NESN tuning out WEEI’s ‘Dennis and Callahan’ simulcast
Since November 2010, the first three hours of WEEI’s weekday morning-drive “Dennis and Callahan” program have been simulcast on NESN.
Often, when the program signs off from the television broadcast at 9 a.m., co-host John Dennis will remind listeners and viewers that the show runs for one more hour on the radio side by saying, “Say goodbye to NESN.”
Soon, Dennis’s prompting will have a permanent connotation in relation to the program.
According to multiple industry sources, NESN informed WEEI and its parent company, Entercom, in recent days that the “Dennis and Callahan” simulcast will not continue after their contract comes to an end in September.
Dennis and co-host Gerry Callahan’s contracts with WEEI also expire at that time. They signed five-year deals in September 2007, then had two years added to their contracts when the simulcast was launched. Negotiations are ongoing.
The third host, Kirk Minihane, joined the program in February. His contract is not expiring.
NESN is owned by John Henry, the principal owner of the Red Sox. He also owns the Boston Globe and Boston.com.
The decision to cancel the simulcast is not specifically related to the controversies surrounding Minihane’s comments about Fox Sports reporter Erin Andrews, according to industry sources.
NESN was considering going in a different direction — possibly with more localized programming featuring its own on-air talent — even before Minihane caused significant backlash last week when he referred to Andrews as a “gutless b----.”
He made the comment in reference to her softball interview with Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright during the All-Star Game.
Minihane again caused a stir Thursday when, upon returning to the show from vacation, he apologized for his comments but punctuated the apology by saying that if Andrews were “15 pounds heavier she’d be a waitress at Perkins.”
NESN spokesman Gary Roy said the network’s policy is not to comment on personnel or programming matters. But earlier Thursday, he did provide a statement regarding NESN’s view on Minihane’s comments:
“NESN has absolutely no editorial control of WEEI’s ‘Dennis and Callahan Morning Show,’ and completely disapproves of Mr. Minihane’s disparaging statements. Furthermore, we feel it’s unfortunate that his comments aired on our network.”
There has been backlash to the recent controversies. Fox Sports personnel have had internal discussions on the possibility of banning its talent from appearing on WEEI programming, or at the least “Dennis and Callahan.” Respected Fox Sports baseball writer Ken Rosenthal already has said he will no longer appear on D&C.
ESPN’s Keith Law, often a guest on Alex Speier’s excellent “Down on the Farm” weekend show and podcast, said during his chat on ESPN.com Wednesday he will no longer appear on WEEI programming.
“It’s a shame Alex has to work for an outfit that condones this combination of outright misogyny and demeaning personal attacks,’’ wrote Law.
There is no indication that Minihane’s comments have caused advertiser backlash. And the notion that the program is pulling a stunt to increase sagging ratings fails to recognize that “Dennis and Callahan” actually has had the strongest ratings on the station consistently for the last few years.
In the spring ratings period, D&C finished second in morning drive with an 8.2 share, trailing only the rival “Toucher and Rich” program on 98.5 The Sports Hub, which was first with an 11.1. Ratings have continued to increase this summer.
While NESN is moving on from the relationship, it’s hard to fathom WEEI management is anything but pleased with the show’s recent performance — in terms of ratings, at least.
Rhett Lewis has found what is in many ways his dream job. The former Channel 7 sports reporter and weekend anchor debuted July 14, along with fellow program newcomer Erin Coscarelli, as a host on the NFL Network’s morning program, “NFL AM.”
His only problem, not that it’s really a problem at all given how much Lewis likes about the gig? He’s still adjusting to doing that dream job at an hour when most people are still dreaming.
“We’re live at 3 a.m. here on the West Coast, so I’m still figuring out when I can sleep, when I need to eat,’’ said Lewis with a laugh when asked how he’s adjusting from working nights and weekends in Boston to mornings in Los Angeles. “But thankfully I’ve walked into a pretty nice little rhythm. I sleep from about 2:30 in the afternoon until about 8:30 at night. I get up, work out, do a little research, go into the office by 11 or so. And then I’m home by 7:30 in the morning, which is . . . weird. But it’s working for me so far. They’re letting me come back every day.”
Lewis, who worked at Channel 7 for five years, has entrenched football roots.
His father, Dean Kleinschmidt, is a renowned NFL trainer who is currently with the Lions. Kleinschmidt spent 29 years (1971-99) with the Saints, the team for which his son rooted and around which he grew up.
“I’ve been around this game in a lot of different ways,” said Lewis, who played wide receiver at Indiana under his given name, Rhett Kleinschmidt. “That gave me an opportunity to see things firsthand and get some knowledge. Getting to put that to use now, in four hours of airtime, it’s a chance to show some of things I’ve picked up along the way.”
Lewis, Coscarelli, and analysts Eric Davis and LaVar Arrington will all appear on the show for the first time together on Saturday, Aug. 2, when a special edition of “NFL AM” airs in advance of the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony. It’s a big day for the remodeled show — changes included the departure of former CSNNE host Nicole Zaloumis — and even if he’s still adjusting to the odd schedule, Lewis is looking forward to it.
“It’s what I’ve always wanted to do in television,’’ he said. “I got into this business because I loved football and I was really no longer able to play it anymore. I wanted to be around it. I wanted to talk football and have a good time doing it, and that’s really the two tenets of this show. It’s so great, because I get to ask questions that I want to know the answer to.”