Wednesday, June 7, 2023

OAB Connection 2021 to focus on how stations can thrive in challenging times

How television and radio stations can “thrive and survive” in a challenging time for the industry is the theme of this year’s Ontario Association of Broadcasters (OAB) Connection 2021 virtual conference, Nov. 3-4.

Chris Byrnes, the event’s conference chair for the last decade, says when OAB reached out to its member stations across the province earlier this year, the message was loud and clear that broadcasters are looking for tools to help them cope as businesses slowly emerge from COVID-19 restrictions.

“The kind of loud and clear message was ‘help us function during challenging COVID times,'” Byrnes told Broadcast Dialogue. “Everything is built on that.”

Byrnes said choosing to host a virtual event this year has allowed OAB to tap a wider range of speakers. This year’s two-day event will include sessions and panel discussions targeting staff from sales to brand management, promotions, news, and production. 

Matt Sunshine

That includes sessions with popular speakers like Matt Sunshine, Managing Partner at the Center for Sales Strategy, who will address the challenge faced by many sales reps who find themselves pivoting from being in front of clients and decision makers to essentially serving as inside sales people. Sunshine will kick off the conference on Nov. 3, followed by Caroline Gianias of Radio Connects, who will unveil new data on how AM/FM radio connects with consumers and drives results for advertisers. She’ll be followed by Lisa Leitch, Founder & Chief Sales Officer for Teneo Results, who will talk about using platforms to reach prospects and creating more compelling presentations for those who may not be able to get in front of a client.

Other sessions will see David Tyler, the national voice of CTV News, moderate a panel featuring imaging voices Jeff Berlin, Rachel McGrath, and Lisa Keys, alongside imaging producer Dan Macintosh and Evanov Production Manager Brian Viggiani.

Ward Smith, Senior Vice-President, Global News, will lead a live panel discussion focused on the challenges facing radio and television news amid fragmented audiences and plummeting ratings. It will feature Global News Radio 640 News Manager Briana Carnegie; Rock 95 and Kool FM Barrie News Director Dan Blakely; and Vista Radio GM/Director of News Wendy Gray.

Corey Friesen

OAB also expects a panel on how to generate both traditional and digital revenue to be popular. It will include Victor Giacomelli from SoCast Ads and Corey Friesen, Managing Director of Golden West Broadcasting digital marketing arm, Homefield.

“You don’t have to look far to see that a large amount of revenue is being gobbled up by the digital giants. These guys have strategies to counter that,” said Byrnes. “The thing the Googles and the Facebooks don’t have is the relationships in these markets that the radio sellers have. Arming them with the right info is really going to help. Decision makers want to see less reps, so if you can be the guy who can service both radio and digital needs, that’s tremendous.”

The PheedLoop platform is enabling the conference to create a virtual product hall allowing sponsors to host their own virtual sessions and bring people into private meetings. With the cancellation of other industry events like NAB Show in Las Vegas, OAB has extended participation in Connection 2021 beyond its membership and opened the event to any Canadian broadcaster. 


Despite the ongoing challenges facing the industry, Byrnes – the owner of three stations himself – says he remains “quietly optimistic” that things are going to get better.

“I can tell you that our stations, we’re at 98% of budget for October and it’s only the 7th of the month. Two months doesn’t make a trend, but it’s at least a positive indicator and I think that frankly, if we get everybody vaccinated and we can get that U.S. border open again, I think that those businesses that have survived that have their doors open have got a real problem and that’s that they have a lot of inventory they need to get rid of and how do we get that message to people,” said Byrnes.

“I’m pretty optimistic. I was on four airplanes last week and for the first time in 18 months I actually felt welcomed on the airplane. It was very positive, and I think that if that positivity can continue we have a chance of surviving.”

Learn more about Connection 2021, here.

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Connie Thiessen
Connie Thiessen
Connie has worked coast-to-coast as a reporter, editor, anchor and host at CKNW and News 1130 in Vancouver, News 95.7 and CBC in Halifax, and CFCW Edmonton, among other stations. With a passion for music, film and community service, she led News 95.7 to a 2013 Atlantic Journalism Award and regional RTDNA award for Best Radio Newscast. More recently, she was nominated for Music Journalist of the Year at Canadian Music Week 2019. To report a typo or error please email -

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