A seismic shakeup at sports radio station WEEI Tuesday brought to an end the tenure of longtime host Glenn Ordway, who was fired by parent company Entercom after a decline in ratings brought on in part by the ascent of a legitimate competitor.
Ordway, who spent 27 years at WEEI, will be replaced on its afternoon drive program by Mike Salk, a Boston native who has co-hosted a program on 710 ESPN in Seattle since 2009. Ordway’s final show will be Friday.
“They made a decision that they feel is in the best interest of the company, and they’re entitled to that,” said Ordway, confirming a Globe report of his departure during the first introductory moments of his program Wednesday. “It’s their decision, it’s not mine … It’s obvious that we are not getting the ratings that we need to get on this program.”
Ordway, a prominent radio voice in Boston for more than 30 years as a host and former Celtics radio announcer, said station director Jason Wolfe — whom Ordway once hired at the station — broke the news to him Tuesday night.
“You’re going to hear nothing negative about anybody here,” said Ordway, who told listeners he has other media projects in the works and isn’t retiring. “If you’re looking for that, you’re not going to find it here … I was a big part of starting all this, so I’m really fond of it.”
Wolfe did not respond to request for comment, but in a statement he praised Ordway’s professionalism and accomplishments.
“I am so thankful to have been able to work alongside Glenn for the past 20-plus years and I hope that all Boston sports fans realize how important his contributions have been to this station, to the market and to this industry,” Wolfe said.
The fall is a stunning one for Ordway even by the volatile standards of the radio business. He was the ringleader of the “The Big Show,” which featured him moderating a rotating cast of co-hosts, and the show was a tremendous ratings success through the late ’90s and well into the last decade.
Ordway signed a five-year contract worth a reported $1 million per year in January 2009, but there were out-clauses if certain ratings benchmarks weren’t met.
The launch of the CBS Radio-owned 98.5 The Sports Hub in August 2009 almost immediately revealed that there was room for two potent, strong-signaled sports radio stations in the market. It’s afternoon drive program, hosted by Michael Felger and Tony Massorotti, has consistently had stellar ratings the past couple of years.
The competition cut into Ordway’s audience — and in a sense, his salary. In September 2011, Entercom, WEEI’s parent company, cut his salary in half after the program failed to finish among the top three stations in the Boston market for a particular demographic in a specific number of consecutive Arbitron books.
Salk is a Buckingham Browne and Nichols graduate with previous Boston radio experience at 1510 and the now-defunct ESPN 890. He did not respond to a request for comment about his pending homecoming and it is uncertain when he will make his debut.
Salk will be paired with Ordway’s current co-host, Michael Holley, in the 2-6 p.m. time slot. WEEI said in a statement that Holley will host solo during the immediate future.
During his time in Boston, Salk hosted a program on 890 with Bob Halloran, among other duties. His Seattle program, a weekday morning show which he co-hosts with former NFL quarterback Brock Huard, has been a ratings success.
Salk’s salary is expected to be in the vicinity of $100,000 according to industry sources.
The pairing of Salk and Holley, who was moved from middays to partner with Ordway afternoon drive in February 2011 when he signed a new multi-year contract, would give WEEI a program that would logically trend younger.
WEEI has typically been overwhelmed in the younger Arbitron demographics by rival 98.5 The Sports Hub.
As recently as this past spring, Ordway and Holley’s program had solid ratings, finishing second in the important men 25-54 demographic, a spot ahead of The Sports Hub’s “Felger and Massarotti” program.
But in the fall, “Felger and Massarotti” was first (9.1) while WEEI’s “Ordway and Holley’’ show was fifth (5.2), and the early numbers during the winter period strongly favor the Sports Hub program.
The irony is that Felger and Massarotti both got a big break as rotating co-hosts on “The Big Show” during its heyday.
Now, it appears they have helped bring down Ordway, with Salk, who worked with Felger at 890, now coming back to challenge them.