Tag Archives: CKGM

Amanda Stein leaves TSN 690 for New Jersey Devils

Amanda Stein

Amanda Stein, sports reporter at TSN Radio 690, used her famously impeccable handwriting to deliver news she’s been teasing for a bit: She’s leaving the station next month, moving to New Jersey and going to work for the Devils.

Her last day on air in Montreal will be Friday, Aug. 18.

Stein writes she was honoured to have the job at TSN. “It is now time, however, to move on, challenge myself in different ways…”

Stein is one of several young women to get their broadcasting start reporting for Montreal’s all-sports station, a list that includes Andie Bennett (now at CBC), Jessica Rusnak (now filling in for Bennett’s mat leave) and Robyn Flynn. If TSN is going to hire someone to replace Stein, Rusnak would be an obvious choice.

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It’s official: Canadiens regional games move to TSN

Two weeks after rumours began spreading, TSN and the Canadiens have confirmed that the Bell-owned broadcaster has picked up the team’s regional English-language television rights from Sportsnet as of the 2017-18 season.

The team has also renewed its English-language radio deal with TSN 690. According to the station, that deal is for five years.

The press releases about TSN’s deal are intentionally vague on details. They speak of “a slate” of games, so it’s unclear if it will be broadcasting all the games it’s entitled to or if, like in the days of the “TSN Habs” channel, it will only broadcast a selection. On one hand, every other Canadian team has all 82 games a year broadcast in English, and the Sportsnet/NHL deal caused TSN to invest far more in regional broadcast rights. On the other hand, Canadiens games are also broadcast on RDS, so not every game needs to be broadcast in English.

The press releases also don’t specify how long the TV deal is for. I’ve asked TSN for specifics and will update if I hear back.

Also unanswered so far is what channel the games will air on. TSN5 is used by the Ottawa Senators, so some sort of overflow channel will need to be used when both the Senators and Canadiens are playing, at the very least. (By my count, there are 15 regular-season games that the two teams play simultaneously — but not against each other — that aren’t part of the Sportsnet national windows.) That, and on-air hirings, will be answered closer to the start of the season.

The deal will give TSN TV rights to all Canadiens preseason games, and up to 50 of the team’s regular-season games, mostly those that don’t air Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday nights. Saturday night games, special games like outdoor games, and all playoff games stay with Sportsnet.

The deal will also mean far fewer nationally-broadcast Habs games, limited to only Sportsnet’s national broadcast windows. All TSN Habs games will be blacked out outside the Canadiens broadcast region.

UPDATE: Sportsnet has released its national schedule, which includes 32 Canadiens games. That’s 10 more than TVA Sports gets for some reason. Sportsnet’s picks include:

  • 4/4 games vs. Toronto
  • 3/4 games vs. Ottawa, including the “NHL 100 Classic” game on Dec. 16
  • 1/2 games vs. Winnipeg
  • 2/2 games vs. Edmonton
  • 0/2 games vs. Calgary
  • 1/2 games vs. Vancouver
  • 4/4 games vs. Boston
  • 2/2 games vs. Nashville
  • The first ever Canadiens game in Las Vegas
  • All playoff games

That leaves TSN with:

  • All preseason games
  • The Canadiens’ season opener
  • The Canadiens’ home opener
  • A game each against Ottawa, Winnipeg and Vancouver
  • Both games against Calgary
  • The Vegas Golden Knights’ visit to the Bell Centre

Bell Media radio rehires The Beat’s program director

Since 92.5 FM in Montreal became The Beat in 2011, the station has made much of its staff lineup by poaching personalities from direct competitor Virgin Radio. Cat Spencer, Vinny Barrucco and Nat Lauzon were hired directly from Virgin, and Nikki Balch and Rob Kemp also previously worked at 1717 René-Lévesque Blvd. (for Virgin and CHOM, respectively).

With The Beat’s ratings being solidly ahead of Virgin for what seems to be a sustainable period, it seemed it was only a matter of time before Bell Media hit back.

Martin Tremblay (via Facebook)

This week we learned that it has poached from the top, hiring Martin Tremblay to lead the Énergie, Rouge FM and Virgin Radio Montreal stations. Tremblay was hired as interim program director at The Beat a year ago. Before that, he spent six years in what is basically the same job he’s now going back to, leading the Montreal French music stations and Virgin at Astral and then Bell Media.

