The voice, so familiar to Boston sports fans for more than three decades, will be instantly recognizable. So too will the program’s name, though it now includes a slightly edgy tweak befitting a new freewheeling format.
But the venue for Glenn Ordway’s pending return to the Boston sports-talk scene is an entirely new frontier for the longtime host and ringleader of WEEI’s “The Big Show.”
Ordway, a.k.a. the Big O, who was fired by WEEI parent company Entercom in February 2013, is launching his own online radio venture, which will debut March 17.
The website will be named SportsTalkBoston.com, and it will serve as the outlet for Ordway’s three-hour daily online show, “Big Show Unfiltered.” It will air from 3-6 p.m. weekdays and feature some familiar personalities and segments from his former afternoon drive program on WEEI, including a version of the popular “Whiner Line.” The site will have a smartphone app and be optimized for mobile usage.
Ordway, who hosts his own weekend show on SiriusXM and fills in on the national “Dan Patrick Show” on occasion, has been itching for some time to get back into the game locally.
“I love doing the national thing,’’ he said. “It’s fun, it’s different, the preparation is much different. But this is my town. I love talking about David Ortiz and whether they should re-sign him now and topics that matter around here. That’s what I’m about.”
Rumors were rampant that a return to WEEI was possible, and while both sides gave it consideration, it’s not happening. Ordway said he is committed to this project, one he has been working on for the better part of a year (“I’ve had a lot of time to think about it,’’ he deadpanned).
Ordway said he’s on a constant quest for new ideas and talent, with the idea of expanding SportsTalkBoston.com’s lineup to more shows within the calendar year and perhaps as soon as 3-4 months.
“The idea is that we’re going to use this company as a farm league,’’ said Ordway during a wide-ranging interview Wednesday. “We’re going to go out and seek other people. Some of the old people, old characters who were involved in the show, we expect are going to come back and want to do it.
“We’re going to be able to experiment with it. We’re going to take the old concept of two, three, four people sitting around talking about sports, sitting around the bar, and be able to inject new ideas and people and personalities that were part of the old show.”
Ordway has done his homework in regards to online radio. He’s armed with data that show the immense progress made by entities such as Pandora, Spotify, and IHeartRadio in terms of gaining and maintaining a listening audience.
And it has not escaped his notice that some of the programs on conventional radio in this market are making a dent in the Arbitron/Nielsen ratings with livestreams.
“I know we’re not going to compete with 98.5 [in that 3-6 window],’’ Ordway said. “I think we might make some inroads with WEEI, but we’re not going to beat them, either.
“You have to look at where you are and how far you have to go. We can’t do it now, but what is this landscape going to look like a year from now, a couple of years from now? Everything is going over to digital.”
Even though his voice has essentially been out of earshot in this market since last February, there’s no doubt Ordway still has an enormous base of listeners. WEEI was unprepared for the significant backlash from fans and advertisers when he was fired, and questions about his next move still frequently arrive at this inbox.
Ordway acknowledges with a laugh that his holdover core of listeners from WEEI might need some coaching to fully understand the new format.
“The biggest problem I’m going to have is that my listeners — my older listeners — who are still fiddling around with their smartphone can’t figure out how to do this stuff,’’ he said.
But Ordway didn’t survive more than 30 years in the cutthroat world of Boston radio by accident. He remains as savvy as ever, and he’d be high on the list of any local names you’d bet on to make this new business model work.
Given the Dan Patrick multi-platform model of success that is serving as part of his blueprint, it would not be surprising to see Ordway expand the site into terrestrial radio at some point, but with a strictly Boston bent.
“It’s the wild, wild West,” he said. “We’re the little guy now. But not only does it allow me to continue to do what I love doing, talking sports in my own hometown, but it also gives me an opportunity — I’m not going to do this forever — to do other things in this business, develop other shows, stuff for other people.
“At this time in my life, I want to try this out, take some risks.”
Eyes on Sochi
NBC’s prime-time viewership for the Winter Olympics averaged 21.4 million. (That number excludes the extra night of Feb. 6.) That’s down slightly from the average of 24.4 million viewers from the Vancouver Olympics four years ago but up 6 percent from the Turin Olympics in 2006, the most recent before Sochi to be on European soil. NBCUniversal’s decision to stream every event live on its NBCOlympics.com site was a huge success, drawing 61.8 million unique visitors, according to the network.
Brad Feldman, back for his 10th season as the primary play-by-play voice of the Revolution (his 14th season overall), will be joined by a new analyst this season for the up to 31 matches to be broadcast on Comcast SportsNet New England. Paul Mariner, who has contributed regularly to ESPN’s soccer coverage, will make his debut alongside Feldman for the March 8 season opener at Houston . . . Jerry Remy returns to the broadcast booth for the first time since last August when the Red Sox take on the Orioles in Grapefruit League action Sunday at 1 p.m. on NESN . . . According to industry sources, Entercom is dropping the “Sports Flash” updates from WEEI as of March 1. Most of the personalities who have handled the scores-and-news briefings are not WEEI employees, but are outsourced by Metro Communications. Hosts will provide the updates on occasion during their programs.