company. Either the job suddenly got really bad, or someone else has offered him a truly amazing position that he is unwilling to discuss.

          Sudden is a matter of perspective. He said he’s been thinking about it for a while. And he explained that the job wasn’t as appealing to him and that he was more excited by the stuff he will be doing on his own.

          You seriously think both sides are spinning an elaborate web of lies instead of just not returning my phone calls on a Saturday?

          Reply
          1. Steve W

            I was expecting George Athans to have left City Montreal by now(he said from beginning he wouldn’t stay long-term). What’s his future with City Montreal(still no change)? I find it very unfortunate, you are about the only person covering “critically” the local English media scene(regarding radio/television). Not your fault.

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              I was expecting George Athans to have left City Montreal by now(he said from beginning he wouldn’t stay long-term). What’s his future with City Montreal(still no change)?

              Athans remains in charge of Montreal Connected. I suspect that, like Babinski, he’ll remain there until he decides it’s no longer fun for him.

              Reply
              1. Steve W

                In George Athans case he has his own successful TV production company, that he continues to run. Not sure if Babinski has anything lined up right now. If Babinski just suddenly resigned without giving some advance notice to his bosses, my guess there’s more to it. Although it seems he’s leaving amicably.

                Since Alyson Lozoff was let go, has Rogers Sportsnet used any reporter in Montreal(with no full-time replacement yet)? Maybe used Kelly Greig occasionally or a freelancer? I don’t watch Rogers Sportsnet Connected that much.

              2. Fagstein Post author

                If Babinski just suddenly resigned without giving some advance notice to his bosses

                He gave them two weeks. I suppose that’s sudden-ish.

                Since Alyson Lozoff was let go, has Rogers Sportsnet used any reporter in Montreal(with no full-time replacement yet)?

                Sportsnet had Chris Johnson and Shawn McKenzie covering the Canadiens’ playoff run. But both are Toronto-based reporters.

          2. Dilbert

            “As much as I’d like to humour an anonymous Internet troll”

            As much as you would like to dismiss me and believe everything they told you…

            “You seriously think both sides are spinning an elaborate web of lies instead of just not returning my phone calls on a Saturday?”

            I don’t think it’s an “elaborate web of lies”, just two parties who have agreed to part ways, and rather than trash each other in public, they have agreed to how the story would play and they are both saying the same thing.

            The story just doesn’t add up. 1 week notice? No particular plan by either side going forward? Hmmm. That it happens to exactly coincide with changes to the show (starting Monday) just makes it even a little more interesting.

            I am just thinking there is way more to the story than they are telling, most likely by agreement by the two parties involved.

            Reply
      2. Steve W

        It turns out now, Bob Babinski left City Montreal to take another job at Rogers. He left this summer to become New Content Producer for Rogers NHL Coverage. Not sure why, Bob & Rogers keep this hidden from the public. Was this hidden from City Montreal people, when he left?

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          He left this summer to become New Content Producer for Rogers NHL Coverage. Not sure why, Bob & Rogers keep this hidden from the public.

          It wasn’t hidden at all. I wrote in the blog post that Babinski would be producing hockey content for Rogers.

          Reply
          1. Steve W

            OK. This is a bigger gig at Rogers he left for. Now I understand why he left. Didn’t get full picture before.

            Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          So there’s no way to know the numbers like we did for the winter time?

          I still don’t have complete numbers. If I get them, I can put together a post. But they’re not really much different from last time, except for the morning shows, where Global is up and City is down.

          Reply
  2. sco100

    That’s really too bad.
    I work in the same building and he had a wonderfully eclectic (and shared) iTunes library.

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Shakeup in management at City Montreal: Jeffrey Feldman out, Renato Zane in | Fagstein

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