And the winner of the kewpie doll for the FAN 590's morning show is ... Andrew Krystal. Yup, the man brought in from Halifax as host of 9 a.m. to noon is instead going to carry the can from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. for the Toronto all-sports station starting Sept. 20. The FAN has been scrambling to have someone in place in time for the crucial fall ratings period after potential hosts such as Mike Richards and George Stroumboulopoulos said nyet to the job. The position has been vacant since new program director Don Kollins removed Don Landry and Gord Stellick last spring.
Sources tell Usual Suspects that shifting Krystal into the morning drive slot is also a major savings from the amounts being paid to the former hosts. To replace Krystal in the morning slot, sources say Eric Smith, the former afternoon host and Raptors broadcaster, is going to host around his NBA duties. Globe and Mail columnist Jeff Blair, who's filled in for Bob McCown this summer, could also see some time here.
Current afternoon host Greg Brady was host of morning drive in Detroit radio for five years but was apparently not considered for the post. "I support Andrew 100 per cent," Brady said in an e-mail. "He's my teammate. I have his back and he has mine. I was hired to bring stability to the time slot I'm in. That's the plan. I'd love to do mornings again when the time is right, I loved my six years of morning drive in Detroit. I know how to win in that time slot, regardless of the city." Requests for comment from Kollins and Krystal were not answered at press time.
It's the NFL fan's equivalent of crack. It's the NFL's Red Zone - a channel devoted to the scoring chances of all active NFL games as they occur. On an average Sunday, this highlight reel harvests the best action from around the league and streams it into one package that's perfect for poolies and bettors. Within two years of its launch, this adrenaline shot to the eyeballs has become the most popular feature on the Sunday Ticket service in the United States. How popular? The league is piping it into its stadiums. Jet Blue has it on its planes. TVs in bars have the dial soldered on the channel.
And while you still can't buy Sportsnet One, Red Zone is available on Week 1 of the NFL season here in the CRTC fiefdom - for a price. Carriers such as Bell and Rogers are offering 50-per-cent off the $49.95 price for existing Sunday Ticket customers for both HD and standard def. (Shaw and Cogeco did not list Red Zone on their websites.) Others who wish to forgo the game broadcasts can purchase the channel at full price.
In the United States there has been concern that Red Zone might pirate the rest of the Sunday Ticket package, reducing revenues for the league. Hence the extra price. But if it works, can the equivalent be far behind on the NBA or NHL's pay-per-view channels?
Loud And Not Clear
Two's company, three's a crowd ... but six voices on a Fox NFL telecast? That's like Question Period in parliament. Yes, Fox says it's going to allow its studio serial talkers - Terry Bradshaw, Michael Strahan, Howie Long and Jimmy Johnson - to interject into individual game broadcasts. Because six times the noise is so much better. Makes us pine for the one-announcer format at the World Cup. Fox is also going to have the former NFL referee in chief, Mike Pereira, on hand as well to explain the muff, neutral-zone infractions and every bettor's fave, the tuck rule. Can't wait.
Can't Fight City Hall
The latest salvo in the Rogers Sportsnet One fiasco has Mike Bradley, the mayor of Sarnia, Ont., publicly protesting the lack of a carrier for the channel in his region. "This is a public-relations disaster for the Blue Jays and for Rogers particularly in southwestern Ontario where loyal fans have suffered through many seasons ... and to be pawns in a game between cable networks is absolutely appalling," Hizzoner writes. By sheer coincidence, Sarnia's mayoral election is next month.
Over at TSN, they've finally made the move to an hour Sportscentre at 6 p.m. ET. Mark Milliere, TSN's vice-president of programming, says the move is not about kicking Off The Record back to 5 p.m. (replacing ESPN's Around the Horn) but about taking advantage of the resources the network has to do an hour at suppertime. "Our ratings tell us that more of Sportscentre is always a good thing," Milliere told Usual Suspects. The expanded format allows it to challenge Sportsnet's 6 p.m. Prime Time Sports package for the full hour. "We have the best people in the business and it gives us the chance to bring our studio analysts onto the set more often. We can also use excerpts from OTR when Michael Landsberg breaks news with a guest." OTR fans not home at 5 will be able to see the show on TSN 2 at 6:30 p.m. Maybe Michael can change T-shirts in between.
In a related move, Dave Naylor is leaving this paper to go full-time as TSN's football specialist. We wish him good luck - and don't arm wrestle with Chris Schultz.
One Of Those Darn Swedes
Finally, CBS found Wayne Gretzky on camera at the U.S. Open with wife Janet Jones watching Roger Federer against Robin Soderling. That allowed Gretzky's pal John McEnroe to channel his inner Don Cherry. "He is Great, plays some pretty good tennis. Good to see him in this neck of the woods. ... would he think about coaching the Rangers? Henrik Lundstrom, the goalie of the Rangers, is a buddy of Robin. He's here. Did I say Lundstrom? Lundqvist! Gotta get the Swedes straight..."