His CV also includes plenty of work for radio stations as part of his consulting company Oumf! Communications. They include:

  • Helping RNC Media create a Rythme FM affiliate in Gatineau, which lasted two and a half years until RNC decided to rebrand it as WOW FM.
  • Helping Attraction Radio turn CKRS-FM in Saguenay into another Rythme FM affiliate.
  • Helping RNC Media turn CHOA-FM in Abitibi into yet another Rythme FM affiliate.
  • Helping RNC transforming its struggling CKLX-FM into 91.9 Sports in Montreal, and later turning Capitale Rock 96.5 in Gatineau into a partial affiliate of it. While 91.9 Sports is going strong and RNC finally seems happy with that format, the Gatineau station has dropped sports programming and is now Pop 96.5.
  • Launching Groupe Puissance Média, an ad sales group that works with both RNC Media and Cogeco Media TV and radio outlets in the Outaouais region.
  • Work for Rogers’s Kiss 105.3 in Ottawa.

Tremblay starts his new job Aug. 7. Like the on-air personalities who made the jump, he’s bound by the terms of a non-compete clause in his contract that prevents him from working for Bell Media right away. “So enjoying my free time,” he tells me.

I asked Bell Media how this affects existing management at these stations. Mark Bergman is the current program director at VIrgin Radio. Will his role change?

“We have no comments to make at this time,” was the response from Bell Media communications director Simon Céré. I also asked Bergman and Martin Spalding, who heads local TV and radio in Quebec, for comment, and will update this if I hear back.

Chris Bury takes over PD role at CHOM

Chris Bury, program director of CJAD, TSN 690 and now CHOM 97.7

Meanwhile, the other three radio stations at Bell Media in Montreal will all come under the control of Chris Bury, currently the PD for CJAD and TSN 690.

“As CHOM’s Assistant Program Director and Music Director, Picard will work directly with Chris,” notes a memo to staff.

Bury’s expanded duties means that more will be delegated to CJAD/TSN 690 Assistant Program Director Mathew Wood, who takes on a larger role at TSN.

“Mathew will now handle day-to-day responsibilities at TSN 690 and Picard will continue to do that for CHOM,” Bury explains to me by email. “I’ll be involved in brainstorming, strategy, long-term planning, major decisions etc.”

I asked Bury if we should expect any changes at CHOM with this announcement. “It’s too early to get specific but, for me, the general goal is always the same: produce the most compelling content possible — as consistently as you can,” he responded. “That can mean introducing new segments or features or executing the ones we have a little more effectively.”

“I’ll add that… It’s an honour to be working on CHOM, in any way. The station carries a powerful legacy in Montreal. And the team at CHOM are as passionate about their station as anyone else. I’m excited to get going and to help however I can. And, although I do have some music programming experience, there will certainly be a learning curve. It’ll be a fun challenge.”

These management changes took effect immediately when they were announced to staff earlier this week. CHOM has been without a program director since the death of André Lallier in 2015.

Meanwhile, at The Beat, there are decisions to make. The station is led by general manager Luc Tremblay, who was also hired as head of digital strategy at Cogeco Media last June.

 

Bell activates Montreal’s first HD Radio station, simulcasts CJAD, TSN 690 on FM HD

TSN 690 being received via HD Radio signal on 107.3 FM.

As major Canadian broadcasters begin their experimentation with HD Radio transmitters, Bell Media has quietly launched a transmitter on its CITE-FM station in Montreal (Rouge FM 107.3), and is using it to simulcast CJAD 800 and TSN Radio 690.

A Bell Media spokesperson confirmed that this is a “soft launch” of the transmitter, with plans to publicize it more in the coming weeks, once testing is complete and everyone is back from the holidays. The plan is to keep the three channels going forward:

  • HD1: Rouge FM
  • HD2: CJAD 800
  • HD3: TSN 690

The Rouge FM station was chosen for this for technical reasons. I don’t know specifically what they are, but CITE-FM is a full-power station (currently at 42.9kW), and has plenty of space on both sides of the frequency to accommodate the extra channels without causing interference to adjacent-channel stations.

There are no plans “at this point” to add more HD channels.

