By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

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. and RadioBDC exist to extend the brands of The Phoenix and the Globe’s 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.

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  1. I don’t listen to sports radio, just “regular” talk radio (although lately, listening to Howie Carr and his sidekick, Sandy, could cause one to become “irregular”…).

    So, I haven’t really heard Ordway since several years ago. Have you been listening to him in recent years? Sometimes in the later years of their career, some of these broadcast personalities tend to lose their appeal. Maybe it happens with age. (Just between you and me, I think Howie Carr should stick with writing his column and books.)

    When WBZ let go David Brudnoy in the early ’90s, I think it might have been just because of some stupid new clueless program director, and a letter-writing campaign brought him back. I think the same was with Steve LeVeille, more recently (although the decision to let him go was more at the corporate level, and not local PD, if I’m not mistaken.) That was before Steve LeVeille decided (unfortunately) to retire a year after he was brought back.

    But, since I hadn’t been listening to Ordway lately, I don’t know. I have a feeling it’s because of neither ratings nor money, but on-air performance and personality (or ageism is a possibility, too). That’s my 2 cents.

  2. Mike Benedict

    Sports talk radio has no redeeming value.

  3. Dan Doucette

    I go back even further to when Glenn Ordway was doing HS football on local radio (Salem station long since gone) in the mid 1970s. He was asking for students to help him do color on the broadcasts.

  4. Michael Projansky

    the inability to monetize his ratings is a challenge that almost all radio stations are facing. The Arbitron PPM monitor has crushed the giant ratings radio stations previously had which in turn has crushed the ability to make some strong revenue growth. Less expensive talent is a bottom line way to save.

    On Thu, Feb 14, 2013 at 5:34 AM, Media Nati

  5. James Soloperto

    Glenn Ordway is a high quality radio broadcaster and will be sorely missed. I understand that big business makes decisions based on money, but sometimes money is not a very good reason for making a change. My guess is that WEEI will regret this decision. Replacing Glenn Ordway will not be easy. I will not be tuning into WEEI afternoons. You may just lose many listeners.

  6. Rick Peterson

    It may be as simple as some bonehead bureaucrat at headquarters trying to impress the board. The number one newspaper in America, (Wall St. Journal) just laid off 50 people across the country, including some in Boston with nearly 40 years of service building that brand. None of them were making six figures or anywhere near that. (Their defined benefit pensions went away when Rupert Murdoch bought the company. Know anyone hiring unemployed 60 year olds?) So will the product suffer? The layoffs saved less than one day’s revenue and the people who cared the most about the paper are now gone. Somewhere, Neutron Jack Welch is smiling.

  7. Al Quint

    I’m going to miss the Big O. I don’t think he’d lost anything unlike, say, Eddie Andelman, who had a long decline and stayed on the air many years past his prime. I don’t think it’s an either/or situation but a combination of ratings and his salary. If they’d kept the ratings, it’s not as likely he’d have been let go. I do listen to the Hub more, lately, and love Felger and Mazz but I’d switch over to WEEI during the breaks or when F&M were talking about hockey, which holds zero interest for me. The Big Show was their strongest program.

  8. Rick McCarthy

    WEEI is on 93.7. Hasn’t been on 850 for four months or so.

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