March 07, 2005
John Molori's Media Blitz 3/7
BY: John Molori
- No sale at WWZN
Trying to ‘Winn’ a niche audience at AM 1510
WWZN AM 1510 The Zone general manager Mike Winn might have a second career as a physician. In short, he has stopped the bleeding at his all-sports station. With some creative marketing and lowered expectations, Winn has kept WWZN afloat.
This week, Winn announced that midday co-host Dave Jageler is leaving the station effective March 10. “Jags” is moving on to call games for the Pawtucket Red Sox. In addition, Eddie Andelman’s show will move back to three hours (Noon-3:00 p.m.) with “Further Review” leaving the airwaves.
As for a midday replacement for Jageler, Winn states, “Nick Cafardo and Ron Borges are guys Eddie gets along with. We’re trying to figure out if we should get a permanent co-host or just have a series of guests.”
Winn would not comment on Andelman’s contract status at WWZN, but Media Blitz has learned that the Boston radio legend’s deal runs through June of this year, just enough time for Andelman’s annual Hot Dog Safari slated for May 22. Guests sitting in with Andelman might just be auditioning for his job.
The biggest news of all is that AM 1510, on the block for two years, is no longer for sale according to its parent company, Sporting News Radio ( SNR). “People are still trying to bid on the station,” says Winn. “But it’s good to be able to tell advertisers that we are here to stay.”
A year ago, AM 1510 was looking to restructure its game broadcast deal with the Boston Celtics. In 2001, WWZN and the Celtics inked a 5-year contract with WWZN having the option for the 2005-06 season. Under the current agreement, AM 1510 pays the Celtics $2 million per year, personally guaranteed by SNR chief Paul Allen.
“The deal cannot continue as it is,” says Winn, who stresses that the team has been a great partner. “Right now, the Celtics are looking at other stations for 2005-06. We’d love to come up with a creative, more affordable deal to keep them here.”
Financially, Celtics’ basketball has been a losing proposition not only for AM 1510, but also for the team’s previous carrier, Sports Radio 850 WEEI. WEEI also paid $2 million per year for the rights and did not make money on the deal. Winn, ironically, sold Celtics’ broadcast time for WEEI as an advertising representative.
Last year, Winn promised to add more local programming to WWZN and he has done just that by selling station time to hosts wanting to be on the air. The station charges anywhere from $100 to $1000 for one hour of airtime.
Says Winn, “I was getting a ton of tapes from people who wanted to do shows. I wanted local programming, but we didn’t have enough revenue to pay talent. I’ll meet with the hosts, tape a couple of mock shows and, if it’s good, put it on the air. On all of our shows, the call screens are lit up.”
The amount paid to WWZN per hour of airtime is dependent on the program’ s length and what time of day hosts would like it to air. If a host wants more inventory (commercial time to sell), Winn will charge them more per hour. If WWZN gets some of the time to sell, the hourly rate decreases.
Some of the more successful purchased shows include “Weekend Thunder," "New England Ringside" and the "Sportsworld Collectibles Show.” With the station no longer for sale, perhaps SNR will pump some needed money into WWZN’s coffers. Currently, the station employs six sales representatives.
Says Winn, “It’s a tough situation because in order to be a good affiliate, we have to carry SNR national programming, but in order to be successful, we have to have local shows. This is the first time we both have our acts together.”
Winn’s goals are clearly stated. “We want to provide good national and local programming, develop local and fresh talent and be a profitable business.” Unlike the heady days of 2001-2003 when ex-GM Mike Kellogg looked to topple WEEI, catching the Entercom giant is not one of WWZN’s realistic objectives.
“ I want to have a well-run organization and make money,” says Winn, who deserves a lot of credit for restoring credibility and stability to WWZN. “I’d love to go up against WEEI, but Sporting News Radio is not going to give me $15 million a year.”
One of WWZN’s purchased shows is "Courtside with Hickman and Gilroy,” a Celtics-related program. This past Saturday, the two hosts took some biting shots at WEEI. With the Celtics surging back into the news, the hosts took exception to WEEI suddenly jumping on the team’s bandwagon.
Gilroy stated that WEEI has to “earn the right” to talk about the team. Added Hickman, “If you’re looking for legitimate Celtics’ talk, you’d like to hear people who know what they’re talking about. What is (WEEI) going to do during the (NBA) playoffs, talk Red Sox baseball?”
“We have too much class to bash other things,” Gilroy stated while, strangely enough, bashing WEEI. “Let them make asses out of themselves. It makes us look better.”
Meanwhile, last Wednesday, WEEI benefited from WWZN's poor signal during Antoine Walker’s Boston return. While driving in the Merrimack Valley and Southern NH, I could not hear Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell’s call of the Lakers-Celtics game. Frustrated, I switched to WEEI and caught a remarkably interesting conversation between Ted Sarandis and former Holy Cross basketball standout Ron Perry, Jr.
Sarandis showed his immense knowledge of New England college hoops as names like Togo Palazzi, Dee Rowe, Bob Fouracre, Ron Perry, Sr. and Dave Gavitt were discussed. It was a terrific sports radio experience.
Petey and Bill
Last December, several members of the Boston and national sports media scene bashed Pedro Martinez for taking more money and leaving Boston for the Mets.
This past week, in the wake of Bill Belichick parting ways with dutiful vets Troy Brown and Joe Andruzzi, I waited to see if the same judgments would be applied to the Patriots boss. Of course, they were not. I understand that Martinez fired some shots after departing, but his critics were already chirping before any insults were tossed.
Like Martinez, Belichick’s moves were based on money, not loyalty. He did to Andruzzi and Brown what Martinez did to the Red Sox. It was about cash, not cuddles. While Pedro was vilified for putting money before team, Belichick was, predictably, venerated.
WEEI’s Gerry Callahan, a man who called Martinez’s stint in Boston “ the Pedro high maintenance era,” stated, “Bill Belichick has gotten this far without allowing sentiment to get in the way. The way Bill Belichick thinks is the way he’s supposed to think.”
Greg Dickerson, who, in the past, questioned if Martinez was faking injury to get some time off or to get back at the Red Sox, complimented Belichick saying that he “pays based on the future, not on the past” and that “ sentimentality is set aside to get someone cheaper.” Hmm.
Three months ago, Pedro Martinez made financial decisions designed to improve his position. This past week, Bill Belichick made financial decisions designed to improve his position. Why, to many reporters, is Martinez a jerk and Belichick a genius?
John Molori’s Media Blitz column is published in The Providence Journal, The Boston Metro, The Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, The Salem Evening News, The Newburyport Daily News, The Gloucester Times, The Lowell Sun, Patriots Football Weekly, PatsFans.com, BostonPressBox.com, BostonSportsMedia.com, RedSoxNation.net and MethuenOnline.com. Email John at JOMOL3@aol.com.
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