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15 years of all-sports radio in Montreal

A wall of signatures at the former Team 990 office on Greene Ave. in Westmount.

A wall of signatures at the former Team 990 office on Greene Ave. in Westmount.

The anniversary almost went unnoticed. But 15 years ago this week, an all-sports radio station was created in Montreal. And over that decade and a half, its story has been one of stubborn perseverance, indifference by ownership, constant struggle with limited resources and a small but unusually loyal audience. It’s gone through some things no other station has, but it’s still there.

Rejected leftover of an acquisition

It began in 2000, when CHUM Ltd., owner of CKGM 990 AM (then Oldies 990) and CHOM 97.7 (formerly CKGM-FM), reached a deal with Standard Radio to swap assets in Montreal and Winnipeg. As a result of the deal, Standard Radio would own CKGM, CJAD, CHOM and CJFM (Mix 96, now Virgin Radio), all but two of the major commercial English-language stations — Q92 (CFQR-FM) and 940 News were owned by Metromedia, which was in the process of being sold to Corus Entertainment.

But the CRTC has a policy against a single owner controlling more than three stations in a market of this size. CKGM was the lowest-rated station and so it was left out of the transaction. CHUM considered selling it until it came up with a new idea: It would create a national network of all-sports AM radio stations, called The Team.

The station couldn’t have done worse than it already was. It went from being a top 40 station to adult contemporary to top 40 again, to oldies, to “talk radio with attitude” to being off the air after the 1998 ice storm to coming back as Oldies 990. There didn’t seem to be a format that worked.

A poor start

It would be nice to say that once it switched to all sports, CKGM found its footing and thrived. But that’s not even close to being true.

For one thing, it didn’t have any broadcasting rights deals for live sports. Competitor CJAD had the rights to the Canadiens and Alouettes. And the Montreal Expos couldn’t come to terms with either station on who should pay the production costs for its broadcasts.

The other problem was that the national network wasn’t just about having a common brand. Most of the programming was national, including the afternoon drive show, hosted in Toronto by Jim Van Horne and Stephen Brunt.

Pat Hickey, The Gazette, March 31, 2001:

I have reservations about the viability in Montreal of the new all-sports network that will be launched in May on what has been CKGM.

There are a couple of staples that make all-sports radio work. While there are all-sports networks in the United States with broadly based national talk and interview shows, the most successful stations, The Fan in New York, WTEM in Washington, WQAM in Miami, WEEI in Boston and WMVP in Chicago, offer live coverage of local teams and plenty of opportunity for local commentators and callers to share their opinions.

The local station has already struck out in the first regard. An attempt to wrap up a deal with the Expos collapsed because of a lingering debate over who should pay for the production costs for games. …

An Expos radio deal would have given the new station a strong presence in the community and established it as the place to go, not only for games, but baseball talk.

It was the station’s one chance to make a splash with CJAD already carrying the Canadiens and the Alouettes.

Even the morning show at launch was national, with Paul Romanuk, Brian Henderson and Mike Richards.

Sports television can work nationally because most of its content is live game broadcasts. Sports radio, especially if it doesn’t have those broadcasts, really has to be local.

Things fell into place late. Less than two weeks before launch, the station announced a deal to carry Expos broadcasts, and hired Elliott Price to do play-by-play. The first broadcast would be from San Francisco on Monday, May 7, 2001, the day of the launch of The Team 990. (The Expos lost, 6-2.)

It wasn’t until after it launched that the station finally signed a deal with its desired local morning team: Ted Blackman, the sports director at CJAD; and Mitch Melnick, who was at CIQC until it became an all-news station, and then took over an evening sports show on CJAD.

They started the next week, on May 14. But most of the rest of the schedule was still beamed in out of Toronto. And its content wasn’t exactly compelling.

Pat Hickey, May 12, 2001:

… in its quest to prove that it’s not just another Toronto radio station, The Team has taken to running stories that are irrelevant in any part of the country.

During the past week, I’ve learned more than I want to know about the Winnipeg Goldeyes minor-league baseball team, Russ Jackson’s views on Canadian QBs, Canadian stock-car racing, soccer and anything involving George Chuvalo.

A Team without a Team

CHUM pulled the plug on the concept for The Team a year later. Some stations, like CKGM Montreal, CFGO Ottawa and CKST Vancouver kept the Team brand and all-sports format, others adopted (or re-adopted) oldies or adult standards formats.

