Telecom conglomerate BCE Inc.‘s Bell Media division – one of the largest media operators in Canada – has shuttered its entire national network of TSN sports radio stations, including TSN 1040 (CKST) in Vancouver.
The move was announced at 9:30 am this morning after programming was abruptly shut off at 9 am. In a recorded message, Bell officials thanked its listeners but attributed the move to a “changing landscape” in Canadian broadcasting - while citing the high costs of producing sports programming as a key reason for shutting 1040.
Reports said Bell management told staff the station had been losing money for years - a revelation that surprised local sport journalists who noted TSN 1040 had among the highest listenership ratings among sports stations in Canada despite no longer holding the radio broadcast rights of the Vancouver Canucks.
Officials now indicate that Bell is planning a comedy format slated to begin Friday. Bell’s announcement message said that CKST will continue under a new format to be launched on that day but did not mention what the format will be.
Tuesday’s announcement comes after Bell initiated large-scale layoffs at its operations across the country beginning last week. The company currently owns TV network CTV, as well as radio network iHeartRadioCanada and streaming service Crave.
Late last week, Bell’s job cuts in BC centred around a number of technical staff at CTV Vancouver and weekend programming at CTV Vancouver Island.
The job cuts then hit higher-profile posts in Ontario, where TSN television cut loose flagship show hosts Dan O’Toole and Natasha Staniszewski, as well as veteran Ottawa broadcast journalist Brent Wallace.
Staff at TSN 1040 – including Canucks reporter Jeff Paterson, afternoon show host Blake Price and NHL insider Rick Dhaliwal – confirmed the shutdown and the layoff of employees (including himself) on Twitter this morning. Staff from other TSN radio stations in markets like Hamilton and Winnipeg also confirmed shutdowns in those cities.
In a statement posted Tuesday on Twitter, TSN 1040 program director Trevor Martins describes the shocking move as a “gut punch” that devastated the staff at the station, which included Vancouver stalwarts like Don Taylor, Bob Marjanovich and Matt Sekeres as well as rising stars Mike Halford and Jason Brough. (Bell’s abrupt announcement was made during the last hour of the Halford/Brough morning show Tuesday.)
“... Was working on some cool promos late last night and my last email to a couple of guys said ‘can’t wait to roll these out for everyone to hear,’” Martins wrote. “I loved and care about what I did, and that’s why this hurts so much for me personally.”
The Winnipeg TSN station will also convert to a comedy format, while the Hamilton station will be changed to carry business-centric Bloomberg Radio. Vancouver TSN 1040’s sister station 1410 – previously a second sports channel for the BC market – was converted to Bloomberg a few years ago.
Bell’s TSN stations in Toronto and Montreal appear to have been spared. Both stations’ Twitter accounts remain active, while TSN 1040’s feed has been terminated.
TSN 1040 was launched as TEAM 1040 in February 2001 and was the longest-running sports radio station in B.C. Bell’s predecessor CTVglobemedia purchased the station in 2007. The station was rebranded as TSN 1040 in 2014.
The station had been a major rights holder for local sports broadcasts and held the rights for the CFL’s BC Lions, MLS’s Whitecaps FC, NFL and Seattle Seahawks football, as well as MLB’s Seattle Mariners.
It was the rights holder of Canucks broadcasts for 11 years ending in 2017. The station lost the Canucks broadcasting rights – along with rights for MLB’s Toronto Blue Jays and the local single-A baseball team Vancouver Canadians – to rival Sportsnet 650 (CISL) owned by Rogers Communications.