Tag Archives: Entercom

Was Ordway firing more about ratings — or money?

Yes, as a matter of fact, I am old enough to remember Glenn Ordway as the color man back when the legendary Johnny Most was doing Celtics play-by-play.

I have nothing especially profound to say about Ordway’s departure from WEEI Radio (AM 850), a station he helped build into a sports powerhouse and that is now lagging in the ratings behind relative newcomer WBZ-FM (98.5 FM), better known as the Sports Hub. I’m only pointing out the obvious by observing that if this was all about the ratings, then no one is safe, starting with John Dennis and Gerry Callahan.

The one thing I’d keep an eye on is whether the move to dump Ordway was about money as much as it was about ratings. Marc Ganis, a sports business consultant based in Chicago, tells Matt Stout of the Boston Herald that Ordway’s salary — $500,000, down from $1 million a couple of years ago — was seriously out of whack with what local stations pay these days. Chad Finn of The Boston Globe reports that Ordway’s replacement, Mike Salk, is expected to make about $100,000.

We’ve already seen the dismantling of political talk radio in Boston. WTKK (96.9 FM) recently switched to music. WRKO (AM 680), which, like WEEI, is owned by Entercom, has cut way back over the years, to the point at which afternoon host Howie Carr is the station’s only highly paid star. The one exception to the downsizing trend on the commercial dial is Dan Rea’s evening show on WBZ (AM 1030).

Sports talk starts from a much higher ratings base than political talk, so perhaps Entercom is willing to spend some money to get WEEI back in the game. But it’s not only about ratings these days. It used to be that if you put up the numbers, the advertising would come rolling in. The ad business has changed considerably in recent years, and it’s not that simple anymore. There are plenty of non-radio options for people to listen to in their cars these days.

Ordway is talking about pursuing Internet options, and I wish him well. The challenge is that Internet radio doesn’t make money, and is generally used to promote something else. Consider the city’s two online alternative-music outlets. WFNX.com and RadioBDC exist to extend the brands of The Phoenix and the Globe’s Boston.com site, respectively. I don’t think anyone expects them to become profit-generating monsters.

As for the battle between WEEI and the Sports Hub, it could be that the most interesting sports talk you’ll hear over the next few weeks and months will be about the stations, not what’s on them.

Photo (cc) by uzi978 and published under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Michael Graham is gone as WTKK rumors swirl

Michael Graham has left WTKK Radio (96.9 FM), according to AllAccess.com. I certainly won’t miss him, but his departure, unfortunately, would appear to presage Greater Media’s rumored decision to relaunch WTKK as an automated music station. Here’s more from Radio Insight.

Talk radio, as we all know, is not what it used to be. But if WTKK is taken out of play, I wonder if Entercom might decide to reinvigorate WRKO (AM 680), which has all but disappeared except for Howie Carr’s afternoon-drive show. If Jim Braude and Margery Eagan are out at ‘TKK, then they deserve a slot somewhere.

Meanwhile, Dan Rea continues to do well evenings at WBZ (AM 1030) with a talk show that is as conservative as any on the air — but that is also intelligent and respectful of its listeners. Is there a lesson in that?

Is there more to Howie’s suspension?

Howie Carr

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. So maybe Howie Carr’s suspension from WRKO Radio (AM 680) is just a suspension. But let me inject some uninformed speculation into the matter. The once-great station has been running on fumes for some time. Maybe its corporate owner, Entercom, has decided to force an end game, let Carr out of his contract and turn ‘RKO into an outlet for, oh, let’s say Spanish-language infomercials.

The Boston Globe’s Erin Ailsworth reports that Carr was suspended for a week for badmouthing the station on the air — something he has done continuously since he was forced into staying in 2007. (Apparently it’s gotten worse lately.) Carr is said to be unhappy that Rush Limbaugh’s syndicated show recently moved to Clear Channel’s WXKS (AM 1200), part of a national “Rush Radio” network.

