All About The Sox!

With complete, show-by-show Boston ratings breakdowns now available, sure enough, it’s all about the Sox!

With the first full ratings book release since the team moved from WEEI to WRKO, its effect is immediately apparent. In the key adults 25-54 demographic, the station surged 315% between 7pm and 10pm, when most games air.

Meanwhile, the Sox had a mixed effect on the rest of WRKO. They provided no help to Howie Carr, whose ratings actually fell by 10% as compared to the previous quarterly survey.

Remember all of the confusion over pre-empted shows during the pre-season? That may have hurt Carr’s show. In fact, boring Jay Severin finally realized an increase, up 14%. Did Howie’s loss turn into his gain? Even so, Carr is still beating his WTKK competitor.

Otherwise, mornings at WRKO were up book-to-book, but Tommy Tune Out is scoring lower ratings than Scotto did a year ago (as previously reported by the Herald). Even with the increases, 5am-noon remains a dead zone for WRKO, with relatively tiny audiences.

Though ratings for his timeslot rose, Todd Feinburg remains the lowest-rated host in the market by audience share (6am-midnight) and has the smallest average quarter hour (AQH) figure of any daytime talk radio show in Boston. Finne-bomb takes second in both of these categories.

And let’s wipe out a myth once and for all: the loss of Imus did NOT hurt WTKK. In fact, despite a crummy lineup of Mike Barnicle and various guest hosts, mornings at the station were down only 3% post-Imus.

At night, WTKK continues to slide with a syndicated lineup that has been sagging for a long time. It’s in bad shape from 7pm to 5am.

Though not apparent from WBZ’s first-place overall showing in listeners 12 and older, the station was actually a weak performer across the board. In the all-important 25-54 category, its daytime news wheel fell 15%. At night, WBZ’s talk shows fell 40% (8-midnight) and 29% (midnight-5am).

Because its audience skews much older than other talk stations, WBZ faces a particular challenge in modernizing its product to appeal to the under-55 segment of the audience.

Where Talk Radio Should’ve Been Yesterday

Given the immense importance yesterday’s Middleborough casino vote has for the entire Commonweath, why didn’t any of Boston’s talk stations send a host or two down there for a live broadcast? (If anyone in Boston did do this, please let me know, but as far as I can tell, it didn’t happen)

Granted, there were some nasty press restrictions in place, but it would’ve been one heck of a show, with people screaming at each other and the bizarre nature of Town Meeting proceedings.

In other markets where I’ve worked, live remote shows from major events such as this one are routine, even when they occur on weekends. But mediocrity has settled over Boston radio in a big way. Yes, the hosts will grumble, but it’s good for the station.

Meanwhile, in terms of coverage, I’m in full agreement with Dan Kennedy of Media Nation, who grew up in Middleborough and found the pro-casino rhetoric alarming. Does opposing the plan mean you’re a racist Ku Klux Klan supporter? Of course not, but proponents used these smear tactics during the campaign.

He also points out that media coverage has so far greatly mislead viewers about the vote’s outcome. See his updates here.

Buddy Tests Providence

As New England’s second- largest municipality, has Providence really grown into a more sophisticated city, or does it remain a corrupt, parochial backwater?

Soon, we will know the answer to this question, based on the fate of former Mayor-For-Life Buddy Cianci, who has just been released from federal prison after a five-year sentence. Clearly, there’s a substantial faction that takes pride in the way the city has moved forward, with new high-rises, shopping and cafes. It’s now seen as a great place to live and work.

But there’s also an element that would send the area straight back to Buddy’s bad old days, where Rhode Island corruption rivaled Eastern Europe’s. Getting things done meant paying bribes and the mob seemed to have a strong foothold in Cianci’s regime.

Thursday night, WJAR-10 ran a two hour primetime special on Buddy’s past and present that sent mixed messages to the public. While historical footage of Cianci’s colorful reign was fascinating to watch, WJAR seemed to be reminding anyone who might have forgotten just how important Buddy was, or is. Does the media still need him that badly?

He was shown during his days as a host on WHJJ-AM, a once-proud but now largely destroyed station. It’s hard to imagine WHJJ now as a major local talk outlet, but it was at the time, complete with a substantial marketing budget.

What came through most of all, however, is just how long ago Buddy peaked. Many of the video clips shown dated back to the 1970s and were complete with big cars and even bigger shirt collars. This man is ancient history!

Beyond the interesting library footage, there was a great deal of fawning over the convicted felon, with great enthusiasm by interview subjects for whatever he might do next, including talk radio.

But what do WJAR viewers think? With thousands responding to a station poll, views are mixed about Buddy’s future, with a majority believing he should not return to talk radio. Instead, the largest number think he should lay low, while others believe he should run for office!

In fact, if he did, 55% say they would vote for him again, with 45% opposed.

Should he choose to work at WPRO, it’s clear at least one host would be fired from the lineup to make room, since owner Citadel has never been a big proponent of local talk radio and the salaries they require. So that Buddy can spend a couple of years reminiscing about the good ‘ol days, who gets canned?

