Saturday, September 12, 2009

Report : Entercom seeks to bolster WEEI's brand with a move to FM

The real fallout from CBS Radio's new entry - 98.5 The Sports Hub - into the local sports radio fray is only starting to take shape. With 890 ESPN shutting down for good come Monday(BRW 9/14), a much bigger move(or a series of moves) is now apparently in the works by WEEI AM 850's parent owner Entercom Commnications.

According to a published report in today's Boston Globe, the local sports powerhouse and the flagship for the Red Sox and Celtics, WEEI AM 850, is now about to take its game to FM dial.

That is really no big news, at least not in this corner.(Ed. Note : As stated in this space right after CBS Radio made its splashy announcement in mid-July about the upcoming birth of Sports Hub on 98.5FM, it was inevitable that WEEI's programming would find its way to Boston's FM dial sooner rather than later.. Actually, a real surprise in all this is why it took Entercom years to figure which band - AM vs. FM - offers a much better signal coverage and a larger audience pool in the Boston sports-crazed radio market.).

Moreover, WEEI's planned shift to FM this fall will be a bit more complex and prolonged than a simple overnight frequency switcheroo/format change engineered by CBS Radio to launch SportsHub this past August. As Chad Finn's report in the Globe indicates, the gradual infusion of ESPN Radio programming will first find its way to AM 850 via weekends and overnights. One assumes that once the Red Sox conclude their regular season schedule on AM 850, WEEI's full on-air content would then move from AM to one of the two Entercom's FM signals in the Boston market - 93.7FM(now variety hits Mike-FM) or 107.3FM(active rock WAAF-FM). From all the indications, WEEI's programming including all its daily shows and Red Sox and Celtics broadcasts will be heading over to 93.7FM where Mike 93.7FM format is currently heard.

For Entercom the move of WEEI's lucrative programming to FM is more revenue-driven than anything else. With a more powerful FM signal, WEEI will have a bigger potential to reach more listeners as it fights off rookie SportsHub 98.5. The more listeners WEEI lures to its brand on FM, the more money it can charge for its advertising time which would add to Entercom's bottom line. And, at the end of the day, it's all about the bottom line for radio managers and owners.

This seems to be a win-win situation for both companies - Entercom and ESPN. WEEI goes to an FM signal which provides better fidelity and reception in some local areas for a broader reach. Meanwhile, in AM 850, ESPN gets a definite upgrade over AM 890 AM's spotty signal, as the nation's top sports media machine will be looking to clear all of its national programming and cross-promote its brand new local digital venture ESPNBoston.com.

BRW Notebook :

TV on radio : Starting Thursday(9/17), Boston's ABC affiliate WCVB TV5 will simulcast its morning 6am newscast and its afternoon 5pm newscast over on WWZN AM 1510/Revolution Boston as reported by the Boston Globe. WCVB can also be heard on Lowell's talker WCAP AM 980 from 5am to 6am and 5:30pm to 6:30pm. For the past couple of years, WBIX AM 1060 has been simulcasting New England Cable News from 8pm to 10pm weeknights.

Talk this way to FM? : With the migration of WEEI to FM, it's likely that one or both Entercom's FM formats may now be in jeopardy. Blast.com is speculating that rocker WAAF 107.3FM will be the one to go. (Ed. Note : However, don't expect WEEI to move to 107.3FM as Blast.com is speculating. More likely, Entercom will abandon programming on antiquated AM dial altogether. The theory here is this : WEEI moves from AM 850 to 93.7FM and WRKO AM 680's issue-talk programming jumps to FM band on an existing(107.3FM or 97.7FM) or possibly another soon-to-be acquired FM outlet. Entercom would retain WAAF 107.3FM's Greg Hill Morning Show which is a basically a talk show on a rock station(WAAF plays no music between 6 and 10am) to launch a new all talk 24-hour talk on FM. Howie Carr, Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage would likely fill out the rest of the WRKO-FM schedule. What do you think? Leave a comment below. AM 680 and AM 850 frequencies would then either be sold off or leased out).

