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Dean Blundell has show cancelled in Sportsnet 590 The Fan shakeup

Dean Blundell, speaking for a podcast in May, 2014, was an attempt by The Fan’s owner to tap more of their target demographic, which ultimately fell flat.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

The Dean Blundell experiment ended just short of two years on Wednesday.

Blundell, who attempted to morph from shock jock to morning sports-radio host on Toronto station Sportsnet 590 The Fan, never delivered the ratings bump in the target audience of men aged 25 to 54 or with younger listeners. His show was cancelled "effective immediately," according to a news release from Sportsnet, which is owned by Rogers Media.

Replacing him on Feb. 27 will be a trio of broadcasters, including veteran Greg Brady, the man who was pushed out of The Fan's morning show in March, 2015, to make way for Blundell. Brady will co-host the show with Montreal broadcaster Elliott Price and Hugh Burrill, another former Sportsnet broadcaster.

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"I'm beyond thrilled," said Brady, 45, whose severance pay from his previous run at The Fan, which ended a year ago, was about to run out. "I live and breathe [sports], so it's been hard to be away from it."

Price has an extensive résumé, serving as the play-by-play voice of the Montreal Expos from 1991 to 2004 and as co-host of TSN's morning radio show in Montreal for 10 years – until he was fired in 2015 as part of Bell Media's job cuts.

Burrill's most recent post was as a television reporter for Sportsnet, until he, too, was caught in layoffs in March, 2016.

Officially, Blundell's contract, which expires soon, was not renewed by mutual agreement. Dave Cadeau, The Fan's program director, said the decision was not made because of unhappiness with Blundell, whose sophomoric brand of humour made him a controversial figure for years. Cadeau said the station simply wanted to return the show to an all-sports format.

"I'd say Dean's show was successful from a ratings standpoint," Cadeau said. "This was about changing the tone of the show."

Blundell tweeted that the move was "mutual and in both our best interest to not renew."

Cadeau said Blundell is the only person from the morning show who is leaving the station. Ryan Fabro will continue as the producer of the new show but will have a lesser on-air role. Sidekick George Rusic will be reassigned at The Fan. And staying with the show is popular traffic reporter Halina Balka.

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This is the fifth major change to the station's morning show in less than seven years, despite the fact The Fan has always ruled the sports-radio ratings – even though Bell Media launched rival station TSN 1050 Toronto in April, 2011. TSN 1050 has never seriously threatened The Fan in the morning ratings, but Rogers is always searching for a way to increase its dominance with the only demographic sports-radio advertisers care about: men 25-54.

Former Fan program director Don Kollins made most of the moves, beginning with the firing of the popular morning team of Don Landry and Gord Stellick in June, 2010. Blundell was the last of those hired by Kollins, who left for a San Francisco sports-radio station in May, 2015.

Like Landry and Stellick, Brady and his first co-host, Jim Lang, easily beat TSN 1050, regularly drawing between 6 and 8 per cent of male listeners 25-54. But Brady and his second co-host, Andrew Walker, who is now the afternoon host at The Fan, were moved out in the hope Blundell's mix of vulgar humour and less sports would boost those numbers.

However, listeners often complained on social media that Blundell was weak on sports. While he still beat the competition in the ratings, he never delivered the bump that station management expected; for example, when Landry and Stellick were fired, Kollins told The Globe and Mail that he was looking for a 10 share from the morning show.

But Blundell never came close to that. In his first month, March of 2015, his ratings were 5.4 per cent of males 25-54, the same as Brady and Walker in the previous month. By May, 2016, Blundell was up to a 6.8 share but never really went much further.

This was disappointing because that period saw the rise of the Toronto Blue Jays, whose games on The Fan in the evenings drew audiences of at least 9 per cent. But Blundell was never able to take advantage of the Jays' bump. His lower numbers in the mornings indicated listeners were making a point of changing the station.

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About the Author
Hockey columnist

A native of Wainfleet, Ont., David Shoalts joined The Globe in 1984 after working at the Calgary Herald, Calgary Sun and Toronto Sun. He graduated in 1978 from Conestoga College and also attended the University of Waterloo. More

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