Within a couple of years, the station beefed up its local programming. Ted Blackman died in October 2002. Melnick eventually moved to afternoons, and new voices started appearing on the radio, including Tony Marinaro and Shaun Starr.

Pat Hickey, May 8, 2003:

The biggest positive change over the past two years has been the introduction of the afternoon show with Tony Marinaro and Joey Elias. It works because it’s local and because the hosts aren’t afraid to debate with each other, something that’s missing in the interaction between Melnick and Ron Francis. Elias’s occasional bawdy jokes seem inappropriate for the time slot and Marinaro fractures the English language, but the show is a welcome addition.

The station ended up getting comfortable in its niche of sports-talk, with analysis from experts, interviews with athletes and lots of talk from people who were certain they had a better idea how to coach or manage the Canadiens than the people actually in charge.

CHUM Ltd. was sold to CTVglobemedia in 2007, and CTV itself to BCE (Bell Canada) in 2010. It now had rich owners, but that doesn’t mean it made more money. And, as Bell’s only radio station in Montreal, it didn’t have the ability to share costs with sister stations in the same market. Its office at 1310 Greene Ave. in Westmount looked run-down.

As it celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2011, things were looking a lot better for the station. It finally acquired rights to Montreal Canadiens games (a deal most people in the industry attributed to the fact that Bell owned the station and had a significant working relationship with the team). That fall, Bell Media changed its brand from The Team 990 to TSN Radio 990, rebuilding a national all-sports radio network but this time with much more local programming, and the CRTC approved its request to move to 690 AM, a frequency vacated by the shutdown of Corus’s all-news station Info 690. The frequency change allowed the station to move to a clear channel, which gave it an unrestricted 50,000-watt signal day and night, instead of the highly directional one they had on 990.

A year later, though, it almost came to an end.

Abandoned by Bell

July 10, 2012: “Bell Media Files CRTC Application to Create RDS Radio 990 in Montreal

Bell Media was in the process of acquiring Astral Media, whose many assets included CJAD, CHOM and CJFM, which it had bought when it acquired Standard Radio in 2007. The CRTC’s common ownership rules meant Bell would be over the limit in several large markets across the country. In most of those cities, it said it would sell stations to bring it below that limit. But in Montreal, it had another idea: It would convert CKGM from an English all-sports station to a French one.

It was an idea that made a lot of sense from a management/ownership perspective. Montreal had just lost an all-sports radio station when CKAC switched to its all-traffic format the previous fall. Switching CKGM to French would give it a larger audience, and solve the ownership limit issue because different languages are considered different markets, and neither Bell nor Astral had a French-language AM station. Canadiens games would simply move back to CJAD, which Bell would also own.

It made so much sense to the higher-ups at Bell. But from a human perspective, it was a disastrous idea.

Fans of the station, that had been loyal for more than a decade, revolted. The CRTC was flooded with angry comments from station listeners, with 774 interventions on this application alone, completely separate from the much larger Bell-Astral deal. It prompted CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais to comment that he spent his summer vacation that year reading comments from the public. Three people appeared in person in front of the commission as individuals to make a case for saving the station in some way.

The station’s staff, meanwhile, were stuck in the middle. The application was from its owner, and they couldn’t denounce it on the air. They could only speak in general terms about appreciating their listeners, and quietly offer them moral support away from the microphone. This, even though they would all certainly lose their jobs if this deal went through.

Bell tried its best to deflect blame, and listener anger was directed both at it and at the CRTC. Various demands were made, for the CRTC to make an exception to its ownership policy, for the entire Bell-Astral deal to be killed, or for some other deus-ex-machina solution to the problem.

In the end, it didn’t matter. The CRTC rejected the Bell-Astral deal, judging that Bell’s application would not benefit the Canadian broadcasting system and that it would leave too much market power in the hands of one company. Because the CKGM language change application was dependent on approval of the larger deal, it became moot and so the commission denied it.

The hundreds of comments technically didn’t matter to the CRTC. But they did matter to Bell, and to the station’s staff.

Bell-Astral Take 2

A month later, Bell announced it was trying again. But this time, it pivoted on CKGM, and used those hundreds of comments to argue for an exception to the ownership policy, allowing it to own four of the five English-language commercial radio stations in Montreal.

