By David Shoalts
July 4th, 2015
One of the longest-running and most successful acts in Canadian broadcasting is looking at a curtain call.
Bob McCown, the ringmaster of the afternoon drive-time radio showPrime Time Sports since it hit Toronto’s airwaves in 1989, says he has no plans to continue with the show when his contract with Rogers Communications Inc. expires in early 2018. He will be 65 then but does not expect to retire, just turn to something different, such as the Stoney Ridge winery he bought 18 months ago, or television projects with his company, Fadoo Productions Inc.
The one constant in Prime Time’s various incarnations over the years is McCown. He’s had a remarkable run in a business known mostly for turnover, but he says it feels like a long time and “that leads me to where I am now, which is a little bit bored.”
Listeners across Canada well know the McCown persona: the cranky, sarcastic radio host now seen on television screens in headphones and sunglasses (he doesn’t like the studio lights). What they probably don’t know is that the persona is a creation – a character McCown plays for fun and profit. It has made him the highest-paid broadcaster in Canada, according to some sources, with an annual salary believed to be more than $1-million.
“He’s created this character that’s embedded in listeners’ heads,” said sometime co-host Stephen Brunt. “It’s Bob of the imagination.”
In the process, McCown has helped stoke a very real phenomenon: the exponential growth in the sports-talk radio business in Canada. When Toronto’s CJCL went all sports as The Fan 1430 in 1992, the first voice on the air was McCown’s. Over the next decade, all-sports radio stations popped up in most major Canadian cities – Toronto and Vancouver each have two. (Full disclosure: I have been on McCown’s show as both a paid guest and co-host many times over the past 15 years or so.)
These days, listeners might think their favourite curmudgeon is a little extra grumpy. Taking shots at Rogers bigwigs has been a McCown staple, but it seems to happen more frequently now as the 12-year, $5.2-billion contract Rogers signed with the NHL to be its Canadian national broadcaster has caught Prime Time in its wake.
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