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Sports Media

Local show axed on ESPN Radio

Station will feature more global view

By Nancy Marrapese-Burrell
Globe Staff / February 27, 2009
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Earlier this month, 890 ESPN Radio pulled the plug on its local mid-morning program featuring Mike Salk and Bob Halloran. The station relies heavily on nationally syndicated programming and, according to station manager Al Turner, there are currently no plans to add additional permanent local programming.

Turner defends the current lineup, saying it offers people a choice with a different outlook from WEEI.

"This is a big professional sports town, we understand that," said Turner. "We think there's room in the market for multiple sports stations. I think it's important that we keep our foothold in the door here in the Boston community. We want to provide this area with an alternative."

Regarding the Salk-Halloran cancellation, Turner declined to give specifics on the decision.

"It was a combination of things I'd rather not comment on," he said. "It wasn't just one issue."

Colin Cowherd will expand his show from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. beginning March 16. That will push Mike Tirico and Scott Van Pelt to the 2-4 p.m. slot. The local "The Lew and Mike Show," featuring Lew Goldstein and Mike Vallee, runs from 4-7 p.m. weekdays. The station will air a baseball show with Kevin Winter at the beginning of the season from 6-7 p.m. "Mike and Mike In the Morning," featuring Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic, will remain in the 6-10 a.m. slot.

"It's less expensive to do the network shows, obviously, and ESPN would like to have a bigger foothold in the marketplace," said Turner. "Overall, at the end of the day, we could go back to a local show; it's not inconceivable."

He said it's a balancing act - keeping the provincials happy while keeping with ESPN's vision.

"We balance the needs and desires of ESPN with what we'd like to do locally," he said. "We've always tried to do as much local as makes sense. We'd love to do more local, but we also recognize we're part of the ESPN brand. Our teams are so great here right now, there is always a tug to do more local, and we try to come up with ways. Like last year, when the Celtics were making a serious run at the championship, we did a local basketball show at noon. Things like that, we're always open to do more of. For instance, if the Bruins have a major run at the [Stanley] Cup, there are times we might do something special locally."

Turner said the station offers a different viewpoint.

"It gives a national [picture] to people who are more than fans of just the local sports teams," he said. "It's for fans of professional basketball, not just the Celtics, or fans of professional baseball, not just the Red Sox, or professional football, not just the Patriots. It's the global approach. It's the people who are interested in watching ESPN and its networks."

Turner believes there are plenty of sports fans to go around and that the more various the topics, the better.

Although WEEI has its audience, Turner doesn't think ESPN's lack of extensive local programming detracts from the product.

"I like it the way it is," said Turner. "If a great idea comes up and something works, that's different. 'Mike and Mike' is not going anywhere. We wouldn't come up with anything that's going to replace 'Mike and Mike,' but we will do specials.

"Last year, most of the stations have filled up with baseball and football people over the last 20 years. All of a sudden, when the Celtics became big, who's the basketball expert on WEEI, on 'The Big Show'? So they start pulling in [Cedric Maxwell]. There wasn't one on board because they didn't have to be. Who's the hockey expert? If the Bruins won the Cup a couple of years in a row and the Pats didn't make the playoffs for a couple of years in a row, who does everyone want to talk about?

"I'm a big basketball fan and there's no one on WEEI talking in depth about the NBA. Maybe [Michael] Holley is the closest. If you're a big NBA fan and live in Boston, you probably don't care about those shows [on WEEI in the morning and afternoon], and those are the biggest time periods. They're not going to have a real debate on Pau Gasol [of the Lakers] vs. Kevin Garnett, because most people have seen Pau Gasol twice outside of a six-game series they had last year. And here's a guy who's a global star."

Turner said 890's goal isn't to battle WEEI for listeners.

"I don't necessarily see it as going up against WEEI. I think it's existing in the marketplace. You can have a fast-food restaurant without going after McDonald's. We're here like the other stations, we're competing like the other stations. Our target is not WEEI. Obviously, they're a lot larger than we are."

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