With Bell and the station’s listeners now on the same side (in as much as a hostage-taker and hostage negotiator are on the same side), the station helped push for hundreds more comments supporting the request.

But it was far from a done deal. As opposition continued to mount against the Bell-Astral acquisition on the grounds that Bell would still have too much market power even after its proposed divestments, competitors said letting it control 75% of Montreal’s English commercial radio market was similarly anti-competitive.

Offers, whose seriousness could easily be questioned, were made to buy the station. One, during the original acquisition process, was from a group that has since become experts in not doing things. The other was from Rogers, but came so late in the game it was hard to take it seriously.

Through all this time, the staff and fans of the station waited nervously. They organized a show of support, but otherwise could do little more than sit and wait to see what would happen.

Uncertainty continued until June 27, 2013, when the CRTC ruled Bell could purchase Astral Media and keep TSN 690 as an exception to the common ownership policy. (The same policy that prevented CKGM from being sold with CHOM to Standard Radio in 2000.)

The station’s staff was so grateful for the support of its listeners it threw a special thank-you party. One by one the on-air personalities gave heartfelt speeches about how touched they were by the support of their listeners.

New normal

Almost three years later, TSN Radio 690 has new life. The Astral acquisition enlarged the family, and the station moved from dilapidated offices on Greene Ave. to newly renovated studios at René-Lévesque Blvd. and Papineau Ave. It now shares offices and resources, including a program director, with CJAD.

With the two under common ownership, Montreal Impact and Alouettes games moved to TSN 690, with CJAD being used as a backup in case of scheduling conflicts.

The station’s ownership hasn’t stopped making decisions that enrage listeners. Casualties of cuts include general manager Wayne Bews and on-air hosts Ted Bird, Elliott Price and Abe Hefter.

Its ratings are better than when it launched, but its share of the market is still in the single digits. Station-level financial information isn’t published, but before the Bell-Astral deal Bell said it had lost $5 million in five years. The acquisition of Canadiens games and cost-cutting from sharing resources probably helped, but we don’t know if it’s making money yet.

But despite having more than its fair share of turmoil, or maybe because of it, TSN 690 has burrowed a place in the heart of thousands of Montrealers.

They say radio is about building a relationship with your audience. For the past 15 years, this station has been proof of that.

It may be a station whose programming involves a lot of complaining about minor management decisions of a professional hockey team, but to both its listeners and its staff, it’s family.

 

TSN 690 personalities raise more than $2,000 for charity with surprisingly good standup comedy

Mitch Melnick performs a standup routine during One Mic Stand at Comedyworks Wednesday night.

Mitch Melnick performs a standup routine during One Mic Stand at Comedyworks Wednesday night.

I didn’t know what to expect paying $15* for a ticket to watch a standup show featuring TSN 690 radio personalities, but they took the exercise seriously enough to deliver a decent night of comedy to the sold-out Comedyworks venue on Bishop St.

One Mic Stand raised a bit more than $2,000 for the Erin Sports Association, which is … actually I don’t know what it is other than it being Irish and about sports. But supposedly it’ll be for a good cause.

They didn’t want anyone filming the event, and I was specifically asked to keep the potentially embarrassing jokes off social media (plus I didn’t have time to write any of them down), so if you didn’t make it I’m afraid you’re going to miss out. That’s probably for the best.

They did allow pictures, though.

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TSN 690’s Elliott Price, Abe Hefter laid off as part of Bell Media cuts in Montreal

The wave of job cuts sweeping Canada finally hit Montreal today, with the first big names on the list of those getting the axe: Elliott Price, co-host of the morning show on TSN Radio 690, and Abe Hefter, host of the weekend morning show.

I lay out the news in this story in the Montreal Gazette.

“Unfortunately, I can confirm that Elliott Price departed the company as part of the ongoing restructuring at Bell Media,” was the official comment from Bell Media spokesperson Olivier Racette.

Bell Media isn’t offering much comment on departures, and program director Chris Bury referred all comment to Racette.

Price didn’t respond to a request for comment and hasn’t said anything on Twitter, but he did change his Twitter biography:

price-bio

Price’s departure leaves the morning show in the hands of Shaun Starr and Rick Moffat, along with their contributors.

