Some Thoughts on Boston Sports Radio After Nielsen Audio Ratings Drop

A few remaining thoughts on Nielsen Audio’s fall ratings, which, as usual, lacked tension or competition. . .

▪ Since its launch in August 2009, 98.5 The Sports Hub has maintained unusual stability in its daily lineup. Among the main daytime hosts, the only major changes in more than 14 years were when Andy Gresh replaced Gary Tanguay as Scott Zolak’s co-host in April 2010 and when Marc Bertrand took Gresh’s place in February 2015.

There are a few changes to the evening program. Damon Amendolara’s departure for a CBS National Radio gig in December 2012 led to Adam Jones’ decade-long run on the late-night spot before he left for an afternoon role at WEEI last January. He was replaced by Joe Murray, a longtime royalty at the station.

Looking at stability through the lens of competition: Four of The Sports Hub’s six original anchors — Fred Thatcher, Zolak, Michael Felger and Tony Massarotti — remain in the same roles. WEEI’s daytime hosts at the launch of The Sports Hub were John Dennis, Gerry Callahan, Dale Arnold, Michael Holley and Glenn Ordway.

Ordway was the last of them to work at the station, retiring in August 2021, and his tenure was not linear. He was fired in February 2013, only to return 2 1/2 years later.

Four of The Sports Hub’s six original anchors still remain in their roles at the station, including Michael Felger.Barry Chinn/Globe staff

This roundup of transactions is not only a reminder of how much has changed in Boston sports radio since The Sports Hub launched, but also confirmation that the station never should have navigated a change on the scale of a co-host of “Toucher and Rich” Rich Schertenlieb’s abrupt departure in November from his highly-rated morning program.

The takeaway here, especially after analyzing the fall ratings, is that the station is positioned to pull through without much, if any, turbulence. Rob “Hardy” Poole, who will join Toucher as co-host of the eponymous morning show from January 4, is a familiar and likable personality whose sarcastic humor and production talent should allow him to connect well with Toucher, his longtime friend .

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

But even with the “Toucher and Rich” hype of the past few months, as off-air tensions between Toucher and Shertenlieb led to the dissolution of their lucrative partnership, The Sports Hub program maintained its strongest ratings of the day, finishing with a 17.1 share, a considerable distance ahead of its counterpart WEEI.

WEEI won’t have a better opportunity to win a real position in the morning than it has in the last few months. It did well enough, but it didn’t come close to breaking through on a show that endured turmoil.

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

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

▪ The ratings drop from Hill’s show to other WEEI programming is staggering. The midday show “Gresh and Fauria” took sixth place with a 3.8 share, and the audience dropped further for the afternoon show “Jones and Mego,” which was 12th with a 2.8 share. The difficulty of the midday show surprises me. Gresh and Christian Fauria don’t run campaign radio and actually seem to have a good time talking about sports rationally. But an afternoon drive? I never understood putting Jones, a pale copycat of Felger in a world that never wanted such a thing, in that place. The previous show, with Megan Ottolini, Lou Merloni and Fauria, was just starting to click when it fell apart.

▪ The sports center finished first in all four parts of the day — driving in the morning, lunch, driving in the afternoon and evening. This is the fourth straight fall book in which every weekday and weeknight show on Sports Hub has tied for or tied for first place.


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

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