New Marc Bertrand/Scott Zolak Show Starts Tuesday

98.5 The Sportshub made it official this afternoon, announcing the latest worst-kept secret in Boston sports media, that Andy Gresh is being replaced on the midday show by Marc Bertrand.

Gresh will be staying on at 98.5, in “a variety of roles.”

Bertrand will also take over co-host duties of Patriots pre and post game programming.

From the release:

“I’m beyond thrilled to be moving to middays to work with Scott Zolak,” said Bertrand. “Being able to say I’ve been at The Sports Hub since day one is an incredibly proud moment for me. As someone who was born and raised in Boston, I know it is the best sports town in America with the very best fans. The loyalty of our listeners has driven the success of our station, and I can’t wait to interact with them on a daily basis.”

 

 

New Deals For Some Sports Radio Hosts, Others In Limbo

A little bit of focus on the media in this post, specifically the sports radio side.

98.5 Afternoon hosts Michael Felger and Tony Massarotti signed a new multi-year contract with the station. As Chad Finn put it, the deal means the duo “will continue their highly rated brand of Boston sports fan antagonism for the foreseeable future.”

Then this morning, Dale Arnold announced that he had signed a new deal with WEEI:

Finn also wrote about this deal, and noted that while Michael Holley’s contract expires next month, the sides are optimistic that something will be worked out.

Now for the uncertainties. There have been quite a bit of hints and whispers going around about a major change coming to one of the shows on the two sports radio stations. Kirk Minihane has mentioned it several times on the air, Finn has alluded to it in his weekly Boston.com chats, and on Twitter:

Finn wrote about Holley above, so it doesn’t appear that the change will happen on that show, and it seems unlikely that Marc Bertrand would leave Felger and Massarotti to go directly head-to-head with them. Bertrand would be a lead host on a show, not a co-host, so he’d be leading the discussion and in and out of commercial breaks.

So what opening could there be, where Bertrand could step in? By process of elimination, Finn has said that Tim Benz is probably not going anywhere, it wouldn’t be on Dennis and Callahan, nor WEEI nights where Mike Adams and Mike Mutnansky are pretty entrenched at this point.

So it’s probably 98.5. I don’t see Bertrand moving over to a morning shift role in place of either Toucher or Rich and not on the evening for Adam Jones either, though he was up for that role when Jones first got it.

That leaves Gresh and Zo.

We know that last winter, Andy Gresh had his contract option picked up. Was it a one-year option? Seems like it. Gresh took over from Gary Tanguay in April of 2010. So did Gresh originally sign a four-year deal with an option for a fifth which is expiring soon? That seems reasonable.

My conclusion from this is that 98.5 will replace Andy Gresh with Marc Bertrand.

Why would they do that? I’m not sure. Ratings have been good. Is there a dispute with Gresh? Or do they just want to give Bertrand his shot or risk losing him?

I don’t like the move. I’ve said many times that Gresh and Zo is the best Patriots/NFL show on the local airwaves. I don’t want it broken up. I hope they work something out with Gresh, but with the amount of rumors and hints out there, it seems like this is going to happen.

That’s how I see things shaking out.

Five Years Of 98.5 The SportsHub – How The Landscape Has Changed.

Five years ago, WEEI was still riding high. They had stomped attempts to challenge them in the forms of 1510 the Zone and ESPN590.

In February of that year, Chad Finn wrote a column for the Boston Globe OT that was eerily prescient in what it had to say about WEEI and its future.

Maybe the average Boston sports fan is less sophisticated than I want to believe. But I’m convinced that provided with an equal signal, some savvy program director could build what WEEI claims to be: the premier sports radio station in the country.

Then in July of 2009, it was announced that the new 98.5 The SportsHub would be starting up. WEEI had no reason to be concerned, and even issued statements saying they were prepared to beat this challenge as well.

Five years ago today, on August 13th, 2009, WBZ-FM, 98.5 The Sportshub came on the air. Everything changed that day. Unlike previous competitors, 98.5 had a strong, FM signal. They also had the Patriots and Bruins radio rights. This wasn’t static-filled AM radio with limited signal reach and lesser known talent.

The new station was competitive right away, and while WEEI tried to keep up their air of superiority (Who can forget Gerry Callahan telling Jessica Heslam when asked about Toucher and Rich that he had never heard of them and that ““I am speaking to you from under my desk right now because I am so scared”) but within two years 98.5 overtook them in the ratings, particularly on morning and afternoon drive, time slots which WEEI had dominated for 15 years.

WEEI then made a series of panic moves, none of which really panned out, including ditching the one show that was still winning its time slot – Dale and Holley – and replacing it with Mut and Merloni, which quickly fell behind Gresh and Zo in the ratings.

The station fired or reduced the roles of  the likes of  Pete Sheppard, Glenn Ordway, Jason Wolfe and Dale Arnold, while going through the disastrous Jeff Brown era. They changed management again, and have somewhat stabilized things finally, with Dennis and Callahan topping Toucher and Rich in this past month of July. (which doesn’t mean they’ll win the ratings period, but it is a start.)

Meanwhile 98.5 rolls on. Interestingly, they’ve enjoyed success, not on smart sports talk (for the most part) but on taking what WEEI did and bringing it to another level. The Felger and Mazz show and nightly Adam Jones show thrive on being incessantly critical of every single local team and player, and coming up with “sky is falling” scenarios on a daily basis. Listeners love it, as the ratings bear out.

What do the next five years bring in terms of sports talk radio in Boston? Does 98.5 fall into the same trap that WEEI did? Does another station give it a try? Does Glenn Ordway’s Big Show Unfiltered get picked up by terrestrial radio?