Jay Onrait highlights differences ($$$) between Canadian and U.S. sports television

Chris Zelkovich
·Chris Zelkovich
Jay Onrait highlights differences ($$$) between Canadian and U.S. sports television

When Jay Onrait headed south to FS1 along with Dan O'Toole two years ago, the former TSN SportsCentre co-host had nothing but good things to say about his old employer.

But maybe a couple of years in the U.S. have changed his mind -- or possibly given him the freedom to speak out. During an interview on the SI Media podcast with Richard Deitsch last week, Onrait detailed the big differences between working at Fox and toiling at TSN.

``We were always made to feel, even as popular as we got at TSN, ... that if you guys left we'd fill your role with someone else tomorrow," Onrait said. `` `You're lucky to be here' was sort of the mantra ... millions of people would love to have these jobs.

"Here, it's totally different. Here it's `we're fortunate to have you.' It's kind of nice to feel wanted."

Onrait told Dietsch that from what he's heard, things haven't changed since his departure. Onrait noted that with only two sports networks in Canada, there's little competition for talent and therefore little opportunity to command a big contract.

``There's only so many jobs," he said. ``You are made to feel you should be lucky to have the job you have and behave accordingly."

He added that he now believes he has ``the greatest job in the world".

One of the reasons, he noted, was the scope of the American sports television world. At TSN, Onrait and O'Toole's show was staffed by a camera operator and an intern. At FS1, he said there are 10 to 15 employees handling the show.

``It's a totally different perspective when it comes to money," he said.

So are the salaries. Onrait and O'Toole, who reportedly make upwards of $300,000 U.S. annually, were recently renewed for another two years.

``We're paid exactly what we should be paid," Onrait noted.

While this can be taken as a criticism of TSN, Onrait was really just stating the facts. The Canadian TV business is a small one and is now basically a closed shop comprising TSN and Sportsnet. If the next Jay and Dan were to demand more money from either channel, odds are they'd have to seek employment in another business or head south -- where there's a lot more competition and a lot more money, mainly because there's a whole lot more people.

As Onrait noted, the only real competition came when Rogers cornered the NHL market and TSN spent big bucks to hang on to the talent that hadn't already been lured across the street.

But that type of situation isn't likely to happen again for at least a decade when the Rogers deal expires.