I know Bruce covered this briefly yesterday, since I’m only a weekly contributor I wanted to pass along some thoughts. Comcast Sports Net New England agreed with 98.5 The Sports Hub to simulcast afternoon drive radio show “Felger and Mazz.” The announcement came yesterday, but industry insiders have known about the deal, which supposedly had been in ongoing negotiations for a while now. The merging of broadcast, albeit in different mediums, raises a myriad of questions and possibilities.
The Sports Hub’s Perspective
A great move for the burgeoning radio station. After decisively winning the spring ratings, management has not floundered. They continue to find alternate ways to upstage their competitor, WEEI. WEEI’s similar simulcast of morning drive show “Dennis & Callahan” on NESN was seen as a win for both parties. However, due to its dedication covering all four teams and original programming CSNNE is more endearing to Joe SixPack than NESN.
So there’s that.
But there’s also the detail NESN stands for New England
Sports Network, but doesn’t produce any effective sports coverage outside the Bruins and the Red Sox. They gave up being a serious sports network during the first segment of “Sox Appeal” and continue to hammer the point with “Schooled.” I’ve pondered why they died as a sports cable station a few weeks ago, yet it is still inexplicable. Either way WEEI loves the affiliation with “D&C” because it bolsters the stations marriage with the Red Sox.
CSNNE is stressing original programming, taking stock in the Mark Shapiro ESPN years (highlighted by shows such as “Around the Horn” and “Pardon the Interruption”). They rolled out a similar simulcast launching the “Dan Patrick Show” recently. And, yes, I’m aware a simulcast isn’t really original programming, but it’s filler that isn’t an infomercial. Additionally the lead into their nightly lineup transitions well: “Felger and Mazz” (2:00-6:00 PM), “Sportsnet Central” (6:00-6:30), “Sports Tonight” (6:30-7:00). Finally, one has to consider the impact on CSNNE of the NBA strike. The station needed a stop-gap, and find solace with this deal.
I’ve written about the “Sports Lodge” (Fred Toettcher’s coined term defining personalities in the sports media), and their unique circumstance being in competition on the radio during the day and co-hosting CSNNE shows at night at length. Very “Jekyll and Hyde.” These dudes go from adversarial neighbors to Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in a matter of hours.
This move, of course, creates disparity between the strength in relationship between CSNNE and 98.5 against CSNNE and WEEI. Invariably, you’ll still see Lou Merloni, Glenn Ordway, and the rest of the WEEI talent scattered across CSNNE shows. The real question: What about the Tweeners?
We saw CSNNE writer Joe Haggerty go from doing appearances on WEEI, only to jump and appear 98.5′s shows. Will this entice a guy like Tom E. Curran to consider a similar move?
Furthermore, CSNNE’s rock star Michael Felger could get too many at-bats in a given day. Keep in mind that’s something I’m saying, and I like Felger’s song and dance. But four hours mid-day, and then hosting “Sports Tonight?” There is such a thing as overexposure.
Guess Who’s Back, Back Again?
Dale Arnold and NESN are going to give it a second go around. Arnold will take over for the departed Kathryn Tappen as studio host for the Bruins games. Arnold used to do play-by-play for Bruins home games for over ten years. This all changed when NESN wanted Dale to call away games and Arnold declined. He left the network to maintain his role on his WEEI radio show. Of course, in a major change-up, WEEI relegated Arnold to fill-in duty, taking away his position as midday host.
Since the demotion, Arnold has experienced somewhat of a renaissance. The Bruins Stanley Cup run coerced WEEI to swallow a bitter pill and use Arnold incessantly, because he is the only knowledgeable hockey host in the current station roster. Arnold’s radio play-by-play for the Red Sox every Wednesday has made him a frequent guest on CSNNE’s “Sports Tonight” and also “Sports Sunday.” Suddenly, I was seeing more Dale Arnold than ever.
Personally, I developed a weird appreciation for Arnold following the move. I’m not sure if it was just sympathy. Or, maybe that my only issue with Dale over the years was his over-reaction to things like Kevin Garnett swearing on the basketball court. Compared to many other inhabitants of the “Sports Lodge”, that’s tolerable. Although I’m sure his deal with NESN forbids him going on any of CSNNEs programming, Arnold’s once cataclysmic predicament has become a fortuitous circumstance.