Funny, but I thought one of the reasons the station replaced Rush with Republican political consultant Charley Manning was that Howie and Manning are buddies, and that Charley might keep the petulant star more or less in line. I don’t have any numbers in front of me, but Boston radio observers have long noted that this is one of Limbaugh’s worst markets. The idea of not fighting to keep Limbaugh and going with a local show struck me as pretty smart, even if Manning’s show is a work in progress.

Carr does seem to be wallowing in bitterness lately. For instance, he recently wrote in his Boston Herald column that President Obama wouldn’t have made it through college and law school if he weren’t black:

Of course, no one expects Barack Obama to really know anything. We understand, all too well, exactly how he got through Columbia and Harvard Law. He had certain … intangibles, shall we say.

That’s pretty rancid even by Howie’s standards. No, I’m not leaving anything out — the ellipses are his, not mine.

Back in 2007, Carr tried to jump to WTKK (96.9 FM), which wanted him as its morning guy. Unfortunately for Carr, he turned out to have a contract more restrictive than Curt Flood’s, and he was forced to stay.

What’s not known is whether Greater Media, which owns ‘TKK, still wants him. Morning drive is now ably helmed by Jim Braude and Margery Eagan. Would ‘TKK move Jay Severin out of afternoon drive to make way for Carr?

Moreover, given the changed economic climate, it certainly seems unlikely that Greater Media would still be willing to pay Carr $7 million over five years.

The other mystery factor is how much Entercom really wants WRKO to succeed. There’s a lot of audience overlap between ‘RKO and another Entercom station, WEEI (AM 850), a sports-talk outlet that also carries the Red Sox. No doubt the company wants WRKO to make money, but not at the expense of its more-valuable sports station.

Carr is a legitimate talent, but it’s been years since he’s showed more than an occasional glimmer. His suspension comes at a time when he probably has little leverage. Maybe he’ll be back on the air in a week as though nothing happened. But you have to wonder if Entercom executives have finally decided it’s time to do something drastic about its faltering talk station.

Photo (cc) by Paul Keleher and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Original at Wikimedia Commons.

Charley Manning to replace Limbaugh

I am stunned to learn that Entercom has actually done something smart. Republican political consultant Charley Manning has been named to replace Rush Limbaugh’s syndicated noon-to-3 p.m. show on WRKO Radio (AM 680), reports the Boston Herald’s Jessica Heslam.

Limbaugh will be moving to Clear Channel’s WXKS (AM 1200), which is loading up on syndicated national shows. Perhaps Entercom can persuade Clear Channel to take Laura Ingraham and Michael Savage off its hands, too.

Congratulations to Manning, a good guy who, I’m sure, will do well.

Sliming Scotto

Adam Gaffin’s got the links on how former WRKO Radio (AM 680) talk-show host Scott Allen Miller’s Wikipedia entry was recently vandalized to make him appear as a Satan-worshipper who’s into porcine bestiality.

The idiotic stunt was almost certainly perpetrated by someone at Entercom, WRKO’s parent station, as Brian Maloney discovered by inspecting the digital entrails. Miller, who held his tongue when he was fired to make way for Tom Finneran, responds with class.

At this moment, at least, it looks as though the vandalism has been undone.

Dennis and Callahan return

Not much to say about the return of John Dennis and Gerry Callahan to WEEI Radio (AM 850) except that Entercom executives proved to be not quite as suicidal as they sometimes appear.

Personally, I wouldn’t have minded seeing the offensive duo take a permanent vacation. But they’re ratings monsters, and it was obvious that Entercom had to do everything it could within reason to bring them back.

Even though I suspect WEEI’s morning ratings would be fine without Dennis and Callahan, Jason Wolfe and company would be foolish to take a chance.

Stunt or not?

Bruce Allen of Boston Sports Media offers five reasons why the “Dennis & Callahan” lockout might be a stunt, but says he really doesn’t think that it is. Among other things, he cites Entercom sources who claim John Dennis and Gerry Callahan are looking for as much as $1.5 million apiece annually. Not much laugh potential there.

