The last few days have been a juxtaposition of conflicting emotions for the staff at 98.5 The Sports Hub.
On Thursday, the station celebrated a massive win in the Nielsen summer ratings period, finishing first overall and in all individual day parts in the men 25-54 demographic from June 23-Sept. 14.
But on Friday, that joy had turned to confusion, disappointment, and anger. The Sports Hub’s parent company, Beasley Media, has recently been inflicting a round of corporate cost-cutting across its stations in various markets, and stations in its Boston cluster were not spared.
As of early Friday evening, eight employees at the five Beasley-owned stations in the Boston market were fired, including two at The Sports Hub: evening co-host Christian Arcand and longtime morning show producer Mike Lockhart.
Arcand had been with The Sports Hub since December 2017 and had co-hosted “The Adam Jones Show” — which ranked No. 1 in the summer ratings book — since June 2018. He was working without a contract but had negotiated a three-year deal that he had expected to sign soon.
Lockhart had been with the station even before it was a station, joining the “Toucher and Rich” program in January 2009 while it was still on rock station WBCN, seven months before the format change to The Sports Hub. Lockhart’s dismissal infuriated hosts Fred Toucher and Rich Shertenliebwho made their feelings known to management after their Friday show.
Other personnel at Beasley’s Boston stations who were victims of the cost-cutting Friday included Julie Devereaux and Brian Bell at 105.7 WROR; Bobby Blaze at Hot 96.9; Jonathan Wier at Country 102.5; Ken West, the program director at Radio 92.9; and Joe Pletta director of production for Beasley.
In a brief statement, a Beasley spokesperson said, “Like other responsible publicly traded organizations, we are restructuring our operations to reflect the reality of the country’s current economic challenges.”
While Beasley’s cost-cutting plans were no secret, personnel at The Sports Hub had reason to believe they would be spared. The station isn’t just an enormous ratings success, but also one of the top-billing stations in the country when it comes to advertising. In 2021, The Sports Hub brought in more than $33 million, most among any sports station in the country, and fifth among all stations nationwide of any format or genre.
One reason for the cuts is the decline of Beasley’s stock price, which is little more than a dollar per share. But that’s more than twice what shares of Audacy — rival station WEEI’s parent company — have been going for recently. It was at 34 cents per share as of Friday afternoon.
Friday’s lousy news abbreviated The Sports Hub’s satisfaction in another ratings book win and overall enormous listenership. Overall in that men 25-54 demo, The Sports Hub took first with a 17.3 share, while WEEI 93.7 was tied for fifth with a 4.9.
In morning drive, “Toucher and Rich” took first with a huge 24.2 share, while WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show” was seventh with a 5.2.
The Sports Hub’s “Zolak and Bertrand” show was tops in middays with an 18.0 share, while WEEI’s “Gresh and Keefe” took sixth at 6.4.
In the afternoon drive, The Sports Hub’s “Felger and Mazz” extended its years-long run of first-place finishes, and had a 19.6 share. WEEI’s “Merloni, Fauria, and Mego” show was third at 6.0.
In the 6-7 pm window, The Sports Hub’s “The Baseball Hour,” hosted by Tony Massarotti, earned a first-place 17.2 share. In the same hour, WEEI, which often has the Red Sox pregame show in that spot, was tied for 16th with a 2.6. Part of the reason for that is that “The Baseball Hour” holds a good chunk of the “Felger and Mazz” audience, but that is still a shockingly large discrepancy between the stations.
At night, The Sports Hub’s “The Adam Jones Show” had a 10.7 to take first, while WEEI, with Red Sox broadcasts and the “Mut at Night” program, tied for sixth at 4.6.
‘Ecktionary’ also done
With Dennis Eckersley’s retirement from the NESN Red Sox booth official, “The Ecktionary,” the wonderful Twitter account and accompanying Google doc that meticulously documented Eckersley’s enjoyable commentary and lingo, will shut down. Its founder prefers to maintain a private identity but has launched a new account, @SoxandShoes, that will focus on the Red Sox and is seeded with quite a few retro Eckisms already. Like the rest of us, the creator of “The Ecktionary” appreciated the heartfelt emotion of Eckersley’s final NESN broadcast on Wednesday: “You got the sense that he felt immense gratitude for the 20 years he’s had NESN and for how much the fans appreciated him , his honesty, and everything that he gave to the game. I think he almost didn’t realize just how much we did appreciate him until then.”… The Twitter Line of the Week Certificate — we’re too cheap to spring for a plaque — goes to The Athletic’s David Aldridgewho tweeted this after TMZ released video of Draymond Green punching Golden State Warriors teammate Jordan Poole: “TMZ, still the undisputed champion of ‘how the (bleep) did they get this?'”
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