Tuesday, October 4, 2011

SportsHub sitting at top of the heap

Who knew?! The new station is the new leader in the local sports-talk radio listenership fight.

WBZ 98.5/SportsHub began broadcasting in the format a little over two years ago and has overtaken its competitor, previous long-running rarely-challenged leader in the genre - WEEI 850 - on the prime battleground - men ages 25-54.

In the Arbitron survey for the summer period(July-August-September) released today, WBZ 98.5 came in first attracting 7.5 percent of those in that bracket who were listening from 6 a.m.-12am Monday thru Sunday.

In the big picture, over the past couple years the overall sports audience has grown substantially as SportsHub is taking listeners from other FM formats rather than raiding WEEI. Actually, WEEI's current numbers are comparable from a year ago. So where are they all coming from? Audience growth on AM dial is virtually nonexistent while it's a totally different ballgame on FM because there's so much more audience available there to get.

After 20 years of being stuck on AM, WEEI finally moved its brand to FM three weeks ago by converting 93.7FM to an FM simulcast. The initial impact of the move won't be known until the results of Arbitron's October(9/15-10/12) survey are released on November 1. Before converting to sports, WEEI 93.7 had broadcast automated, jockless all-variety music format branded as MikeFM for 6 1/2 years. Meanwhile, with WEEI 850 falling out of Top 5 among men ages 25-54(WEEI 850 was tied for 8th in the summer survey) and WBZ-FM growing and retaining its audience, the much-delayed move to FM was vital for WEEI to remain competitive.

On directly-related note, SportsHub's success is also costing WEEI in revenue as the station is forced to charge less for ad time it sells. In turn, diminishing revenues are also costing money for some of its top talent. According to Boston Globe's report(9/22). WEEI's afternoon mainstay Glenn Ordway's $1 million-a-year salary has reportedly been slashed in half. Globe's report said that WEEI's parent owner Entercom cited a clause in Ordway's 2009 contract to opt out if Ordway's "The Big Show" did not finish in the ratings top three for men 25-54. The Big Show came in seventh in that demo in the Summer, fifth  in the Spring, down from fourth in the Winter ratings. When Ordway signed his current contract in January 2009, "The Big Show'' was first among men 25-54 for six years straight.

SportsHub's summer win was almost across the board in all its target male demographics and in all parts of the day save nights, where Red Sox broadcasts still helped to keep WEEI on top. SportsHub won morning, midday and afternoon drive with men 25-54, men 18-34 and men 18-49.

BRW Notebook:

The King of Mellow : Yea, the one and only David Allen Boucher, who hosts his show "BedTime Magic" on WMJX/Magic 106.7 from 8pm to 1am weekdays, has apparently been voted Favorite Local On-Air Personality in the 2nd Annual Boston Magazine's "People's Choice Awards" poll. He has been with the station since it went on the air in early January 1982.

Classical re-do : As of this Monday and after two years as "Classical 99.5", public classical music WCRB 99.5 now goes by "Classical New England". The WGBH-owned station is now emphasizing a growing classical music network spanning outlets in Nantucket(89.5), Providence(88.7) and low-power transmitter in Beacon Hill(96.3). The Classical New England network also features a new weekday and weekend schedule which can be found on its website

Calling all WBCN and Charles listeners : Attention fans of the old WBCN and/or Charles Laquidara. If you have old footage/photos of the heyday of WBCN, producer of a full length feature documentary "I am What I Play"  is looking to connect with people who might have material to share for this film. "I Am What I Play" profiles four legendary FM rock jocks from four different cities. One of them is WBCN's own Charles Laquidara. Please e-mail Roger King at pnagency@pnagency.com if you can assist.


Anonymous said...

It's been an interesting switch for WEEI to FM. For me it's meant. . .I can hear the Red Sox at night. . .I don't listen to WBZ so much anymore cause I only have one reason to be on AM. . .And I'm sampling 98.5 more because it's easier to bounce back and forth. So EEI coming over to FM might have a lot of unintended consequences. Seems like BZ will have to make the move soon to stay relevant?

AM Bzzzzzzzzzz said...

There is an obvious reason for the sudden drop in The Big Show's ratings - something inexplicably absent from the post.

Replacing DeOssie and Smerlas with Michael Holley was a textbook example of something not "broke" being fixed.

The entire rough around the edges locker room feel of fat middle-aged ex-jocks and jock-sniffers giving unvarnished takes on sports worked great for EEI, Ordway and anyone within earshot in the afternoon.

Replacing that with the studious, button-down print journalism transplant Holley killed the show's mojo and rugged, cholesterol-soaked exchanges that were the essence of the show.

The first time I tuned in to the show's unexpected new format, mortification quickly overtook me as I stared catatonic out my car's windshield, slowly shaking my head back and forth across a wider and wider axis, the urge to swerve into oncoming traffic becoming nearly irresistible before I broke the spell with a loud curse and quick turn of the dial over to the Howie Carr Show.

Some programming executive needs to be fired and the original cast of the show reinstated. That would bring a return to at least the top 3 for the desired demographic - and a return of the other half of Ordway's salary.

Was there some fight among the three or dispute with Entercom or whoever to make this happen the way it did or was it just a bad programming decision?

Anonymous said...

The Big Show's ratings were already in a free-fall. Bringing in Holley was their attempt to recover from the disaster the show's ratings had become, it wasn't the cause.