Some thoughts on Boston sports radio after the fall Nielsen Audio ratings

Some thoughts on Boston sports radio after the fall Nielsen Audio ratings


A few lingering thoughts on the fall Nielsen Audio ratings, which, as usual, were lacking for suspense or competition . . .

▪ Since launching in August 2009, 98.5 The Sports Hub has maintained uncommon stability in its daily lineup. Among primary daytime hosts, the only major changes in more than 14 years have been when Andy Gresh replaced Gary Tanguay as Scott Zolak’s midday co-host in April 2010, and when Marc Bertrand took over for Gresh in February 2015.

There have been a few changes with its evening programming. Damon Amendolara’s departure for a national CBS Radio gig in December 2012 led to a decade-long run for Adam Jones in the nighttime spot before he left for an afternoon drive role at WEEI last January. He was replaced by Joe Murray, a longtime part-timer at the station.

To look at the stability through the prism of the competition: Four of The Sports Hub’s six original hosts — Fred Toucher, Zolak, Michael Felger, and Tony Massarotti — remain in the same roles. WEEI’s daytime hosts when The Sports Hub launched were John Dennis, Gerry Callahan, Dale Arnold, Michael Holley, and Glenn Ordway.

Ordway was the last among them to work at the station, retiring in August 2021, and his tenure wasn’t linear. He had been fired in February 2013, only to return 2½ years later.

Four of The Sports Hub’s six original hosts still remain with their same roles with the station, including Michael Felger.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

That transactions recap is not only a reminder of how much has changed in Boston sports radio since The Sports Hub’s launch, but also confirmation that the station has never had to navigate a change of the magnitude of “Toucher and Rich” co-host Rich Shertenlieb’s abrupt departure in November from its highly rated morning program.

The belief here, especially after parsing the fall ratings, is that the station is positioned to handle it without much, if any, turbulence. Rob “Hardy” Poole, who will join Toucher as co-host of the eponymous morning show beginning Jan. 4, is a familiar and likable personality whose sarcastic humor and production talent should allow him to mesh well with Toucher, his longtime friend.

WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show” draws strong ratings in morning drive, finishing second with a 10.2 share in the men’s 25-54 demographic in the fall ratings. It is by far WEEI’s top-rated program.

But even with the “Toucher and Rich” tumult over the last several months, as off-air tension between Toucher and Shertenlieb led to the breakup of their lucrative partnership, The Sports Hub program maintained the strongest ratings in its daypart, finishing with a 17.1 share, a significant distance ahead of its WEEI counterpart.

WEEI isn’t going to have a better opportunity to gain real ground in the mornings than it had over the past few months. It did well enough, but it wasn’t close to overcoming a show enduring turmoil.

For most sports radio stations, the biggest on-air change in its history might be a cause for concern. For The Sports Hub, it’s a chance to pair hosts with complementary talents who make sense as a tandem. Even as it undergoes change, The Sports Hub remains about as secure as a radio station can be.

▪ Both morning shows saw slight dips in the final month of the fall ratings book, which covered Sept. 14-Dec. 6. Toucher and the post-Shertenlieb collection of co-hosts drew a 14.4 share in the final month. Hill’s show got an 8.5, still good for second place. Don’t think there’s much to read into that, though the Patriots’ losing season and listeners taking time off around Thanksgiving were probable factors.

▪ The ratings dropoff from Hill’s show to other WEEI programming is staggering. Midday show “Gresh and Fauria” tied for sixth with a 3.8 share, and the audience dropped further for the afternoon drive “Jones and Mego” show, which was tied for 12th with a 2.8 share. The struggles of the midday show surprise me. Gresh and Christian Fauria don’t do Agitation Radio and actually seem to have a good time talking about sports rationally. But afternoon drive? I’ve never understood putting Jones, a pale Felger imitator in a world that never asked for such a thing, in that slot. The previous show with Meghan Ottolini, Lou Merloni, and Fauria was just starting to click when it was broken up.

▪ The Sports Hub finished first in all four dayparts — morning drive, middays, afternoon drive, and evenings. That is the fourth straight fall book in which every weekday and weeknight Sports Hub show has tied or been alone in the No. 1 spot.

Chad Finn can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him @GlobeChadFinn.


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