Disclaimer: I fully realize the difficulties of contracts and moving people around, especially in this economy for bottom-line companies. I realize the actions below are highly unlikely to happen. But if talk show hosts can proclaim that it’s time to get player X out of town, why can’t we have the same exercise with media folks?
If WEEI wants to ever have a chance to climb out of the hole they’ve dug themselves into against The SportsHub, they need to make some major changes. It starts in the morning.
For years, John Dennis and Gerry Callahan has represented the very worst in institutional arrogance. They trumpeted their numbers when they were doing well, mocked the competition, said and did what they wanted, and were generally untouchable no matter what they did.
Because there was no real competition against them, they won easily. They faced the ultimate lineup of tomato cans over the years.
Even as recently as last spring, they were stubbornly and arrogantly clinging to the notion that they were number one, even if the facts said otherwise.
But now, they are eons behind Toucher and Rich in the latest ratings book, (T&R finished first at 9.1, D&C sixth at 5.7) and I cannot foresee a scenario in which they ever overtake T&R again.
They remain a solid show with dedicated, loyal listeners, but winning their timeslot, or even being competitive, doesn’t appear to be in their future. If that’s OK with WEEI, then fine, but I don’t think it is.
The problem WEEI faces, and they face it in both of their drivetime shows, is big contracts. Dennis and Callahan received contract extensions when the simulcast deal with NESN came through. According to Chad Finn’s chat on Friday, these contracts are fairly airtight, at least compared to Glenn Ordway, who reportedly had to take a paycut when his own ratings were impacted by the wildly popular Felger and Mazz.
WEEI has tried a few things to mix things up, such as limiting the political talk on the show, using Jon Meterparel’s departure as an opportunity to give auditions to fill the spot, but they continue to fall.
The hosts are openly resentful at the management edict to not talk politics. While they are polarizing when they do venture into that area, they are passionate, stir debate and have intensely loyal followers.
In the absence of political talk, it seems much of their discussions in the past year have centered around day after day of the Sandusky case, or telling us just how evil the latest criminal is or was. They don’t have passion for sports, they don’t appear to even enjoy them all that much. If they do talk sports, they’re attempting to be contrarians and anger anyone who is a “homer.” Talking sports is something they simply do not enjoy.
If WEEI wants to ever have a chance to compete with T&R, they need to get rid of Dennis and Callahan. As noted several times already, this is easier said than done.
So what can they do? A creative solution, one that makes way too much sense to actually happen, is for Entercom to move The Dennis and Callahan Morning Show over to WRKO.
Yes, it’s a step down. The AM signal is not what they have now, and that station has been floundering even worse than WEEI in recent years. But they would have free rein to discuss the topics they want to talk about, and will have a built-in audience that will transition over with them, and give WRKO an instant shot in the arm.
WEEI can then start from scratch and build a morning show in an attempt to compete with Toucher and Rich.
It’s an incredibly risky move, and they’d probably get worse before they got better, which is not the way you do things in the radio world. But they’re not going to get back on top with how things are right now. The question is, how important is being on top? There’s a difference between its importance business-wise as opposed to ego-wise. Is there that much of a difference to the bottom line?
It won’t happen, but I’d love to see WEEI really shake things up and start over in the mornings. As Finn notes, a shakeup is more likely to happen in the afternoon with Ordway, even though I now listen to that show more than Felger and Mazz.
Based on last week however, one thing is clear. Dan Sileo is not the answer. Hopefully they’re not even thinking that.