The Changing Media Landscape.


March 1st, 2021

It’s sobering to note that in 1994 – the year of the XV Commonwealth Games in Victoria, the BC Lions’ historic Grey Cup championship in a CFL that then included Baltimore and the Vancouver Canucks’ run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final against the New York Rangers – was pre-Internet. At least it was pre-Internet in the mainstream. It was only over the next two years – 1995 and 1996 – that sports franchises, leagues and other organizations in Canada and the United States began launching websites and communicating by email.

Needless to say, there was a huge difference between the pre-Internet, pre-digital and pre-social media context of the Canucks and Lions exploits in 1994 and their similar runs in 2011. The results were exactly the same – another Game 7 loss by the Canucks, this time against the Boston Bruins, and another Grey Cup title for the Lions, this time over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Yet the media landscape was entirely different. Thanks to the proliferation of online platforms and the mushroom-like growth of social media communities such as LinkedIn (launched in 2003), Facebook (2004), YouTube (2005), Twitter (2006) and Instagram (2010), there are so many more “pages”, images and videos devoted to the Canucks and Lions of 2011 than there were in 1994. Two different worlds, to say the least.

Those early years of digital media in the mid-1990s and social media in the 2000s — were only a harbinger of massive change to come in the media landscape; locally, provincially, nationally and globally. To put it one way, by opening the doors to many new players in sports reporting and broadcasting, the Internet era that started in the mid-1990s began a period of significant decentralization — and ultimately, fragmentation – of the media system. It is a period of fragmentation that continues to this day, for better or worse.

We saw that first hand here in British Columbia last month when Bell Media announced the closure of TSN 1040, an all-sports radio format that was launched as TEAM 1040 in 2001, rebranded as TSN 1040 in 2014 and that made it to within 90 days of what would have been its 20th Anniversary on May 7th, 2021. Sure, the significant economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on revenue generation have been felt by all forms of conventional media over the past year. But make no mistake, the pressure on the business model began a few years earlier…and that pressure stems from the growth and diversification of ways in which we consume not only sports information and entertainment, but all forms of media content. With rising expenses – for talent, rights fees and travel costs for live play-by-play on radio and television – and declining revenues, the decision was made to discontinue the all-sports radio format that had become synonymous with 1040 on the dial in Vancouver.

It was not only tough news for the listeners, advertisers and the professional sport franchises that were strongly engaged with all-sports radio in one way or another, it was a loss for the larger sports community, including the BC Sports Hall of Fame. TEAM 1040 and then TSN 1040 have served as official radio partners of the Sports Hall for most of the past two decades. It was — with full disclosure — also a difficult pill to swallow for yours truly. Sure I was disappointed as the Chair of the BC Sports Hall of Fame and as a sports guy. Yet it was a profoundly personal disappointment for me given that I had the privilege of serving as one of the co-founders of the radio station in the pre-launch period of 1999-2000 and then into the launch in 2001.

(For the past 13 years, my sport business radio show – The Sport Market – originated at TEAM 1040/TSN 1040. It has grown in recent years into a network of 13 affiliates that carried the show in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Kamloops, Kelowna and Victoria, above and beyond its Vancouver base. The show is continuing nationally and has a new home at BNN Bloomberg Radio 1410, part of the Bell Media cluster in Vancouver. Thanks to that support, we only missed one Saturday in Vancouver and didn’t miss a beat with our affiliates nationally.)

More than anything, I was among the tens of thousands of British Columbians who made 1040 a big part of my listening routine. I appreciated the support of the Sports Hall, of course, and I figured we were very fortunate to have not one but two all-sports stations to choose from in Vancouver. Instead, the torch for all-sports radio – first lit by the late Paul Carson, a BC Sports Hall of Famer in the media category, David Stadnyk and the rest of us who were part of Grand Slam Radio, Inc. back in the day, and then operated by CHUM Radio, CTV Globemedia and Bell Media — has now been passed on to Sportsnet 650, part of the Rogers broadcasting family.

As a sports guy and a community guy, I am rooting for Sportsnet 650 to not only survive, but to thrive. Like many of you, I’m hoping it will keep on providing all-sports radio with a local platform in Vancouver, along with affiliates throughout the province carrying Canucks games. I fully expect the BC Lions, Vancouver Whitecaps and other BC-based junior and professional sport franchises to come up with radio solutions that keep them front-and-centre in the minds of sports fans throughout the province. And I am certainly looking forward to new opportunities for the many personalities of 1040 to reconnect with sports fans and sports advocates like you and me in the weeks and months to come. Some of that has already started, of course, with the very talented Rob Fai – the former voice of the Vancouver Canadians of minor league baseball — on The Nation on Hubcast.

What happened with TSN 1040 last month is a contraction that is not good news for the all-sports radio genre. Similarly, what happened in Hamilton and Winnipeg, where TSN 1150 and TSN 1290 were also closed down the same day as TSN 1040 in Vancouver, is a reflection of the challenges facing sports media and broadcasting not only here in British Columbia, but across the country and around the world.

Yet it is also an opportunity. It is, of course, an opportunity for Sportsnet 650. It is an opportunity for other radio stations to consider increasing the sports in news-talk-sports or bringing the sports back to news-talk. It is an opportunity for television stations to develop associated platforms of sports content. It is an opportunity for startups such as BC-based Hubcast to become leaders in online streaming. It is an opportunity for provincial sport organizations to step up our own game on podcasts to fill in the gaps that may have been created by the contraction of sports radio in B.C.

The BC Sports Hall of Fame will adjust to the changing media landscape. All of us will. During this pandemic. And post-COVID. That doesn’t mean that we can’t be good partners for those remaining in sports radio, television, print and online. It doesn’t mean that we can’t come up with solutions of our own (as many of us have been since before the pandemic). And it certainly doesn’t mean that we should stop advocating for more and better sports coverage.

In the meantime, we honour the contributions of all those associated with TEAM 1040/TSN 1040 over the past 20 years…the on-air personalities…hosts, guest hosts, reporters, news anchors, producers, engineers, creative, sales and administration, along with the advertisers that also became part of the fabric of the station. We will do our part – as we did on behalf of all of those who loved Sports Page over the years – to do what we do at the BC Sports Hall of Fame…make sure that you are never forgotten for your contributions to sport and sport media and broadcast in Vancouver and B.C.

Tom Mayenknecht is the Chair of the BC Sports Hall of Fame. A principal at Emblematica Brand Builders in Vancouver and a nationally-recognized sport business commentator and host of The Sport Market on TSN Radio, he is a strong advocate for KidSport, Right To Play and other children’s charities. He is also a member of the Ringette Canada Hall of Fame as a builder and Chair of the Paul Carson Sports Broadcast & Media Awards.