Vintage Toronto Ads: Prime Time for Sports Fans

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Vintage Toronto Ads: Prime Time for Sports Fans

A switch from phone-in to phone-out created one of the cornerstones of The Fan.

Source: Maclean's, November 27, 1989.

When management at Telemedia decided to switch CJCL’s phone-in sports commentary show to a magazine format in the fall of 1989, they looked to Canada’s public broadcaster for inspiration. Prime Time Sports was to be the athletic equivalent of As it Happens, a promise that Star sports media columnist Ken McKee felt placed “a large weight on the shoulders of those involved. As it Happens is only the best show of its kind in the country—and had been for eons” (though Don Cherry might disagree).

According to Telemedia’s Allan Davis, call-in sports shows drew too few callers, many of whom made it on air repeatedly. “How many times do you want to hear Montreal Jack from Oakville,” Davis told the Star. “Maybe Toronto is a city of elitists, I don’t know, but I do know there’s a ‘Don’t bore me’ message in response to talk radio.” CJCL’s call-in show, Talking of Sports, was also plagued by scheduling irregularities due to the length of Blue Jays or Maple Leafs games aired on the station. Host Bob McCown was retained to preside over the phone-outs for Prime Time Sports, which he still hosts nearly a quarter-of-a-century later.

Though CJCL had sports in its genes—the station was founded as CKFH by pioneer hockey broadcaster Foster Hewitt in 1951—its non-sports programming during the 1980s and early 1990s fared poorly in the ratings. Attempts to build the rest of the day around talk (initially with former CFRB/future Metro Morning host Andy Barrie as the main draw), adult contemporary, big band, and oldies formats floundered. When the ratings improved after testing a daily seven-hour block of sports programming, CJCL switched to all-sports as The Fan 1430 in September 1992. The station moved to its current home at 590 AM after a frequency swap in early 1995.

Additional material from the September 29, 1989 edition of the Toronto Star.

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