Price has been a fixture on Montreal radio since 1982, notably as a voice of the Montreal Expos.

Hefter, host of The Locker Room, is also gone, Mitch Melnick announced today on the air.

Other confirmed on-air cuts:

The fact that both Virgin and CHOM have ditched their overnight hosts suggests to me that they might try going announcerless overnight. We’ll see.

There are also several behind-the-scenes jobs at these stations that have been cut. Producers, marketing and promotions people and others.

At CTV Montreal, the cuts have been more modest. No anchors or reporters have lost their jobs yet, though they will be filling the vacant Quebec City reporter position internally instead of hiring someone new, according to union local president Susan Lea.

Five positions are gone, all in operations (i.e. off-air jobs), of which one was a voluntary departure with a severance package to protect the job of a younger employee, Lea said.

“We’re expecting a couple more” jobs to be cut, she said.

Lea said CTV Montreal was probably spared more severe cuts like we’ve seen elsewhere because of more severe cuts that happened a year ago. The station is down to about 100 people.

I haven’t heard about on-air cuts at RDS or other French-language properties in Montreal yet.

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It’s still not easy being a girl in the boys’ club of sports broadcasting

Women in sports broadcasting, from left: Amanda Stein (TSN 690), Andie Bennett (CBC), Jessica Rusnak (TSN 690), Kelly Greig (Sportsnet), Robyn Flynn (TSN 690)

Women in sports broadcasting, from left: Amanda Stein (TSN 690), Andie Bennett (CBC), Jessica Rusnak (TSN 690), Kelly Greig (Sportsnet), Robyn Flynn (TSN 690)

As we mark International Women’s Day on Sunday, we can choose to think of the injustices that still exist, of the women around the world who face injustice merely because of their gender in direct and indirect ways. We can choose to think of how far we’ve come as a society, ending some of those injustices and actively encouraging more women to come forward and become leaders and role models. Or better yet, we can do both.

In the media, we like to think of ourselves as more progressive than other industries. Look in most journalism classes and you’ll find more women than men. There are plenty of women working in print, radio, television and digital media, particularly in positions that expose them to the public.

But when we narrow that view to the sports department and dedicated sports media, a different picture appears, one where if there are women at all, they’re kept on the sidelines (literally).

On Thursday, as part of a week of activities at Vanier College, five women who work in sports broadcasting in Montreal were invited to talk about their experiences trying to find their place in this man’s world. It was eye-opening.

Here’s what I learned:

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TSN 690 names Dan Robertson as new Canadiens play-by-play announcer

Bell Media announced on Monday that it has selected its new play-by-play man for Canadiens games on TSN 690: Dan Robertson, who called QMJHL games for Eastlink.

Robertson replaces John Bartlett, who is leaving to be the play-by-play guy for regional games on Sportsnet.

Sergio Momesso stays on the broadcast team, doing analysis.

Robertson was one of a few people brought in to call preseason games (he did the Sept. 25 game against the Avalanche). Program Director Chris Bury tells The Suburban’s Mike Cohen that Robertson’s demo was impressive, and that the staff seemed to be unanimous in support of him.

Robertson is on Twitter, though his handle to changed from @EastlinkDanR to @DRTSN690.

UPDATE (Oct. 25): CTV Montreal did an interview with Robertson.

John Bartlett leaves TSN 690 to be regional voice of Habs on Sportsnet

John Bartlett, who has been the play-by-play voice of the Canadiens on TSN Radio 690 ever since the station won the rights to the team’s games in 2011, is leaving it to join Rogers as the play-by-play man on regional Canadiens games that will air on Rogers Sportsnet East and City Montreal.

TSN host Mitch Melnick confirmed Bartlett’s departure on Thursday. On Friday, Bartlett was interviewed on Melnick’s show (where a “gag order” prevented them from saying where he’s going, but it wasn’t difficult to put two and two together). Audio from that interview is posted here.

The decision to hire Bartlett, who was the voice of the Toronto Marlies AHL team before joining TSN 690 (more on his history here at YorkRegion.com), wasn’t unanimously praised at first, with all the talent at the station who would have loved to take a crack at the dream job and the bad optics of not only bringing in an import, but one who worked for the Toronto Maple Leafs’ farm team. But as Melnick explained on his show, Bartlett quickly earned the respect of staff and listeners who are now sad to see him go.

