Sportsnet plays hardball, acquires Vancouver Canadians

Despite a saturated market, Sportsnet 650 program director Craig MacEwen says the station is on the rise.
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Rogers Media-owned Sportsnet 650 has acquired the radio broadcast rights to the Vancouver Canadians baseball team, adding to its roster of West Coast sports radio broadcasting.

The acquisition will see Vancouver-based Sportsnet 650 broadcast the team’s home games and select away games throughout the 2019 season, which begins next June. In addition, six games are set to be televised on the network’s regional channel, Sportsnet Pacific.

The Vancouver Canadians, a Class-A Short Season team affiliated with the Toronto Blue Jays, are the latest to arrive at the station, with Rogers Media previously acquiring the radio broadcast rights to the Vancouver Canucks and Vancouver Giants, as well as the rights to broadcast (the Rogers-owned) Toronto Blue Jays in Vancouver.

The acquisition comes approximately one year after Sportsnet 650 first launched, following the Rogers Media acquisition of Vancouver AM station CISL from east coast corporation, Newcap Radio.

At that time, Rogers was well aware that it was entering an already-crowded market in sports radio. Bell Media-owned TSN was already well established on the beat with its 1410 and 1040 stations, while as nearby Seattle’s KMTT also took in a sizable audience.

According to Sportsnet 650 program director, Craig MacEwen, the acquisition will help the station continue its growth and dominance he says it has in the market.

“Because the Vancouver Canadians are tied to the Toronto Blue Jays from a baseball point of view, this makes perfect sense for us as a media company,” MacEwen told MiC. “Not only do we own the Jays, but we broadcast the games on television and on radio, and it’s really good symmetry to bring in the Short Season single A ball club where a number of Toronto Blue Jays have gotten their start over the years.”

Although he would not share details about the station’s audience or share over the past year, he did say that Sportsnet 650 had “cut the opposition in half” – the opposition being TSN.

According to the quarterly Numeris radio report for the period ended Aug. 26, Sportsnet 650 is not too far behind TSN. It has an average minute audience of 1,000 listeners (compared to TSN 1040′s AMA of 1,400). TSN 1040 is still significantly ahead in its daily cumulative audience (48,200 compared to Sportsnet’s 25,100) and audience share (1.4% for TSN, 0.9% for Sportsnet). However, TSN 1410 has since bowed out of the sports game; in April, Bell Media rebranded the station to the business-focused BNN Bloomberg Radio. Some of the games from 1410 have migrated to 1040.

“We’ve seen consistent growth across the station,” MacEwen said, adding that the Canadians acquisition will help the station continue a growth trend in its second year, something he contributes to the station’s diverse group of broadcasters, its delivery of sports news and stories that attract people in the area “but in a way that it’s a conversation and not a confrontation,” as well as the pre-existing success of the Sportsnet and Vancouver Canadians brands.