I’ll admit, I’m a little obsessed with the idea of a viable second sports radio station in Boston. Other cities have several, (Dallas has four) so why can’t it work here?
I have to say, while I’m excited for the premiere of the new 98.5FM The SportsHub on August 13th, the early feeling I’m getting is that it is just going to be more of the same. Speaking right now, on July 28, WEEI doesn’t have much to worry about.
Let’s look at what we know thus far:
Toucher and Rich will be the morning show. I’ve listened to them a little bit since the announcement was made, to try and get a feel for what they have to offer. When I listened yesterday, the segment was about what to do when you accidentally pee on yourself. While they no doubt will talk more sports on the new station, it’s still not going to be an all-sports program. There’s some “rule” out there that says all sports in the morning can’t work. OK, say that’s true. T&R will hopefully stay away from the nasty, biting political talk that dominates D&C, and will ideally keep things pretty light in the mornings. How do the sports fit in? Will they do regular “sports flashes” or whatever they’re going to call them? What type of guests will they have? That’s going to be a big factor in whether the show can compete.
My formula for the show would be to talk at a minimum 50% sports, with guests each hour, and keep the rest of the show light. Do some humor, some pop culture, whatever. Don’t try to become the moral compass of the Commonwealth. Stay away from the nastiness.
I can see myself still listening to D&C a fair amount of the time, especially when they have guests, and on Patriots Mondays and Fridays.
Gary Tanguay is going to do the mid-day show. Which Gary Tanguay are we going to get? I generally like Tanguay, except when he goes into his patented “panic” mode. It happens way too much for my taste. He just sounds fake, contrived and generally ridiculous. Some of the Patriots pregame shows that he has done are examples of the worst radio I have ever heard in my entire life. At times during the Patriots 2007 season you’d have thought they doing a pregame show for the 2008 Detroit Lions.
(By the way, Tanguay will still be hosting the Patriots pre and post game shows on 98.5 along with Scott Zolak and Andy Gresh.)
My free advice for this program is for Tanguay to aim for more of a “Dan Patrick Show” type of feel. I think Tanguay could pull it off if he was setup correctly. He needs to talk, to inform, to entertain, not just stir things up with the aim of getting reaction. From what I’ve heard there will be rotating co-hosts on this show. I’d actually rather see the show setup so that Tanguay is the main figure, with a sidekick, to toss things off of, and a series of call-in guests. These can be local, but I might actually prefer outsiders, especially writers or radio hosts from cities that have a team playing the Boston team that day. Also reach out the local beat writers, especially for the Bruins and Patriots, to give us the latest on those teams.
Depending on how it goes, I think I’m still going to have heavy doses of Dale & Holley, which for pure sports talk, is the best show WEEI has to offer.
Now we come to Mike Felger. When Felger started his show on 890ESPN, he vowed that his show wouldn’t follow the WEEI model and spend “four hours talking about Manny peeing in the wall.” The show got off to a promising start, but when the ratings didn’t follow, he changed course and jumped back to the WEEI style, and eventually back to WEEI itself. The mistake made here was concluding that the poor ratings were due more to a horrific signal rather than to a rejection of the early content of the show.
It was reported this week, first by Ken Fang, and then by Jessica Heslam, that WBZ-FM made a hard run at WEEI regular Lou Merloni, who after auditioning for a spot with Felger, decided to sign a deal to remain with WEEI. (Interestingly, Fang reports that CBS rejected Merloni after hearing his audition…spin?)
That’s not encouraging to me. Not that Merloni remained at WEEI, but that WBZ-FM thought that he was the guy to target. This just tells me that they’re looking to rob WEEI of “talent” and perhaps copy the model. Merloni was their top target? Why? When he first came on the air, he was a breath of fresh air, but time spent at the knee of Glenn Ordway has turned him into just another voice, especially when talking sports other than baseball. He’s good as a baseball analyst, but I don’t really want to hear his take on the Patriots defense.
After failing to get Merloni, who is Felger/WBZ-FM going to go after next? Fred Smerlas? Steve DeOssie? Bill Burt? Ron Borges?
Like the Tanguay show, this program is also supposed to have rotating co-hosts. I’d prefer a “Mike and the Mad Dog” approach to the afternoon drive. Have two permanent hosts, who can talk knowledgeably on any sports topic, and attract intelligent callers who bring something other than a tired shtick to the airwaves. This is probably a total pipe dream on my part, because the “rule” of Boston sports radio seems to be that you can only talk Boston sports. Besides, who currently in the Boston media is going to be able to do this? If they’re not willing to bring someone in from the outside, maybe the rule needs to be rewritten.
I would settle for a smart, informative show, with again, many guests. Bring in some of the beat writers from the smaller papers as call-in guests. (Much better than four hours of Fred and Steve) Get some national voices to talk about big events elsewhere. Whatever you do, don’t pound the same topic into the ground for three straight weeks. Or even three straight hours. Keep it moving.
Do that, and I might never listen to the Big Show again, which despite the ratings, is the weakest show in the daytime WEEI lineup.
We don’t know yet about the overnights or weekends. I don’t have as strong of opinions on these timeslots, so I’d be welcome to suggestions. Ben Maller is looking for work. He’s a national guy with a pretty big following, who was let go from FoxSports Radio after doing the overnights for quite a while. Does Ted Sarandis want to get back into the radio game?
On the weekends, would you just go national and carry as many college and pro sports events as you could get your hands on, or would you do more local programming? A show devoted to the Bruins? A Sunday morning NFL show leading into the Patriots (in addition to the three-hour pregame show)?
Overall, the new station has a lot of work to do if they hope to compete with powerhouse WEEI. Some of the early moves leave me thinking that rather than competing with, they’re trying to copy WEEI. That’s simply not going to work. If someone wants to listen to WEEI, they’ll listen to WEEI, who already has their formula perfected, not to a startup that is merely trying to imitate them.
For all the criticism I aim at WEEI, I have to tip my cap to them for what they’re able to accomplish in terms of ratings. They’re very good at what they do, which as Chad Finn famously put it, is catering to the lowest common denominator.
If WBZ-FM hopes to succeed, they need to target and cater to the reasonably intelligent and informed fan base, not the just the casual fan. Bringing in Tanguay and Felger (and chasing Merloni) aren’t a promising start to that end. Prove me wrong, guys. If you’ve got any further questions on programming, my fee is quite reasonable.