I doubt it’s a stunt, too, but you never know. Allen points to the time that Mike Adams locked himself inside the studio in order to demand a contract, an incident that was later revealed to be a hoax. But that was at least semi-amusing. What’s happening now isn’t funny or even all that interesting, my own incessant posting on the subject notwithstanding.

“Dennis & Callahan” non-update

There is absolutely nothing new on the “Dennis & Callahan” front this morning, so I’m not going to pretend otherwise. The roundup of coverage begins with David Scott. From there, move on to the Herald (here and here), the Globe and, finally, Save WRKO, which pores over a line supposedly excised from the Herald like a Roman priest examining sheep entrails.

For my money, the most insightful commentary today comes from Media Nation’s own Amused but Informed Observer, even though I disagree with him (her?) that this is nothing more than a stunt. For the record — to borrow a wonderful phrase from Curt Schilling — I also disagree with Amused about Scott’s inherent toolness. But there you go.

Entercom’s latest disaster

It’s one thing for Entercom to screw up its fading Boston talk station, WRKO (AM 680). It’s quite another for the company to mess with its highly successful sports operation, WEEI (AM 850). But that’s exactly what has happened.

Boston Sports Media’s David Scott got the scoop late last night, reporting that WEEI’s top-rated morning hosts, John Dennis and Gerry Callahan, have been locked out over a contract dispute. The Herald’s Jessica Heslam and Laurel Sweet follow today with a story that actually leads the paper. (Callahan is also a Herald columnist.)

Now, consider the ill-fated moves that have brought Entercom to this impasse. The big one took place last fall, when the company negotiated a deal with the Red Sox to move most of their games from the sports station to the talk station. Yes, some games are still on WEEI. The schedule is determined, as best as I can tell, by the phase of the moon. Fortunately, those of us who live in Media Nation are able to hear all the games on a non-Entercom affiliate, WBOQ (104.9 FM).

The residual effects: WEEI now has a talented host, Mike Adams, trying to do a sports show that competes with the Red Sox, an impossible task. WRKO’s Howie Carr (like Callahan, a Herald columnist) is said to have been furious over having his show cut short by Sox games, thus helping to precipitate his move — pending the resolution of lawsuits he and Entercom have filed against each other — to rival WTKK (96.9 FM). Finally, both WRKO and WEEI have had their identities fuzzed up (a talk station with the Red Sox? a sports station without the Sox?), which is deadly for marketing.

In the case of “Dennis & Callahan,” there is an additional drama. Callahan has been off the air for months, recovering from what Scott describes as “multiple surgeries to his throat.” Supposedly Callahan was going to return to the airwaves today and explain, finally, what was at the root of his health problems. Scott also writes that “D&C” may not return to WEEI at all:

The final bit of intrigue in this whole complicated mess is the multiple reports we are receiving that D&C are being coveted by a completely separate broadcasting entity that would use the pair as its cornerstone to build a New England regional sports talk network. While some industry insiders are telling us that is a real, viable possibility others are more skeptical and assume it is a ploy on behalf of D&C’s representatives to drive up their clients value on the open market.

Shots can confirm that a regional player fitting the description does have the infrastructure in place to build such a network, but whether or not the group would be able to guarantee the kind of money that Dennis and Callahan are looking for is open to debate.

Personally, I wouldn’t miss “Dennis & Callahan,” which trucks in low-rent populism, homophobia and — in one notorious incident — out-and-out racism. I think you could move the vastly superior “Dale & Holley” show into the morning drive-time slot without missing a beat or a ratings point.

But “D&C” is the number-one radio show among men between the ages of 25 and 54. I wouldn’t think Entercom executives Jason Wolfe and Julie Kahn would want to take the chance of losing them.

Then again, maybe Tom Finneran can do sports.

Virtual Dennis: If you click on the WEEI home page right now, you might see a virtual John Dennis talking up the Jimmy Fund radiothon.