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Sports Media

Radio ratings game sounds like a good battle

By Chad Finn
Globe Staff / September 17, 2010

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And in this week’s extended episode of “Boston Sports Radio Showdown’’ . . .

Excuse the soap-opera style introduction, but it seems fitting given the plot twists and turns of the relentless and intriguing battle between WEEI and 98.5 The Sports Hub for Boston sports radio supremacy.

We reported in Tuesday’s editions of the Globe that The Sports Hub enjoyed a superb August in the Arbitron ratings, finishing first in both the morning and afternoon drives, while also topping WEEI in the midday in the all-important men 25-54 demographic.

But that was only part of the story. Here are a few other leftover notes, details we learned over the course of the week, and even some mixed signals on interpreting the numbers in this market.

We’ll let you decide if any of this counts as a cliffhanger.

■Despite trailing The Sports Hub in all the three daytime programming windows, WEEI finished tied for second overall in the demographic with a 5.9 share, while the Sports Hub was tied for fourth (5.3).

Several readers asked how this could happen. Here’s how: WEEI was stronger at night, finishing in third from 7-midnight with a 7.4 share, while The Sports Hub was tied for sixth (4.8). And WEEI was considerably stronger on the weekends, finishing sixth on Saturday-Sunday 6 a.m.-midnight with a 6.8 share, while the Sports Hub was a distant 13th (2.8).

With the Red Sox season coming to a close on WEEI while the Patriots are underway on their flagship, The Sports Hub, it will be interesting to see the effects on the night and weekend numbers.

■WEEI defeated The Sports Hub in the 6-7 p.m. hour, which featured its revamped Red Sox pregame show if the team was at home. WEEI was second in the time slot with a 6.8 share, while The Sports Hub’s “The Baseball Reporters,’’ hosted by Tony Massarotti, was fourth (5.9).

■WEEI program director Jason Wolfe continues to insist that the share it receives in Boston from its Providence-based FM affiliate (103.7), should be combined with the Arbitron numbers of its flagship Boston station.

By that measure, in the men 25-54 demographic, WEEI would be first in morning drive (8.1 share), fourth from (10 a.m.-2 p.m., 5.3), second from 2-6 p.m. (7.0), first from 6-7 p.m. (7.7), and first from 7 p.m.-midnight (9.1).

While the practice makes sense on some level, there is also a dubious element to it. WEEI management has refused to combine the two numbers for the sake of bonuses in the past, and the typical response when personnel at other stations are asked about WEEI’s approach is one of incredulity.

“I honestly cannot believe they are still trying to do that,’’ said an executive at another Boston station, noting that it was relatively common for stations to combine shares on simulcast stations, but not one on a different frequency with different advertisers outside of the primary market.

Thomas Mocarsky, vice president of corporate communications and investor relations at Arbitron, called on “a client’s behalf’’ yesterday afternoon. Mocarsky said it is “uncommon, but not incorrect’’ for stations to combine the Arbitron numbers of two outlets into one in a single market, but emphasized that he hadn’t looked at WEEI’s specific situation.

■Arbitron announced Tuesday its ratings agreement with Entercom Communications, WEEI’s parent company and one of the nation’s largest radio groups, has been renewed.

Here and there
Hard to believe it’s almost time to drop the puck on the NHL season, but the regular-season opener is less than a month — not to mention nearly 4,000 miles — away.

The distance from Boston to Prague makes for unusual situation for NESN and The Sports Hub, the team’s television- and radio-rights holders.

NESN will send reporter Naoka Funayama with the team, along with a director and videographer. But Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley will not head overseas, instead calling the games while watching a video feed in NESN’s Watertown studios. It’s a tactic ESPN used for several World Cup telecasts in 2006. While it’s not ideal, it’s acceptable so long as the audience isn’t misled that the broadcasters are calling it live from the arena.

The Sports Hub’s Bruins broadcast team — play-by-play voice Dave Goucher and analyst Bob Beers — won’t call the exhibition games in Dublin (Oct. 2) or Liberec, Czech Republic (Oct. 5), but will be in the booth for the regular-season opener in Prague against the Phoenix Coyotes Oct. 9.

Playoff form
Barring the baseball miracle of miracles or the ghost of Gene Mauch suddenly deciding to haunt the Yankees or Rays, the Red Sox will be postseason bystanders for the first time since 2006. But a pair of personalities familiar to viewers of NESN’s Red Sox telecasts will be seeing postseason action.

TBS announced Wednesday its broadcasting teams for its exclusive coverage of all four Division Series, as well as the American League Championship Series. Don Orsillo, NESN’s play-by-voice of the Red Sox, will be paired with Blue Jays broadcaster Buck Martinez to call a first-round series to be determined. Orsillo, who has done fine work while raising his national profile during his previous three seasons contributing to TBS’s playoff coverage, was also paired with Martinez last year.

Also, Dennis Eckersley, always candid and insightful as a NESN studio analyst, will fill the same role for TBS, where he’ll team with Matt Winer, Cal Ripken Jr., and David Wells.

Ready for kickoff
For those of you hungering for a pro football appetizer before Sunday’s Patriots-Jets main course, NESN will broadcast the opener of the Hartford Colonials’ UFL season when they host the Sacramento Mountain Lions tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. Mike Logan will handle play by play, with The Sports Hub’s Scott Zolak on color. It is the first of two Hartford games NESN will air this season. The second will be its Oct. 16 matchup with Jeff Jagodzinski’s Omaha Nighthawks . . . Pete Sheppard, who has had a relatively low profile since being let go by WEEI in January, announced on his Facebook account this week that he will be hosting a show on Patriots.com. Sheppard, who formerly hosted WEEI’s “The Real Postgame Show,’’ will host the “Pete Sheppard Show’’ from 4-6 p.m. Tuesdays beginning next week . . . Many cable and satellite providers are offering a free preview of the NFL RedZone channel Sunday beginning at 1 p.m. The format features studio host Scott Hanson deftly taking viewers from game to game whenever a team is poised to score within the 20-yard-line . . . The Globe’s Albert Breer will be moving to the NFL Network as an on-air reporter, as well as writing for NFL.com. Breer will depart after the Patriots-Dolphins matchup Oct. 4.

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

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