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Sports Media Musings: 98.5 The Sports Hub Wins The Summer, WEEI Finishing 8th

98.5 Sports Hub

98.5 The Sports Hub took the momentum obtained from their win in the spring ratings period, and never looked back. In the summer ratings period, released by third-party Arbitron yesterday, “The Sports Hub” found itself in the poll position again, earning the highest share among the coveted men’s 25-54 demographic in the Boston market.

Chief competitor, WEEI, finished in a tie in the 8th position in the demographic.

Chad Finn of The Boston Globe has the full breakdown of how each time slot stacked up against one another here. Upon inspection, the numbers seem to be lopsided in favor of 98.5 — each program nearly doubles up counterpart, WEEI’s share. (“Gresh & Zo” triple “Mut & Merloni” in the share)

The only time WEEI held an advantage was the paltry 7 p.m. – Midnight period. This, most likely, was due to WEEI’s dissemination of the Red Sox games summer nights.

Going Double-Rainbow Guy — What Does This Mean?

I’ve talked about the importance of this particular ratings period since the spring book was released. I rationalized that the Bruins Stanley Cup run skewed the numbers, and the summer ratings would give us real indication of how these two entities are performing in relation to one another.

Since their inception, “The Sports Hub” has championed the Bruins as the team’s flagship station. On the other hand, WEEI had long dismissed the Bruins as a viable topic in their programming. The numbers had to be exacerbated from an ‘EEI perspective and, incongruously, inflated like Barry Bonds’ head from a “Sports Hub” perspective….


Apparently not. Even with WEEI broadcasting “The Boys of Summer” The Choke Artists of Fall, “The Sports Hub” maintained dominance. Although, as the article points out, WEEI’s share did not include their new FM simulcast on 93.7 — which was available the last three days of the ratings period.

I’ve personally believed this period was critical, and will not bear any concessions to that notion because of three days. The FM thing is a real commodity which parent company Entercom should have implored much sooner. HOWEVER, I rationalized the Bruins run last time and I refuse to rationalize a ‘signal’ issue as an excuse for a station which was dominant from their launching point in the early 90s all the way until 2010. The signal was never an issue for two decades — worthy competition doesn’t make it an issue now.

When news of the simulcast first arose, I wrote that Rule No. 76 was now in effect (No excuses, Play like a champion). And that still holds true. The ‘radio wars’ would have nothing to do with including different market figures (though WEEI is still including their Providence share), or a bad signal. Instead the name-of-the-game would now be about content.

Who is producing better entertainment? Who is producing better dialogue? Going forward these would be the questions answered by the ratings. But just because Entercom management is late to the FM party, does not preclude the here and now.

And the here and now suggests WEEI needs to do something…. and fast.

Predicting the Weather

Going forward each station has distinct advantages. WEEI has the ESPN affiliation and “Patriots Monday.” Both those factors amount to one thing: Great guests. “Dennis & Callahan” have a weekly can’t miss interview with Tom Brady, “Mut & Merloni” have Troy Brown, and “The Big Show” has Coach Bill Belichick and Tedy Bruschi. One major disadvantage for ‘EEI is the ignominious end to the Red Sox campaign and the concurrent NBA lockout (WEEI broadcasts the Celtics).

98.5 The Sports Hub has lower-level Patriot players making appearances, and a plethora of local analysts. This seems like a large disparity, but “The Sports Hub” has always been able to do more with less. Presumably because of their impressive ratings wins and also because they are the flagship station for the Bruins and Patriots.”The Sports Hub” will garner better guests going forward.

Perhaps the biggest advantage for “The Sports Hub” – and I’ve pondered this before – is the relationship with Comcast SportsNet New England. The “Felger & Mazz” simulcast on the flourishing television network displays a strong marriage forming. With a steady diet of ratings wins, what is stopping a CSNNE personality like Tom E. Curran from jumping from his spot as a guest on “The Big Show” to foray on to fellow CSNNE-er, Mike Felger’s world on “Felger & Mazz.”

ESPECIALLY, if the show is being broadcasted on Curran’s primary employer, CSNNE? Joe Haggerty, CSNNE’s hockey writer, already made a similar move.

How Did We Get Here?

So what has happened here? Is it as simple as what Chad Finn said on my podcast? Are people just sick of WEEI’s “We’re number 1, we can do what we want” attitude?

I’m not sure. Here are a couple of things to think about though. I’m not using this as an opportunity to give myself exposure, but listen to my podcast with Rich Shertenlieb of “The Sports Hub.” He talks about important lessons such as never becoming complacent, learning how to fail, and taking chances. He sounds like a down-to-earth guy who is “Youngry” (young & hungry). And these qualities come through in “The Sports Hub” culture.

On the other side, it feels like decades ago when Gerry Callahan infamously told Jessica Heslam he was hiding under his desk because he was ‘afraid’ of the competition. These sarcastic remarks, along with Callahan feigning he had never heard of “Toucher & Rich”, no longer feel arrogant — they feel ignorant.

A Word On Finn

Years ago, Chad Finn wrote a column stating if a station came along with a strong signal and real commitment that WEEI would get a run for their money. This, of course, came to fruition with CBS putting together “The Sports Hub.”

In his coverage, Finn has maintained a mostly objective point of view. Obviously, at times, it is transparent he is rooting for what he thought in the original column was a fictitious station, but his reporting of the numbers has been straight-forward.

Yet John Dennis still felt the need (maybe out of frustration) to take a small shot at the Globe reporter on Twitter…

@GlobeChadFinn You left out the “Whooey, Chad is jacked and pumped” part !

Realizing this was social media, Finn deftly avoided any run-in by deflecting the shot..

@JohnDennisWEEI Nice. Actually, have enjoyed listening to you and Gerry take apart the Sox the past couple of days. Credit where it’s due.

Finally, Dennis decided to show he is working on reaching that younger demographic by referencing a show that existed in the mid-70s…

@GlobeChadFinn As Fred Sanford famously (and often) said….”I think I’m gonna have the big one Elizabeth.”

About Ryan Hadfield

Ryan Hadfield is the author of the weekly Sports Media Musings column at Sports Of Boston. Hadfield is known as one of the top sports media critics in Boston. He also contributes to Boston Sports Media Watch. In November 2011, Hadfield helped launch the new SoB Point Taken blog featuring his podcasts & musings on sports, media and culture. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

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