In the latest round of ratings between Boston’s two sports radio heavyweights, The Sports Hub remained the top-rated station in the market in the spring Nielsen Audio ratings, while WEEI finished second.
The Sports Hub (98.5 FM) earned a 10.6 share overall in the men 25-54 demographic from the period of March 29-June 20 to finish first. WEEI (93.7 FM) was second with a 7.2 share.
WVEI, parent company of Entercom’s Providence-based station that carries WEEI’s programming, earned an additional 0.6 share in the Boston market.
In the always contentious battle among morning drive (6-10 a.m.) programs, The Sports Hub’s “Toucher and Rich” show was first (10.2), while WEEI’s “Kirk and Callahan” program was second (9.4, 9.8 with WVEI’s 0.4 share included).
In middays (10 a.m-2 p.m.), classic rock station WZLX’s “Carter Alan” program was first (10.0). The Sports Hub’s “Zo and Beetle” show was second (9.2), while WEEI’s “OMF” show was third (8.8) but moves to second with the WVEI share included (1.0).
It should be noted that Nielsen advises that the WVEI share should not be added to the WEEI share, even though it is true that WVEI comes in better in the Boston market in some areas than does WEEI, such as the South Coast.
The reason, per Nielsen, is that the purpose of the ratings is to reflect the same content and advertising load at a specific station or program. The advertising content on WEEI and WVEI is different — Entercom has made the decision to sell the stations separately — and thus any share from WVEI should count separately.
In afternoon drive (2-6 p.m.), the Sports Hub’s “Felger and Massarotti” remained the highest-rated program in the market, finishing first with 14.7 share. WEEI’s “Dale and Keefe” program was second (6.8, 0.9 for WVEI).
In the 6-7 p.m. window, The Sports Hub, which usually airs “The Baseball Reporters” hosted by Tony Massarotti in that slot, took first (13.3). WEEI, which typically features the Red Sox pregame show in that period, finished fourth (5.8, 0.4 for WVEI).
In the 7 p.m.-midnight period, The Sports Hub, which airs “The Adam Jones Show” weeknights and had late-season and playoff Celtics and Bruins broadcasts in that window, was first (12.6). WEEI, which has Red Sox broadcasts in that window among other programming, finished second (8.0, 0.3 for WVEI).
As colleague Nick Cafardo noted on Twitter earlier this week, Red Sox ratings on NESN are up from a year ago.
Through 85 broadcasts, the Red Sox were averaging a 6.16 household rating on NESN, up from 5.15 at the same point last season. The Red Sox ended their 93-win season in 2017 with a 5.98 rating on their regional cable network.
Should the Red Sox continue at their torrid pace, with 65 wins through their first 94 games, their ratings will certainly rise in the second half. Especially if the Yankees remain close in the quest for the American League East title.
But the news of their ratings bump this year does make me wonder what the ceiling is for Red Sox viewership on NESN nowadays, in the age of cord-cutting, streaming, and countless other alternatives to watching a live baseball game on cable television.
Compared with other regional cable networks in MLB markets, NESN has fared extremely well in the post-Curse era. From 2004-09, NESN’s Red Sox broadcasts were the highest-rated baseball broadcasts on any regional cable network. Ten years ago, the Red Sox averaged a 10.1 on NESN — and that was a drop from its 12.6 average in the 2007 championship season.
When the Red Sox won the World Series in 2013, they averaged a 7.26 household rating.
The days of a double-digit household rating seem out of reach. But it will be interesting to see if this Red Sox team’s quest for a championship comes close to matching NESN’s ratings the last time the franchise won one, five years ago.
Given the seismic effects the development of other appealing programming options has had on cable television viewership, getting back into that 7-something range would be an impressive achievement, even if the ratings never again approach what they were a decade ago.
For those who consume sports radio via television, a note that hasn’t exactly been a well-kept secret: The Sports Hub morning show “Toucher and Rich” will conclude its simulcast on NBC Sports Boston on Friday. The “Felger and Mazz” simulcast from 2-6 p.m. will continue, commencing from The Sports Hub’s new Morrissey Boulevard studio on Monday. There are rumblings that other Sports Hub programming could be picked up for simulcast by NBCSN at some point.Chad Finn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeChadFinn.