Why a Canadian Football League team joined a trend and took over its own radio rights

RJ Broadhead was two hours and seven tales from kickoff, wanting all the way down to the turf at Tim Hortons Field from the house team’s radio play-by-play sales space. He had all of the necessities close by, from his telephone to his headset to his manufacturing team and, critically, his binoculars.

He mentioned he wants them most simply earlier than the ball is snapped and then when the sort out is made, simply so he can see if the ball squirts out. He seemed out once more: “I’ve heard it from different play-by-play guys, that that is it actually excessive up.”

Calling video games for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats has been an adjustment for Broadhead, who had beforehand spent 21 years at Sportsnet, however your complete room represented change. It was formally designated “Radio Broadcast Booth 1” by the signal on the door, however no person inside was there to name a recreation for radio.

The Canadian Football League franchise has joined an rising trend {of professional} North American groups shifting their terrestrial radio rights on-line. Fans who needed to listen to Hamilton and the Montreal Alouettes on Thursday evening had been listening to the Ticats Audio Network.

Their broadcasts nonetheless seem on conventional radio, however the Ticats maintain the rights, management the manufacturing and stream the sport solely via their own platforms. It is a part of a community of content material that can be working in podcast and video, including as much as about 15 hours of listening a week.

The National Hockey League’s San Jose Sharks pulled their radio rights to launch an audio community final yr. In Los Angeles, the Kings had additionally moved to a digital audio broadcast. Hamilton is the primary CFL team to maneuver its rights to an in-house digital operation. (TSN holds the league’s tv broadcast rights.)

“I imagine Hamilton is an under-served sports activities market,” mentioned Louis Butko, a broadcaster working for the Ticats. “If we may give followers one thing — a purpose to speak about this team, and preserve giving them causes to speak about this team — I believe it would translate. They’ll wish to be right here.”

Hamilton is sandwiched between two NHL markets, in Toronto and Buffalo, and the transfer to digital can be a response to the shifting media panorama. The team’s video games had been broadcast on TSN 1150 earlier than the pandemic, however they had been left with out a house when Bell Media abruptly switched the station format to all-business content material final yr. (It struggled to construct an viewers in Hamilton, with the Globe and Mail reporting it reached a mean of solely 23,600 listeners a week.)

The station shuttered the all-sports format in February 2021.

The Ticats Audio Network carried its first recreation six months later.

“We’ve been fairly vocal about this notion of us producing our own video games,” mentioned Ticats president Matt Afinec. “We’re dedicated to this over the long run.”

Hamilton employed Dave Cadeau, a former program director at Sportsnet 590 The Fan, in Toronto, to assist construct the operation. Peter McKeown, one other former government at Rogers Sports & Media, has additionally joined the team. On high of the play-by-play, the Ticats host a dwell one-hour pregame present, in addition to a present at halftime, and a 30-minute postgame present.

There is extra content material all through the week, starting from life-style podcasts that includes alumni (security Rob Hitchcock and slotback Mike Morreale) to granular soccer speak (“Ticats Today,” with Butko). Afinec mentioned the team has a dozen contract employees in its audio programming.

Neither Afinec nor Cadeau would supply knowledge on the dimensions of the viewers the team has interested in its content material. Both mentioned the numbers have elevated for the reason that venture was launched final yr. (Many of the newest movies posted to the team’s official YouTube web page solely have a few dozen views, though that is just one of a number of digital platforms the place the content material is distributed.)

“We’re excited in regards to the numbers that we’re seeing to date, and the unfold and the attain that we’re getting with our content material,” mentioned Cadeau. “But there is definitely a number of room to develop there and purchase new audiences.”

On Thursday evening, well-known Hamilton tv persona Clint (Bubba) O’Neil was positioned in a sales space close to a club-level pub contained in the stadium. At halftime, he interviewed retired Ticats lineman Marwan Hage for the published.

In between performs, the audio feed directed any followers listening contained in the stadium to Ticats-related merchandise and initiatives, whereas company companions had been woven into the present. (A landing drive by the house team was “pushed” by a rental automobile firm.)

The team nonetheless licenses its video games to look on native radio, together with AM900 CHML, a legacy model in Hamilton. The Ticats additionally seem on terrestrial radio in Kitchener and Guelph, in addition to Mississauga, which is a suburb often extra carefully related to Toronto.

Veteran Canadian broadcast government John Shannon suggested the Ticats once they had been exploring the preliminary idea. In addition to having expertise in radio, he was additionally vice chairman of programming with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment when the corporate launched two specialty channels in 2001, with Leafs TV and Raptors NBA TV.

“From a know-how standpoint, you do not want every thing that Leafs TV had, and the tens of millions of {dollars} we invested in infrastructure anymore,” mentioned Shannon. “Technology has moved in 20 years.”

According to Cadeau, different CFL groups have contacted the Ticats to study extra in regards to the venture.

“If I’m president of a sports activities team, I’m what the Tiger-Cats are doing and saying, ‘Let’s simply control this; let’s have a look at the place this works,’” mentioned Shannon. “We’re going to see this all over the place, I believe, ultimately.”

Broadhead has seen loads of soccer. While he’s nonetheless adjusting to the pace of the sport in his second season behind the microphone, he grew up outdoors Saskatoon, the place the Roughriders had been the one massive team within the province.

He lined the league throughout his time at Sportsnet, together with the bizarre summer season of 2006, when Ricky Williams landed in Toronto whereas nonetheless underneath suspension within the NFL. Broadhead chuckled: “We by no means missed a apply, since you by no means knew what was going to show into information.”

Broadhead introduced he was parting methods with Sportsnet in December.

“Sometimes, you might be someplace for too lengthy, and typically change is sweet,” he mentioned. “And when a possibility comes up that offers you a problem — like calling soccer, which I had by no means carried out — it was too good to move up.”

More than that, he mentioned: “It’s been rejuvenating for my profession, to be sincere.”

(Photo: John E. Sokolowski / USA Today)

Leave a Comment