Friday, August 3, 2012

Report : ESPN Radio is looking to expand its brand on AM dial

ESPN Radio which returned to overnight and weekend night schedule on WEEI 850 three years ago(BRW 10/7/09) is about to beef up its presence on Boston's AM dial in a major way. Entercom's AM signal will soon switch to a full-time ESPN Radio affiliate status according to a published report in the Boston Globe today.

After nearly a year of simulcasting WEEI brand on both AM and FM dials, Entercom is ready to split up the doublecast, with the local WEEI programming staying on 93.7 FM side only and with ESPN Radio's national programming filling out the AM signal in conjunction with its portal.

A source in the Globe report also indicated that almost all of ESPN Radio's daily line-up would air on 850 with the exception of Colin Cowherd's midday(10am-1pm) show. The assumption here is that ESPN Boston's Adam Jones who had hosted a live on-line show at from April 2011 until earlier this week may be heard in that timeslot once ESPN 850 is installed. In addition, ESPN would also clear its NBA and MLB play-by-play content on 850, plus serve as a backup station for any Celtics, Red Sox, Boston College sports conflicts for WEEI 93.7.

As you recall, ESPN Radio had a heavy presence on WAMG/ESPN 890 from 2005-2009 but the CT-based radio network finally pulled the plug on the licensing arrangement after WAMG's financially-challenged ownership and an inadequate AM signal weren't able to generate enough return on its investment and more importantly, ratings(BRW 9/10/09).

WEEI and Entercom haven't publicly acknowledged the story of AM 850 becoming a full-time ESPN Radio outlet. But, in this morning's on-line chat on, WEEI's program director Jason Wolfe commented on the Globe story by saying : "...We are always talking to ESPN about ways to improve our partnership, that's about all I tell you right now. They've been great to work with since we became affiliated in 2009."

BRW Notebook :

Indentured Servant at your service : Speaking of Entercom's other AM station, news/talk WRKO 680 was not about to let afternoon host Howie Carr get away under any circumstances while they can still legally retain his services.  WEEI's programming chief Jason Wolfe who also oversees WRKO, announced yesterday Howie Carr's employer 'exercised the option" on his contract, to keep the veteran host at  WRKO for two more years. Carr has been afternoon host at WRKO since September 1994. Looks like he'll be able to celebrate 20 years at the station when his contract expires in 2014.

"Howie Carr is a Boston radio legend and I'm looking forward to having him continue to anchor afternoon drive," says Wolfe. "This is a great day for our listeners, affiliates and advertisers, and I'm excited that we've extended our relationship." VP and General Manager Jeff Brown says, "Howie Carr has been a lynchpin for WRKO for years and we are thrilled he will continue to be part of the best talk radio in Boston." 

Carr's relationship with the station hasn't always been a smooth one. He's been suspended for an on-air rant against Entercom in spring 2010, and at one time sued the station over the new contract issues in summer 2007. Right now, though, it appears everything is copacetic.

Joining forces : Boston's public broadcasting powerhouse, WGBH, has acquired Minneapolis-based Public Radio International (PRI) for an undisclosed amount, it was announced last week.

The two companies said that the decision to combine their resources was driven by recognition of the sweeping changes in the media landscape and the tremendous opportunities they created. By joining forces and sharing their expertise, WGBH and PRI will achieve scale and efficiencies that will result in greater content variety and more engagement opportunities for radio audiences. The combination will also create an entity capable of supporting the efforts of public radio stations and producers to serve audiences as effectively as possible, providing listeners with content across various platforms. WGBH and PRI have been collaborating for more than 16 years and the deal represents a natural extension to their successful relationship, the companies added.

PRI will now be operating as a WGBH affiliate but it will remain an independent entity, raising funds directly for its own programmes and operations. It will retain its director team and continue to do business out of its current base in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Picking on #2 : It didn't take long for the new kid on the dial, AMP 103.3, to start lobbing shots at its well-established competition. When the new Top 40 station launched back in late June many expected the newcomer to go right at the big Kahuna - WXKS/Kiss 108. But before AMP can get a shot at the champ, it has to deal with a pretty tough #2 - WJMN/Jamn 94-5. So AMP is now airing promo bits pointing out that Jamn plays lots of commercials and less music than it does. Of course, the new AMP can afford to lay its claim since it doesn't yet have any live DJs, or a program director for that matter,a limited commercial load until it has any kind of ratings to show for its new format. And, of course, once the DJ's arrive and the commercial breaks begin to stretch out a bit(wasn't the whole idea behind dumping oldies in favor of Top 40 was to make more money for corporate CBS parent?!), the new guy may need new ideas to draw attention to itself as it picks fights with its competition.

Catching the pass : WBZ/98.5 SportsHub's midday co-host and former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak will become the game analyst on New England Patriots play-by-play broadcasts on the network flagship, according to the Boston Globe. He’ll join play-by-play announcer Gil Santos, replacing the post previously held by Gino Cappelletti, who retired earlier this summer(BRW 7/20). Zolak has done Patriots sideline analysis and post-game coverage.


Eric B. Schultz said...

Leaving Colin Cowherd out is like removing the best piece of the line-up. Too bad.

Anonymous said...

Will AM 850 have new call letters once the switch is completed to ESPN?