I met Bartlett only once. It was at a Canadian Women’s Hockey League game in Montreal. Just his presence there said a lot about how much this guy cares about hockey.

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Radio ratings: Best book ever for TSN Radio 690

We're number one! ... Well, number five, but who's counting?

We’re number one! … Well, number five, but who’s counting?

The ratings for March, April and May in Montreal were released by BBM Canada last week. And in general they show no real difference from the previous report that came out in March. On the English side, CJAD remains the most popular station by share of listening hours, followed by The Beat, Virgin, CHOM, CBC Radio One, TSN Radio 690 and everyone else.

But while TSN 690 remains in last place among the five commercial stations, its ratings are the best it’s ever seen with 364,000 listeners a week, a 5.2% market share overall (up from 3.6% in the spring) and a 7.7% market share among adults 25-54, up 36% from last winter.

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TSN to expand to five channels, install cameras at TSN Radio stations

TSN Radio 690's new studio on René-Lévesque Blvd. You may start seeing it on TV soon as TSN looks for more daytime programming for its additional channels.

TSN Radio 690’s new studio on René-Lévesque Blvd. You may start seeing it on TV soon as TSN looks for more daytime programming for its additional channels.

Even though it won’t have a lot of NHL hockey games to fill them with, TSN is planning to expand from two to five channels this fall to allow it to broadcast more sports programming.

Along with that move comes a desire for more programming, and in addition to more live sports and different time zones for SportsCentre, they’re going to add “local hockey programming generated by production expansion at TSN Radio stations in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg and Edmonton.”

TSN tells me that this will mean installing television cameras at those TSN Radio stations. “We will announce specific programming details later this summer, but we are looking to build on the success of our TSN Radio programming and integrate new content on TSN channels,” said Greg McIsaac of their PR department.

Currently, TSN2 airs televised versions of the Mike Richards morning show and Dave Naylor afternoon show from TSN Radio 1050 in Toronto (at least when it doesn’t have live events that are more important). After the expansion to five channels, we could see similar things done to Montreal’s TSN shows like Mitch Melnick’s afternoon drive show, or the morning show with Shaun Starr, Elliott Price and Rick Moffat. The details won’t be announced until later, so we don’t know if this will be a daily thing, or weekly, or maybe just Habs pregame shows. Lots of possibilities are in the air. But what we do know is that TSN Radio 690 personalities should expect to see their faces on TV more often.

TSN’s need for additional channels became clear during the first round of the NHL playoffs, when it had a Raptors game and two NHL playoff games airing simultaneously. The Raptors were the priority, pushing the Boston-Detroit game to TSN2. The New York Rangers-Philadelphia game, which was originally scheduled to air on TSN2, had no place to go, so TSN cut a quick deal with Rogers to air the game on Sportsnet 360. Once TSN expands to more channels, this won’t be necessary.

Of course, TSN loses NHL playoff games starting next season, but as its president tells the Globe and Mail, there are hundreds of hours of programming in other sports that it can’t air live because it doesn’t have the space. Sports like tennis are particularly hard, because in early rounds you might have one or two feeds showing big stars, then one or two others showing Canadians. Channels quickly fill up.

The big question will be about carriage. Most major distributors have added TSN2, but some still don’t have it. And putting three more channels, all in HD, takes up a lot of bandwidth that is in short supply these days. We can assume that Bell will be quick to add the extra channels, and maybe Shaw as well, but for cable providers like Rogers, Cogeco and Videotron, the decision might be harder to take.

The addition of more channels with more content will also likely coincide with demands from TSN for higher wholesale fees from distributors. According to CRTC data released last week, TSN gets an average of $2.57 a month from its 9.07 million subscribers (this includes TSN and TSN2), which is a very high fee for a specialty channel. In 2009, it was $0.87 per subscriber per month on average. As its deals with distributors come up for renewal, it’s demanding much higher subscription fees. And distributors will pass those costs along, either by raising their rates overall or by pushing TSN into premium packages that will start costing a lot more.

In other words, TSN is getting better, but we’re still the ones who are going to have to pay for it.

TSN 690 picks up rights to Alouettes games for 3-4 years

To the surprise of absolutely no one, TSN 690 announced Friday morning that it has acquired the rights to Alouettes games from now sister station CJAD, completing the trifecta of Montreal major sports rights.

