The news Thursday that Fred Toucher and Rich Shertenlieb, hosts of 98.5 The Sports Hub’s morning drive program, had agreed to a multiyear contract extension might have come as somewhat of a surprise to listeners who had been tuning in recently.
After all, Toucher — the more acerbic of the duo — had occasionally offered vague suggestions in recent weeks that the show could be changing, or perhaps going elsewhere in a different format.
As it turns out, the hosts did do their due diligence regarding other opportunities. But in the end, according to Shertenlieb, there was really no consideration at all to leaving.
“It was the easiest contract negotiation we ever had,’’ he said.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Their last contract on record was signed in November 2013.
The Sports Hub is owned by Beasley Media Group, which bought the station in November 2017 when Entercom Communications — which owns the rival sports radio station WEEI — and CBS Radio merged. Entercom divested stations, including The Sports Hub, to alleviate anti-trust concerns by the Justice Department.
Shertenlieb said Beasley management made it clear when it took over the station that it intended to keep its talent on the often top-rated station in the men 25-54 demographic in place.
“They took Fred and I out and said, ‘Listen, we made the investment because we really like the shows on the station. We know your deals aren’t up for a little bit, but we just want you to know that we intend on doing whatever it takes to keep you guys,’ ’’ he said.
That included giving the station’s hosts a say in what they wanted in the new studio in Dorchester.
Shertenlieb and Toucher have been a tandem on the Boston airwaves since 2006, when they were on now-defunct rock station WBCN, first as an afternoon drive show before switching to mornings in December 2008.
They have been The Sports Hub’s morning show since the station launched in August 2009.
Both acknowledged that during negotiations, they did keep their minds open to other possibilities elsewhere.
“I thought this might be time I could truly explore doing something different,’’ said Toucher. “I was open to anything. I truly mean that. I was. What I found was that Beasley was a place that was the best. The best deal.”
Added Shertenlieb: “I mean, you’re always listening. You’re keeping your ear out there. But they just made it easy for us to stay with them. You only get this opportunity once every several years. It was flattering, but like I said, from Day One they proved to us that if we want the show to be successful, these are the people to stick around with.”
Toucher said he feels like the show is in a better place than it was a couple of years ago, even though ratings have always been high.
“For one thing, I’m trying harder. I am,’’ he said. “I know I’ve talked about maybe not being thrilled about some things, but after exploring everything, I really am excited about it.”
Shertenlieb said he appreciated that longtime boss Mike Thomas, who was the Sports Hub’s program director at CBS Radio and maintains the same role with Beasley, has always had their back.
“The guy would flip over a chair and fight people in a bar for us if he had to,’’ he said. “In radio, that’s rare. Having a program director and a guy behind you that makes decisions and will honestly fight for you and do what it takes to make your show successful is rare. We know what we have and we’re glad we have it. We’re glad to stay.”
Recently, “Toucher and Rich” has been locked in a compelling battle with WEEI’s “Kirk and Callahan” show (now the “Mut and Callahan” show with the November departure of Kirk Minihane to his own upcoming show on Radio.com) for the top spot in Boston’s quarterly Nielsen Audio ratings among the men 25-54 demographic.
“Toucher and Rich” finished first in that demo in the spring, while “Kirk and Callahan” was first this summer. Fall ratings come out Dec. 27.