Here’s how the radio merger affects Boston’s sports stations
As a result of the Entercom/CBS Radio merger, which included the swap of 98.5 The Sports Hub to the Beasley Broadcast Group for WMJX 106.7 and $12 million in order to receive antitrust clearance from the US Justice Department, The Sports Hub will move to new studios on Morrissey Boulevard in Dorchester sometime after the deal is officially completed.
This means that The Sports Hub and WEEI will no longer be neighborhood rivals on Guest Street in Brighton. But they will still remain rivals from somewhat afar.
This is a good thing for Boston sports radio listeners.
The possibility of WEEI and The Sports Hub — both of which receive consistently excellent ratings, particularly in the coveted men 25-54 demographic — becoming sister stations under the initial terms of the merger was intriguing only in the sense that it would have been amusing to see how they would have coexisted under the same umbrella.
The stations, which have been fierce rivals since the launch of The Sports Hub in August 2009, theoretically would have had to play nice with each other. That wouldn’t have been much fun — or, given their contentious history, authentic. So in that sense, The Sports Hub’s sale to Beasley leaves the rivalry intact.
That doesn’t necessarily mean it will be the same, though. Beasley management has said it will keep The Sports Hub programming lineup intact, and that is wise. The Sports Hub ranks as the highest-billing station under Beasley’s umbrella. Beasley’s modus operandi in the past has been to observe the landscape before making changes at a newly acquired station. When it acquired Greater Media stations in Boston in July 2016, it waited before making cost-saving changes, such as syndicating the morning show on WBOS.
Several people at CBS Radio Boston I spoke to on background described the mood regarding the new ownership at The Sports Hub as optimistic, albeit cautiously. A few said they were grateful the station did not end up with iHeartMedia, which already has wreaked havoc at WBZ 1030 with the revelation that employees will have to reapply for their jobs.
There will be cosmetic changes at The Sports Hub once the deal goes through. The CBS Sports Minute, which was entertaining only in realizing how little effort CBS’s national sports pundits put into it, will no longer be heard. It remains to be seen whether CBS Sports personalities who were semi-regulars on Sports Hub programming, such as fantasy sports writer Dave Richard and NFL writer Will Brinson, still have a venue in the Boston market. There are other details to be sorted out.
There is also a very interesting management dynamic taking shape. Mike Thomas, the president of radio for CBS Boston and The Sports Hub’s program director, recently signed a new contract and will go with the station to Beasley. But Mark Hannon, senior vice president and market manager for CBS Radio Boston, will join Entercom/CBS Radio with the merger, and there are strong indications that he will have oversight of WEEI, with current vice president and market manager Phil Zachary moving to a different cluster of Entercom stations, including Hartford.
Hannon was integral in The Sports Hub’s success from the get-go, but WEEI has found stability and renewed success with its management team of Zachary and program director Joe Zarbano. Hannon’s role, and how it affects WEEI, should become clearer in the next week or two. Turns out the merger is going to make for some unexpected bedfellows after all.
Excluding “O.J.: Made In America,’’ which ran nearly eight hours over five days, won an Oscar, and was so thorough and thought-provoking that it raised the bar for what a sports-related documentary could be, I’m not sure what I’d consider the best of ESPN’s 30 for 30 films. “The Two Escobars,” perhaps, or maybe “Into the Wind” on Canadian icon Terry Fox. Really, I’m not sure I’ve seen one that wasn’t excellent.
But I do know what the most fascinating 30 for 30 trailer is, because I saw it Tuesday night during the premiere of “Nature Boy,’’ the doc on wrestler Ric Flair.
Patriots fans must have been giddy for the 30 for 30 titled “The Two Bills,’’ which looks at the complicated and mutually beneficial history of Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells. Given Belichick’s historic success here as the Patriots-coach-once-removed following Parcells’s jilting of New England for the New York Jets, it’s certain to be a satisfying hour or so of entertainment. (ESPN has not announced the specifics of when it will air, though it will be sometime this winter. The film is distributed by ESPN but produced by NFL Films.)
But the trailer takes the anticipation to another level. Over 75 seconds, it teases their entire complicated story, building from Parcells and Belichick working together with the Giants, to Parcells barking at him through a headset, to Parcells leaving the Patriots and Belichick rejecting the Jets, to various players and coaches who have worked with them through the years discussing their complex dynamic, to an unnamed player saying, “You don’t get them together in the same room.”
And then you see it: Belichick and Parcells together, in the same room, sitting for a dual interview. Somehow, ESPN got Belichick and Parcells together to discuss their history. I’d love to know the circumstances that got them to agree to this almost as much as I can’t wait to hear what they have to say.
Celtics ratings soaring
The Celtics aren’t just winning a lot of games — 10 in a row after Wednesday’s victory over the Lakers. They’re also winning over fans, who have gravitated to this thoroughly entertaining team rapidly and in large numbers despite the offseason trade of popular Isaiah Thomas and the injury to star free agent Gordon Hayward on opening night.
NBC Sports Boston carried nine of the Celtics’ 10 games before Wednesday. Compared with the same span a season ago, household viewership is up 139 percent overall. Among men, it is up 193 percent, and viewership among adults is up 188 percent over the same period in 2016-17.
Meanwhile, the network’s live stream of Celtics broadcast is drawing an unprecedented audience. NBC Boston is seeing its highest streaming numbers across the board in terms of live starts, uniques, and total minutes, among other measures. Every one of its Celtics streams ranks in the network’s top 10 most-watched ever, and it took 26 games last year to reach the total number of streamed minutes it has reached this year.
Some of this is, of course, due to more people having access to and using the technology. But it is undoubtedly a tribute to a Celtics team that has won over fans with its success and style early in the season.