The deal is for three years, starting this one, with an option for a fourth, Bell Media tells me. It includes the two preseason games, all regular season games and all postseason games, including the Grey Cup. TSN said it would also air special events like the CFL draft, training camp and Canadian Football Hall of Fame inductions.

Rick Moffat and Dave Mudge will be the broadcast team, as they were at CJAD.

The station also announced that it is moving The Als This Week to Mondays at 7pm, and that Alouettes general manager Jim Popp will be a guest every week on the show.

The Alouettes’ first game is June 14.

The regular-season schedules of the Alouettes and Impact this season includes three conflicts where both teams are playing simultaneously: July 19, Aug. 16 and Oct. 18, all Saturdays. In those cases, expect Impact games to move to CJAD.

We’ll see what happens when the Alouettes conflict with fall Canadiens games. TSN has said it plans to broadcast all games from both teams.

Financial terms of the deal were not discussed on air and are usually not disclosed.

As silly as it is for TSN 690 to wrestle rights away from a station it now shares not only an office but a program director with, this deal more importantly represents a renewal of the broadcasting rights, which expired after last season.  It ensures that Alouettes games will continue to be carried on English radio through the end of 2016, and likely 2017 as well.

Impact games move back to TSN 690

In news that will surprise precisely nobody, TSN and the Impact announced today that TSN Radio 690 will pick up English-language radio broadcast rights to Montreal Impact games for the next three years.

For the past two seasons, Impact games have aired on CJAD 800, which picked up the rights to home games to help fill the gap left by the loss of the Canadiens to TSN 690 in 2011. Now that CJAD and TSN are sister stations with the Bell purchase of Astral, the two don’t need to fight over such rights, and sports is being consolidated on TSN.

The new deal calls for all regular season and playoff games to air on the radio, which marks the first time that we have all away games on radio.

Rick Moffat, the former CJAD sports guy who has since moved to TSN, and Brian Wilde, CTV Montreal reporter who sidelines as an Impact fan, will “share play-by-play duties”, and former Impact player Grant Needham will do colour commentary during the broadcasts. Program director Chris Bury confirms to me that the broadcast team will travel with the Impact.

The press release says that TSN and CJAD will share broadcasts of the games, which likely means that when an Impact game conflicts with a Canadiens or Alouettes game, it’ll move to CJAD. The Alouettes haven’t released their 2014 schedule yet, and the Impact schedule is incomplete, but we already know that the first two Impact games of the season, on March 8 and 15, will conflict with Canadiens games, so expect those two Impact games to be on CJAD.

Alouettes broadcast rights in English still belong to CJAD, but it’s a formality at this point that most of the games will move back as well to TSN, with only those that conflict with Canadiens games airing on CJAD.

In the unlikely event of a three-way schedule conflict, there’s always CHOM, which has been used during CJAD’s conflicts in the past.

The announcement is good news for Impact fans, who will now be able to access all the games on the radio instead of just the home games and a few marquee away ones. The fact that Bell is sending a broadcast team to those away games — no small expense — is also a strong indication that it believes it’s worth investing in this franchise.

This news has already annoyed some francophone Impact fans because the team does not have a French-language radio partner. CKAC Sports used to air some Impact games before it became an all-traffic station. News-talk station 98.5 FM, which carries Canadiens and Alouettes games, doesn’t seem to be as interested in Impact broadcasts.

Fall radio ratings: Any way you slice it, Virgin beats The Beat

Virgin Radio ad on its website thanking listeners

Virgin Radio ad on its website thanking listeners

Fall ratings for markets including Montreal came out on Thursday, and like they usually do, they showed nothing earth-shattering. Everything is pretty well where you expect them to be.

For the past few quarters, after the ratings report comes out, both Virgin Radio and The Beat make a big deal about how they did better than the other. This time, it was just Virgin crowing. And with good reason: by almost every metric, they have more listeners than their competitor.

Of course, with only five commercial stations, the English-language market in Montreal has plenty to go around. In any other large market, a 15% share would be enough to send champagne corks popping. But here, that’s fourth place out of five.

The numbers

Ratings period is always a penis-measuring contest, so let’s go ahead and whip ’em out.

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