When Rogers Sportsnet decided five years ago to start simulcasting The FAN 590's Prime Time Sports, it looked like a move to get some cheap programming on the air and do some Rogers cross-promotion at the same time. It even urged viewers to send text messages, using their Rogers cellphones.
It's still relatively cheap programming, mainly because it costs almost nothing to adapt a radio show for TV. But now, PTS is about to be used to drive ratings for Sportsnet's early news show. As of Labour Day, PTS will be extended to two hours in Ontario, meaning Sportsnet Connected's 6 p.m. show will be absorbed into the Bob McCown radio show.
Instead of an hour of Connected, viewers will get less than 30 minutes of it spread out over two hours of McCown and company.
`My job is to increase ratings," says Sportsnet programming head David Akande. ``Prime Time Sports is doing very well and this should bring more viewers to Connected."
In fact, PTS attracts an average of 29,300 viewers in Ontario alone, a pretty impressive audience for a 5 p.m. time slot. The fact that Connected was drawing fewer viewers in a better time period should be a concern, though. Apparently it was.
Akande insists this is not a cost-saving move and that no jobs will be eliminated. Connected will run in its existing format on Sportsnet's three other channels, although Akande is looking at the possibility of duplicating the Ontario experiment in the East.
This is not, Akande says, an admission that Connected is failing. It's more a sign of the changing times, he says.
``Connected is not going anywhere," he says, noting the show will exist across the country in its full format at 10 p.m.
But in the early evening, he says, viewers want something different.
``People don't wait for the sports news to come on at a specific time and then sit through a 30-minute show waiting for results," he says. ``We can deliver the news better in smaller doses."
While no jobs have been cut, jobs have been affected. Brad Fay will move from the old early Connected to the prime-time show alongside Martine Gaillard. Her former partner, Sean McCormick, will now do the early show outside Ontario.
This sounds a lot like what The Score is doing with its short hits. Maybe it is the way to go in this instant information age.
Either way, it will be interesting to see if a radio show on television can boost a news show's ratings. If it can, it says a lot about the drawing power of McCown.
JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT IT WAS SAFE TO TURN ON THE TV ...
If you can't think of anything to do on the Sunday evening of a long weekend, what could be better than watching the debut of The T.O. Show, Terrell Owen's new ``reality" show. I'm kidding, of course, since the prospect of inserting knitting needles into my eardrums holds more appeal than this piece of vanity fluff.
It will air Sunday at 7 p.m. on Citytv and, according to our good friends at Rogers who are airing this for its artistic value and not because it will promote their Buffalo Bills series, should be a blockbuster.
Here's what the press release says: ``The T.O. Show takes an introspective look at the life of Alabama native Terrell Owens, revealing his private side and providing new insight into his famously brash and brazen personality. Follow Terrell from the day he was released by the Dallas Cowboys until he reports for summer camp to his new team, the Buffalo Bills. His close friends (and publicists) Monique (Mo') Jackson and Kita Williams accompany Terrell on his road of discovery, playing an essential role in his quest for success and personal growth as confidants, business partners and his support system. Mo' and Kita are there to guide Terrell every step of the way--always keeping him on track, always keeping it real, and always letting him know when T.O. needs to step aside and let Terrell take over."
Why do I think that Terrell's ``road to discovery" is a road best less traveled?