In the end, assuming Buddy doesn’t run for office, I think he will find his way to one station or the other. Why? Because it’s the lazy, backward-thinking thing to do.

Why spend time developing Rhode Island’s next generation of talk radio entertainers when an old legend can be milked for a short period of time? When radio managers lack vision, these are the results, with fellow felon Tommy Tune Out leading the way in Boston.

If and when voters and / or listeners do embrace the return of Buddy Cianci, the message they’re sending to all is that those new buildings and cafes mean little, as Providence is not yet ready to grow up.

Coffee Boy’s Ratings Trickery

As expected, Coffee Boy’s spin machine knob was set to “11” for an interview with the Boston Herald’s Jessica Heslam. Bring out the Spinal Tap chaps!

On Planet Wolfe, WRKO simply didn’t exist before Tommy Tune Out was installed, so why make a comparison? It’s the old game of manipulating ratings in an attempt to trick reporters.

Clearly, however, Heslam’s been doing her homework, because her year-to-year numbers comparison is exactly how programmers analyze the data. But Coffee Boy would rather rewrite history:

With Finneran at the AM mike, WRKO listeners tune out

WRKO’s morning drive show with Tom Finneran at the helm lost thousands of key listeners this spring from the same time period last year Рand could be facing an outright hemorrhaging once he’s battling Howie Carr in the a.m.

During the morning drive in the spring of last year, with Scott Allen Miller as host, WRKO (680 AM) had an average 58,000 weekly listeners among 25- to 54-year-olds – the group eyed by advertisers.

With Finneran at the mike this spring, WRKO lost nearly 20 percent of those listeners – 11,000 in all – with only 47,000 in that key demo tuning in, according to Arbitron spring ratings figures released yesterday.

Although the ex-House Speaker lost listeners, those who did tune in spent more time listening, and Finneran gained 7,000 listeners among 25- to 54-year-olds from winter to spring.

Finneran debuted in February. “I’m not looking at last year, I’m looking at right now, and he’s doing exactly what he’s supposed to be doing, which is growing the audience and getting them to listen longer,” said WRKO program director Jason Wolfe.

But Coffee Boy’s wrong here on so many levels, it’s hard to know where to begin:

— OF COURSE the year-to-year comparison is the one to make, because these numbers are a referendum on this management team’s changes. Despite the huge publicity he’s received, Finne-bomb turned in numbers below what Scotto pulled this time last year. Listening patterns are in part seasonally based, so last year’s spring book is the proper reference point.

— Finneran has the benefit of Sox games pumping WRKO’s overall ratings, which was not available to last year’s lineup. Better than that, he’s got a first-place team bringing listeners right to 680 AM.

— While Scotto’s compensation package was made up mostly of New Balance outlet store dumpster discards, Flavia coffee packets and Howie’s day-old Kowloon leftovers (which I once begged him not to eat), Finne-bore makes serious dough, at least $500,000, if not more. Yet Scotto fared better in the ratings.

— The entire newsroom was fired to pay a convicted felon’s salary, all so Finneran could bomb in morning drive? How is he anything other than an Entercom political welfare recipient?

Don’t expect critical coverage of this from the Globe, which through its parent company’s partial ownership of the Sox, is in bed with Entercom Boston. What a business!

Split Sox Hits Guest Street Pocketbooks

Got an interesting email from an insider this evening who tells me that splitting Sox baseball between two stations has hit some Entercom Boston managers and air staffers in the wallet.

That’s because running the games on WEEI alone meant number one ratings and big performance bonuses for Coffee Boy and others. But when both stations are tied for fifth, what’s doled out by the company “is beer money” says the insider.

And we’re not talking microbrews either, it’s more like that watery stuff teenagers drink on the beach in July. Yuck.

The Numbers Are In…

…And sure enough, Red Sox baseball has fueled a ratings increase at WRKO. Curiously, WEEI moved up as well, finishing in a fifth-place tie with WRKO.

Keep in mind that when all of the games were run on WEEI alone, the station was sometimes taking first place in the market, even beating WBZ, which was able to remain on top thanks to the split-station Sox. No doubt that has brought relief to Soldiers Field Road.

Also a factor: in the latest ratings, news-talkers have been going through the roof across the country, particularly on stations that carry Rush Limbaugh.

How did Finne-bomb fare? We don’t yet know, but it’s hard to believe he didn’t pick up at least some of the station’s baseball-related gains.

Across town, FM talker WTKK was one of the few to miss out on the nationwide trend. It was essentially flat and finished in 10th place. While Howie Carr’s October arrival will help it down the road, I think several additional moves will be needed to completely overtake WRKO’s Rush and Sox-fueled schedule.

In the end, the sad truth is that WRKO can survive with a horrible line-up as long as it has Limbaugh and the Sox. But the real test will come in the fall ratings book, when Howie Carr is no longer working there.

One can imagine Carr has mixed feelings about today’s verdict: there’s little doubt he’d love to see the station tank, yet the new results were partly fueled by the success of his own show.