Are you ready for some football on the radio? : There will be two options for Sunday morning local radio shows during the Patriots' season – rookie spots talker SportsHub 98.5FM which takes over from now-defunct WBCN 104.FM as the club's flagship station and WEEI AM 850.

This week, WEEI announced that its game day football programming line-up will kick off this Sunday(9/13) with the first airing of the "NFL Sunday" pre-game show airing 9am-noon with Dale Arnold, Michael Holley, former Patriots tight end Christian Fauria and WEEI.com's blogger Chris Price. After a 3-year absence, Arnold returns to the show that he launched on WEEI in 1991. Doug Brown(2006), Greg Dickerson and Butch Stearns(2007) and Mike Felger(2008) were hosting WEEI’s NFL Sunday for the past three years.

Over on the Patriots’ flagship, 98.5 the SportsHub, the three-hour pregame will still be in effect as Gary Tanguay, Scott Zolak, Pete Brock and Andy Gresh return as co-hosts. For the scheduled nine 1pm games, the Sports Hub’s flagship coverage will start at 10am, one hour after NFL Sunday kicks off on WEEI

WEEI’s "The Real Post Game Show" with Pete Sheppard, Fred Smerlas and Steve DeOssie is returning this weekend and will run immediately following Patriots games. Meanwhile, SportsHub will run the 3-hour postgame wrap-up show with Tanguay, Zolak and Gresh.


Yea, yea, yea all day : The height of their fame has passed, but the Beatles' songs were in high rotation again this past Wednesdya. Boston stations catering to the baby boomer listening segment WROR 105.7FM, WZLX 100.7FM and WODS 103.3FM were playing lots of Fab Four all day coinciding with the launch of the group's remastered catalogue of 14 albums. Even Mike 93-7 joined on the action throwing a few Beatles tunes here and there. Meanwhile, WROR 105.7FM went all-Beatles all day as Boston Radio Examiner points out.

The Honor Roll : This coming Wednesday(9/16) at Noon, Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame will hold its 3rd annual induction ceremony. The event will take place at Dedham Hilton and will be hosted by WBZ AM 1030's talk personality Jordan Rich. This year’s event honorees include: The Voice of Boston Bruins Hockey, Fred Cusick; TV pioneer, host, interviewer and innovator Bill Hahn; the nation’s first nightly news cultural reporter and women’s movement trailblazer Sonya Hamlin; one of the most respected and distinguished television news journalists in New England, John Henning; legendary rock radio deejay and activist Charles Laquidara; prominent public affairs director, news director and host Don Latulippe; 48-year WBZ personality Dave Maynard; radio manager and multi-station CEO Allan Roberts; host, newswoman and executive editor of WGBH TV’s Greater Boston, Emily Rooney; esteemed radio voice of the New England Patriots and morning sports anchor on WBZ radio Gil Santos; renowned broadcast consultant and radio station owner Al Tanger and revered classical, jazz and elevator music host Len Zola. More information on this event is at www.massbroadcastershof.org

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

so now i can not listen to howie carr, rush and the hill man in crystal clear FM?

scott said...

hillman would feel right at home in a republican man-wich with rush and howie! but seriously, another boston rocker bites the dust..even though i didn't listen since the 107.3 signal sucks down here in plymouth, its still kind of sad for rock fans.

Dave said...

Don't be so sure about WRKO moving to FM too. I don't think Rush would be able to make the transition, since WTAG/Worcester has that market's rights to the show. Same thing with Michael Savage. With a COL of Westboro, WAAF's still considered a Worcester station, and WTAG holds the rights for that area. Keep in mind that Premiere distributes Rush, and their parent company Clear Channel owns WTAG. Further complicating things, WCRN simulcasts Howie's show. That would have to be worked out.

The larger question is, why would Entercom even want to move WRKO to FM? That station has an old, small cume. Their billing is dreadful, and it wouldn't get much better moving to FM. They'd still have an inferior signal to WTKK within 128, even if it also ran on 97.7.

