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Canadian Sports Radio Struggles Cause Surge In Digital Content

Personalities are learning to adjust in a volatile time for Canadian sports talk radio.

Russ Heltman

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The pandemic has hit radio stations everywhere, and Canada is no different. In February, Bell Media announced they were closing three of their seven sports talk stations. They also don’t have a Toronto Blue Jays radio crew for the first time. 

It’s not just Bell Media either, lack of advertising revenue and an increase in the work from home population has the Canadian Association of Broadcasters projecting around 200 radio stations could close down in the country. All of this volatility has led Canadian sports personalities away from traditional media.

The Athletic talked with a few of them, including Ashley Docking and Andrew Paterson, about their ventures. 

Docking formerly co-hosted the morning show on 590 The Fan in Toronto but left the station in 2020. She now creates postgame TikTok videos following Raptors games. The project started in January and has boosted her reach on Twitter by one million impressions.

“It (media fragmentation) means you can diversify your offerings and can go after demographics that never felt included,” Docking said. “You can open the door for marketing dollars from companies that you just haven’t thought of yet.”

Paterson hosted an afternoon drive show in one of the shuttered TSN Radio markets. He launched the Winnipeg Sports Talk podcast earlier this month.

“I think the potential for this is massive. Our podcast numbers have been amazing. And we have all these TSN 1290 orphans in our chat room. People who used to listen to us on radio, and now they’ve shifted over here. It’s like we are a brand new community.”

Paterson and Docking are finding niche spots in the industry and capitalizing on them during a volatile time up north.

Sports Online

Mike Francesa Has ‘No Idea’ What He’ll Talk About on First Take

“They’ll tell me today or tomorrow, I guess. Maybe we’ll wing it, I don’t know. You know I have no problem winging it.”

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Mike Francesa

The much anticipated reunion between Mike Francesa and his former co-host Chris “Mad Dog” Russo is set to take place Wednesday on First Take, and the former WFAN host admitted he doesn’t know what topics will be bandied about.

“I am going to do an ESPN visit with Dog and Stephen A. tomorrow. Been planned for awhile. Really, we’ve been talking about this last year,” Francesa said on The Mike Francesa Podcast. “I don’t know what we’re gonna chat about yet. I have no idea. They’ll tell me today or tomorrow, I guess. Maybe we’ll wing it, I don’t know. You know I have no problem winging it.”

The topic came up after an email into the podcast asked Francesa if he stayed in contact with many of his former WFAN colleagues. He admitted he doesn’t chat with as many as he would like to as often as he would like, but there are still several he’ll converse with when topics arise.

“(John) Minko, obviously. I hear from certain guys at certain times, but everybody’s busy. You don’t keep in touch as much as you should, let’s put it that way…I hear from certain guys from time to time. (Marc) Malusis, (Sal) Licata, guys like that from time to time. Sid’s (Rosenberg) always texting me something or other. I do hear from some of them, and you try to keep in touch.”

Francesa’s reunion with Mad Dog will air on First Take on ESPN from 10:00 AM-12:00 PM Wednesday. Russo is a weekly contributor to the show on Wednesdays, with Stephen A. Smith putting a plan in motion to set February 1st as the reunion date during his recent book tour.

At the time of the revelation, Russo marveled at the idea of Francesa appearing on the show with him, pointing out “No other people. The three of us for two hours. Think about that. You talk about me being a fraud, Mike hated ESPN for 100 years!”

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Super Bowl LVII Expected To Set US Betting Records

“PlayUSA projects that legal sportsbooks will take in a record $1.1 billion in bets on Super Bowl LVII.”

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Even before sports betting was legal across the country, the Super Bowl would inspire even the most casual bettors to lay a little money down. This year, the game could help sportsbooks take in more money than ever before.

PlayUSA projects that legal sportsbooks will take in a record $1.1 billion in bets on Super Bowl LVII. That would make it the most bet on Super Bowl. It would also be the biggest handle any US sporting event has ever taken in.

The current record is held by last year’s Super Bowl. Bettors put just over $937 million down on the Rams and Bengals at legal books. The American Gaming Association projects that the total bet on the game is somewhere around $7.6 billion.

Nevada is still the king when it comes to legal sports gambling. That state is expected to take in the largest bets on the Eagles and Chiefs. Gamblers are expected to lay down $176.2 million in that state alone.

It is possible that projection is challenged. Both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the epicenter of Eagles fandom, have legalized sports gambling. Could that affect where the most money is laid down?

Last year, more than 9 million bettors participated in the Super Bowl at legal books. In total, it is estimated that 31 million people made a bet online.

Super Bowl LVII will take place in Arizona on February 12. The Philadelphia Eagles are currently a two-point favorite.

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Big Cat: Consistency Has Been Key to Rise of Pardon My Take

“Having that consistency always being there for people I think makes you part of their routine and makes it anything than I could ever have imagined.”

Ricky Keeler

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With most people having a podcast in this day and age, it is very difficult to stand out when there are so many options for listeners to choose from. One of the keys to finding success is being reliable and having your audience know that you will be around consistently. Dan “Big Cat” Katz, one of the hosts of Pardon My Take, views consistency as a major key to the success of the Barstool Sports show.

Katz was a guest on The Old Man and the Three podcast with J.J. Redick and Tommy Alter and he mentioned that Pardon My Take never takes a break and always wants content out there for their listeners.

“Just being consistent with what you put out there is something that seems very easy but gets lost by a lot of people. Every single day you are going to wake up, you are going to see me produce this, this, and this. Started as blogging, moved to podcasting. PFT and I — outside of the holidays — we don’t miss shows. There’s never a show where ‘Hey, we aren’t feeling it’. No, no, we do the shows. Even when we go on vacation, what can we bank that we can put out while we are on vacation?

“Having that consistency always being there for people I think makes you part of their routine and makes it anything than I could ever have imagined.”

While Katz understands that not every episode or every interview is going to be the greatest, he told the guys that the key is putting everything you got into every episode.

“There’s shows that aren’t the best, there are interviews that aren’t the best. It all ebbs and flows. You can’t be the funniest, most insightful podcast every single time. But, just being consistent and saying here’s what we got, we are going to put our effort into it, we are going to enjoy what we do and it has helped us get where we are today.

“You have to be a part of people’s lives. Knowing that people view you as a friend even though you don’t know them. I take that very seriously and never try to take advantage of the fact that people are investing their time in listening to me talk. Making sure you are putting in the effort and always showing up for them.” 

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