When 640 Toronto decided to take on the big guy in sports talk radio almost three years ago, few gave former Leaf executive-agent-bon vivant Bill Watters much of a chance. After all, The FAN 590's Bob McCown was the king of afternoon sports talk and 640 was pretty much at the bottom of the radio ladder here.
But Watters has survived and indeed flourished, as the spring radio ratings show. His share of adult male listeners is up from 2.5 per cent to 3.3 since last spring, while McCown's audience share has dropped from 8.7 to 8.3.
``The Watters show continues to narrow the gap with Bob," says 640 program director Gord Harris, noting that the show's reach has jumped 54 per cent since the show's first ratings report.
In fact, Watters is now tied with the Mike Stafford show for highest audience share at 640.
That's all well and good and there's no doubt the show has raised the bar with some fascinating guests, though it's still a little too hockey-oriented for many tastes. On Wednesday, for example, the show included an interview with Sean Hill, the first NHL player to test positive for steroids. That was time to a report linking NHL players to the performance-enhancing drug.
But Watters has a big hill to climb. His show's total reach of 79,625 listeners is less than half of McCown's 173,610.
While 640 gained some ground in drive time, it lost big time at noon. Its Leafs Lunch show dropped from a 5.5 share to a 2.9 while The FAN/Rogers Sportsnet simulcast of HockeyCentral at Noon jumped from 4.7 to 7.3.
Those numbers were complicated by the fact that this year's ratings period (March and April) didn't quite mesh with last year's (April 15 to June 15.) Since the Leafs were out of it by March and long gone by April, a decrease in listeners was expected at 640. But still, that's a pretty big drop.
Overall, the FAN fared well in the ratings. The station's overall share held at 5.2 while most shows pretty much held their own. The morning show dropped from 5.7 to 4.9 while the mid-morning Bullpen rose from 5.0 to 5.5 and the afternoon Game Plan moved up from 5.0 to 5.4.
``Overall, I'm pleased," said FAN vice-president and general manager Nelson Millman. ``We saw (cumulative audience) increases everywhere and when you see share increases or decreases of half a point, it doesn't mean all that much."
RADIO DAZE: The opposition got an unexpected plug on the FAN's Prime Time Sports this week when Denver Post reporter Adrian Dater credited ``Darren Dreger of TSN" for his work on the Patrick Roy story. What made it awkward for fill-in host Rob Faulds and co-host Jim Kelley was that the show was simulcast on Rogers Sportsnet. It didn't help that Dreger is a former Sportsnet guy who hosts Leafs Lunch on 640. ... McCown's on vacation, but that hasn't stopped him from keeping the cold war with Cito Gaston alive. Check out his blog at http://www.fadoo.ca/blog/display/the-race-card-replayed-182