Five-and-a-half years ago, WEEI host Glenn Ordway was fired by parent company Entercom Communications after a decline in ratings in his long-running afternoon drive program, The Big Show.
Three years ago, Ordway returned to the station in the less prominent midday host role, teaming with Lou Merloni and Christian Fauria on the OMF program and finding ratings success.
Thursday, Ordway in essence got his old gig back.
Entercom and WEEI announced a tweak to its weekday lineup Thursday morning that flips the show times of the two programs.
Ordway, Merloni, and Fauria will move to afternoon drive, while the Dale and Keefe program, featuring host Dale Arnold and Rich Keefe, will move from that 2-6 p.m. slot to 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
“The circle is complete. It’s the Big O show again,’’ said Fauria with a laugh while discussing it with Ordway early in Thursday’s show.
The switch also moves Arnold to a familiar if less prominent time slot. A host at the station since its sports-radio inception in 1991, Arnold lost his full-time job in 2011 when Merloni and Mike Mutnansky took over the midday program.
Arnold stayed on in a part-time role as a fill-in and weekend host and got his measure of redemption in 2014 when he was reunited with Michael Holley in afternoon drive. Keefe joined the show in 2016, while Holley left for a bigger role at NBC Sports Boston in February.
“This move allows us to return Glenn and Dale to the show times that have been synonymous with their legendary careers in Boston,’’ said Mark Hannon, Senior Vice President and Market Manager, Entercom Boston, “while also providing Rich, Christian, and Lou with new, exciting challenges moving forward.’’
The earlier time slot also allows more time in NHL season for Arnold to get to his other job as a studio host for NESN’s Bruins broadcasts. He would occasionally have to leave the afternoon drive program early to get to the NESN studios on time.
It will be fascinating to see how Ordway and company fare this time around against the ratings juggernaut that helped lead to his departure five years ago.
The Sports Hub’s Felger and Massarotti program has dominated afternoon drive ratings in the targeted men 25-54 demographic for several years, dating to the end of Ordway’s previous afternoon drive tenure.
In the most recent Nielsen ratings, the show, hosted by Michael Felger and Tony Massarotti, earned a 14.7 share, finishing first in the Boston market in the spring. The Dale and Keefe show was second, but with a 6.8 share, 7.7 with its Providence affiliate’s Boston share included.
The OMF show has been a ratings success in middays. In the spring, classic rock station WZLX’s “Carter Alan’’ program was first (10.0). The Sports Hub’s “Zo and Beetle’’ show, hosted by Scott Zolak and Marc Bertrand, was second (9.2), while WEEI’s “OMF’’ show was third (8.8) but moves to second with the WVEI share included (1.0). (Nielsen does not recommend including the Providence share.)
“We’ve developed chemistry, and we love and hate each other, which is what you need in radio,’’ said Ordway on the air Thursday, describing what he believes the OMF show will bring to afternoon drive.
“I think you need to have that love/hate relationship. We’ve been together in all of this. . . . You need to have people working with you that you can sit there and beat up and then when you go to break there’s so much respect that you’re laughing your ass off. Those are the radio shows that work.’’
Ordway found that success for years as the orchestrator of the “The Big Show,’’ which featured him moderating a rotating cast of cohosts — including, for a time, Felger and Massarotti. The show was a massive ratings success through the late 1990s and into the 2000s.
But the launch of the CBS Radio-owned 98.5 The Sports Hub in August 2009 almost immediately demonstrated that there was room for two thriving sports radio stations in the market.
Ordway, who was paired with Holley in 2011, still found some ratings success. In spring 2012, the program finished second in the Nielsen ratings, a spot ahead of Felger and Massarotti.
That’s the last three-month book in which Felger and Massarotti did not finish first in afternoon drive in the men 25-54 demo.
But by fall 2013, Ordway and Holley had dipped to fifth in the ratings. With the numbers following a similar path that winter, Entercom used a ratings clause in Ordway’s contract to let him go and replaced him with Mike Salk, who proved a disastrous fit.
Ordway was always gracious about the circumstances of his departure, and so he was on good terms with the station when Entercom executive Phil Zachary decided to bring him back three years ago.
It’s the kind of second act that doesn’t come around often in sports radio, especially when the competition is the same and as successful as it was before.
“It’s been great,’’ said Ordway during Thursday’s show. “The three of us have phenomenal ratings in midday. As they say, our work is done.’’
On Aug. 13, it will begin again, with a different cast but the challenge new and familiar at once.
. . .
WEEI’s lineup shakeup isn’t the only news regarding a midday sports radio program this week. The Sports Hub’s midday show featuring Scott Zolak and Marc Bertrand will be simulcast on NBC Sports Boston beginning Monday.