The part I don't understand is why Entercom would want to sacrifice Mike FM. That station is one of the highest cuming stations in Boston and gets around a four share. It does very well, considering it's signal is not as strong as the other big Boston FM's. With no airstaff and minimal promotion, the station is very cheap to run, in comparison to the two talk stations. Why they would want to sacrifice a revenue producer in the money demos for a poorly programmed talk station that is mired in 55+ listeners is beyond me....

scott said...

i could see them getting rid of aaf and moving mike to 107.3 and move eei to 93.7 with that strong signal.

David said...

Who says they get rid of any station? Right now WAAF is on 97.7 AND 107.3. They could move WEEI to one of those and keep all the stations. That would make the most sense, and 680 could stay where it is.

raccoonradio said...

ESPN 890 now running looped message saying they are going off air today. They thank listeners and sponsors and say they're proud to have brought local and ESPN to the area for the past 4 yrs

Allan said...

Have to agree with Dave that it would be folly for Entercom to get rid of Mike FM on 93.7. That, and the fact that I like to listen to it as an easy fallback option in the car if another station goes to commercial. RKO seems a likely candidate to stay on AM.

and Tanguay is beyond awful. I actively avoid any program where hearing his voice is involved in any way. I don't understand what anyone, including program directors, sees in him.

raccoonradio said...

Maybe Mike could move to 99.5 or 97.7 or something...

btw WAMG 890 turned off their xmtr at 5 pm earlier today; 1400 a bit sooner

raccoonradio said...

have heard WAMG and WLLH are trying to find new programming so hopefully the silence won't last long

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's me...but WHY would Entercom want TWO sports stations to compete against each other?

With WEEI going to FM.....putting ESPN Radio on 850AM would definitely mean more competition for their WEEI programming. Doesn't make sense.

I would see them simulcasting...keeping their 850 audience and augmenting it with the FM.

Also, who's to say that ESPN will definitely get another station in Boston? Are they entitled?

Dave said...

The more I think about it, here's how it may go down....

Entercom SELLS 850 outright to Disney/ESPN. They'd be able to get value for the signal while they still can. They probably think that the Worldwide Leader's national focus will not pull people away from WEEI, at least in the demos Entercom's shooting for. They're much more concerned with the Sports Hub.

Use the proceeds from the 850 sale towards purchasing 99.5. Nassau's lenders just took over operations of the company, and with WCRB being a standalone, I'm sure they'd love to spin it off. Entercom could make a decent deal for it with station prices being depressed at the moment.

That would give WEEI a new home without displacing Entercom's other FM formats. WCRB signal is weakest south of the city, but that area is covered by WEEI-FM and WEII out on the Cape. It would also bring better coverage to the southern counties of NH that are included in the Boston ADI. It would make the most sense, if they can pull it off.

Anonymous said...

...Use the proceeds from the 850 sale towards purchasing 99.5.

I'm not so sure that the 99.5 signal is good enough to be competitive in Boston...especially to the SOuth Shore. That's why Greater Media dumped it. ;-)

...That would give WEEI a new home without displacing Entercom's other FM formats.

That would make Entercom the owner of FOUR crappy signal FM's for the Boston market. WKAF, WAAF, WMKK and then 99.5?

Add that to their AM's 680 & 850 that has been generating complaints about coverage...and what do you have?

Laurence Glavin said...

Who says that 99.5 would have to STAY on Wood hill in West Andover? If a tower were built close enough to Boston to overlay the Metro area with a strong signal the way Entercom did when they moved 93.7 to Peabody, it could be a player in Boston.

Anonymous said...

I thought I heard that 99.5 is as close to Boston as it can be (IS that due to WPLM? (Or WLZX or WJUX?)

Greater Media, which still owns the site, has been known to upgrade everything they own to the best possible available situation.

I think there is a reason they revamped the Wood Hill site....cuz it was there to stay. I could be wrong. ;-)

I think with 93.7...Peabody was the closest it could possibly move...from what I recall....99.5 was stuck where it is.

raccoonradio said...

99.5 prob can't get closer due to WPLM but who knows. As for 93.7 I think it's a deal of being 2 towns away from COL: Lawrence...Middleton...Peabody. Also there's a 93.7 in Hartford to worry about.

I don't know if we can trust the radio-locator map but 93.7 seems pretty good & adding 97.7, or using 103.7, can deal w/ any problems to the south. Of course for me 93.7 is just fine--near my home and workplace and I drive by its tower every day.

