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Ordway’s salary dips with ratings

By Chad Finn
Globe Staff / September 23, 2011

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A drop in the ratings has led to a drop in salary for Glenn Ordway.

According to industry sources, the longtime WEEI host had his reported $1 million annual salary cut in half by station owner Entercom earlier this month. The company took advantage of a clause in the contract Ordway signed in January 2009 that gave it an out if his afternoon drive program, “The Big Show,’’ failed to meet a certain standard in the Arbitron ratings.

Sources said Entercom could opt out of the contract if “The Big Show’’ failed to finish among the top three stations in the Boston market for a particular demographic in a specific number of consecutive Arbitron books. “The Big Show’’ finished fifth in the men 25-54 demographic in the spring book with a 5.5 share. In the winter book, it was fourth (6.1).

Ordway was approached in early September and given what amounted to an ultimatum, according to sources: agree to have his salary significantly cut, or his job may be in jeopardy.

Ordway was contacted by telephone last night but would not comment on the record.

Entercom vice president and market manager Jeff Brown said in a statement, “During this historic run in Boston sports, Glenn Ordway has brought the best and most entertaining sports talk radio to the most passionate sports fans in America.

“ ‘The Big Show’ with Glenn Ordway and Michael Holley is the dream pairing we knew it would be. They continue to get better every day and they sound better than ever now in FM. As WEEI expands to 93.7 FM, we are thrilled that Glenn Ordway is a key member of the best pure sports talk radio on FM, and will be going forward.’’

At the time Ordway signed the deal, which was reported to be for five years at $1 million per, the clause probably did not seem a risk, even with the volatility in the radio business. “The Big Show’’ was on a run of staggering success, having finished first among men 25-54 in every quarterly ratings book since the spring of 2003. It had also ranked first among adults 25-54 in every ratings book but three over the same span.

But in July 2009, six months after Ordway reached agreement on his new contract, CBS Radio announced it would launch an all-sports station with a strong FM signal, and 98.5 The Sports Hub debuted in August 2009. It soon made headway into WEEI’s massive audience, with its afternoon-drive program, hosted by former occasional “Big Show’’ co-hosts Michael Felger and Tony Massarotti, becoming an almost immediate hit.

“The Big Show’’ was revamped in February, ditching its roundtable format and moving Holley from middays to Ordway’s co-host. The move has had little impact in the ratings; “Felger and Massarotti’’ won the spring book with a 9.4 share.

Simulcast announced When the terms of Ordway’s last contract were announced in 2009, it was reported that there was also a strong possibility “The Big Show’’ would be simulcast on television.

So there was a bit of coincidence, if little surprise, in yesterday’s joint announcement by Comcast SportsNet New England and The Sports Hub that the regional sports network will begin simulcasting “Felger and Massarotti’’ five days a week in the 2-6 p.m. window, possibly as soon as November. A best-of from that day’s program will air each weekday at midnight.

The simulcast had been rumored for months, and Bill Bridgen, CSNNE’s executive vice president and general manager, confirmed that it was in the works for a while.

“I think it’s a perfect fit,’’ said Bridgen. “We’re not going to change the radio show. That’s their area. We’re just an unblinking eye bringing that show to people visually. There’s no change in plans for the show itself.’’

It doesn’t hurt that Felger, who hosts “Sports Tonight’’ and “Sports Sunday,’’ is already a featured player on the station.

“He reminds you a little bit of Howard Stern, doesn’t he?’’ Bridgen said with a chuckle. “Whether you love him or hate him, he gets you to tune in.

“But in all seriousness, with this program, it’s all about the interaction and chemistry with Mazz, who is just a terrific personality in this town, and how they both aren’t shy with an opinion.’’

Telling Bartman’s tale Red Sox fans have enough frustration at the moment, so there is probably even less desire than usual around here to relive Bill Buckner’s error in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. So consider this both a warning and a glowing review. “Catching Hell,’’ an ESPN Film that focuses on Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series, Cubs fan Steve Bartman’s infamous life-altering moment, and the cruelty of scapegoating, is as mesmerizing as anything in the network’s superb “30 for 30’’ series. So where does Buckner come in? At the beginning, actually. Director Alex Gibney, a Red Sox fan, sets up the film by leading off with about 15 minutes of Buckner footage and background. While it’s debatable how much Buckner was actually scapegoated in Boston, his presence is important to the film’s theme. And if you’re looking for a hero amid all the misdirected anger that night in Chicago, you’ll find her in the Wrigley Field security officer who allowed Bartman, who was receiving death threats before the final out was recorded, to stay at her home after the friends with whom he attended the game abandoned him at the ballpark. The film airs on ESPN Tuesday at 8 p.m.

Second chance It’s worth noting after Wednesday’s confirmation that Dale Arnold would be returning to NESN to host its studio programming during Bruins telecasts that he actually turned down the same role before the 2007-08 season. Arnold, who was then a midday co-host on WEEI, left his play-by-play gig when he was asked to call road games as well. NESN offered to keep him as a studio host, but he turned the job down, and Kathryn Tappen was promoted from weekend anchor and reporter for “SportsDesk’’ . . . It was lost a bit in the news of Arnold’s return, but NESN also signed Bruins reporter Naoko Funayama to a contract extension Wednesday. Good move. She is a subject of frequent praise for her professionalism and work ethic by her media peers . . . Finally, one request of NESN: Please, no more focusing on visitors to the broadcast booth, no matter how noble their cause, at the expense of elaborating on pivotal moments during games. It’s happened more than once lately, and with the Sox in the midst of an epic collapse, viewers want Jerry Remy’s perspective, not ancillary chatter while another Oriole or Ray is circling the bases.

Chad Finn can be reached at finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globechadfinn.