Re: the crappy freqs, depends where you are but they can be excellent or pretty good, but to the south there may be problems but that's why 107.3 got // on 97.7 and could be why 93.7 could be // on 97.7 as well. But what about...Mike? (or AAF?)

Anonymous said...

but that's why 107.3 got // on 97.7 and could be why 93.7 could be // on 97.7 as well.

That's the point...they need 2 stations to do the job...because they are all crappy. And the public doesn't take well to the idea that one frequency is for this side of Boston and another frequency is needed for that side of Boston. It's complex in a business where we try to keep things simple.

But what about...Mike? (or AAF?)

Mike-FM has a crappy signal south of Boston.

WAAF has a crappy signal in Boston (when the populous(sp?) lives....

Anonymous said...

Entercom has 2 stations consistently in the top 10 ten in Boston...Both are on the AM dial...
Why would they mess with that success ?...I don't see how the AM dial is antiquated ?

On the FM side, Mike-fm is nipping
at the top 10...AAF is pretty flat since the added frequency...And although it's too soon to admit defeat, perhaps Entercom should have given a 2nd signal to Mike--
and surround the city from Lawrence and Brockton

Anonymous said...

thats what am stands for:

antiquated modulation.

Anonymous said...

When WAAF took the 97.7 signal, they took it because it was to directly target the Boston market. Up until 2007, WAAF had an okay signal but crapped out when you reached the route 2 corridor (i.e. Lexington, Belmont, etc). So for WAAF to go back to just the 107.3 frequency would defeat the entire purpose of going on 97.7. If 97.7 goes to WEEI or WRKO, then WAAF as a whole is done.

Realistically, it's going to be like this in the next coming months:

107.3: WEEI (COL in Westborough, Worcester; covers a broader region in Mass and NH. While 103.7 WEEI covers Southern Mass and RI/CT and WEII 105.5 covers Western Mass. I don't think that 97.7 would also be WEEI. I think that if 'EEI takes the 107.3 frequency, Entercom would try and somehow bolster it so that it would be strong enough to reach Boston).


97.7: WRKO (I think that with a strong lineup of Carr and sometimes the Sox, WRKO would be very lucerative on the FM. Personally, I am sick of talk radio. But for the intellectuals who listen to Howie, an FM signal would put him over the edge. It would also knock off 96.9 who, despite a strong signal, has programming that is flat).

Anonymous said...

When WAAF took the 97.7 signal, they took it because it was to directly target the Boston market.

Directly? MOoe like it targeted the Boston market INdriectly. It is directly targeted at Brockton.

So for WAAF to go back to just the 107.3 frequency would defeat the entire purpose of going on 97.7. If 97.7 goes to WEEI or WRKO, then WAAF as a whole is done.

Well, looking at the ratings, putting them on 97.7 hasn't helped them one bit. The ratings are the same. If 97.7 drops WAAF, there ratings wouldn't change one bit. So it appears the "purpose" of putting them on 97.7 was flawed. It's a waste of a signal.

It would also knock off 96.9 who, despite a strong signal, has programming that is flat).

1. 97.7 couldn't "knock off 96.9" becauyse the 97.7 signal doesn't cover the northern side of Boston well...which is half of the Arbitron metro.

2. 96.9 programming is flat? And WRKO's is superior? Is there anything besides Howie on WRKO that is garnering ANY audience at all?

Realistically, it's going to be like this in the next coming months:

Good Greif! You're starting to sound like Dave Thomm with your definityive pronouncements!


But for the intellectuals who listen to Howie...

OK, you just lost ALL credibility. There are no intellectuals who listen to Howie Carr. (Is your premise that there are no intellectuals on AM radio? Huh? Wha?)

Anonymous said...

It seems that rock music is no longer a viable station format. It's why WBCN died, it's why K-Rock in New York died, and it's why WAAF will most likely go down. After HillMan, WAAF offers no original programming. They even scrapped the night shift DJ.

I live near Worcester. I can't get WEEI, so I listen to the Sports Hub, unless I'm on my computer, then I go with Free From BCN