Friday, July 7, 2017

A Guest Does Not Equal Co-Host

Having a state Governor as a guest co-host on a sports talk show is a nice novelty idea, but going as far as to consider it as a possible audition is another.

WFAN 101.9 and 660 has been the big sports station in the biggest radio market for literally 30 years, setting the stage for sports talk as a format throughout the country.

By way of background, long time afternoon host (or co-host) Mike Francesa is leaving the station late this year, with a lot of attention being paid to who will take over that coveted spot. This coming Monday (7/10) and Tuesday (7/11), with Francesa off, the station plans to have midday co-host Evan Roberts paired with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to co-host the afternoon show.

This is an interesting idea, for a day or two. The problem is that WFAN Program Director Mark Chernoff was quoted (in the story) as saying this is being considered as an on-air audition for Christie for after his term as Governor is over.

Why is this a "problem"?

The problem is the message such a hiring would send to the listening consumers. There are (or should be) plenty of professional broadcasters out there with 10 years, 20 years, or even more of on air experience doing a successful sports talk show and knowing what it takes to build and engage a large audience day after day. They have learned their craft with an eye toward working their way up to one of the top three sports stations in the country, which WFAN clearly is.

To put it another way, WFAN should be looking to bring in its pick of any established sports talk host in the country to take over its second most important property (afternoon drive).

Bringing in someone who does not have a track record as a sportscaster (or even as a former pro athlete turned analyst) tells the audience that "anyone" can do this, and reduces the importance of the hosts and the program.

We have plenty of known sportscasters and prominent former athletes doing podcasts, many on a daily basis. A prominent New York station is not the place for a former Governor to learn his craft.

This is more than just the threat of WFAN's audience switching over to The Michael Kay Show on WEPN if they don't like who WFAN replaces Francesa with by New Year's. Listeners might just go with podcasts and/or the many TV sports talk and opinion shows available on a daily basis instead.

Those are reasons not to bother with radio, which is a lot more serious than merely not sticking with a particular station. This is not to say that we would expect Christie to not do a good job or be knowledgeable. But without a track record in that area, this would be a huge risk for WFAN to take.

It's bad enough that many sports stations around the country do not consistently give out of town scores and information, thinking that fans go to their phones "anyway" for such info. If the stations gave all of the information they should, and did the job they used to on keeping people informed, listeners wouldn't need alternative sources of information.

And now if that content may not be as effective as it has been in the past, management will be providing its listeners with still another reason not to bother.

DETROIT: Another sign of WDFN 1130 losing the sports talk battle to WXYT The Ticket. Gregg Henson, who began as an original staff member when WDFN became a sports station back in 1994, is now gone from the station as of late last week. Although the afternoon show is still co-hosted by Drew McCarthy and Jim Costa, this remains the only locally originated show on the station. 

While it would make logistical sense for Henson to go (of the three hosts), because Henson actually did the show from a studio in the Pittsburgh area, this is really more of a cost cutting move. This move happened at the same time that Henson also lost his gig as Program Director of ESPN Pittsburgh.

WEST PALM BEACH: WMEN 640 Sports has added Miami University Hurricanes broadcasts to its lineup, and in honor of that has taken on the nickname of "Hurricane 640". The station will continue to air Panthers hockey and New York Yankees baseball, along with mostly Fox Sports Radio programming.

HAWAII: The "big island" has lost its local sports station as a result of KHLO 850 and KKON 790 Kailua-Kona shutting down on July 1st. This move leaves University of Hawaii-Hilo without a broadcast outlet. In addition, it means that St. Louis Cardinals games are no longer broadcast on the island. (The Cards' Kolten Wong is from the area.) The stations also carried an NFL package.

Honolulu's ESPN 1420 remains in place as usual, but without much local programming. And select NFL games will air again this coming season on KPUA 670 in Hilo, which also airs San Francisco Giants games.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: One owner, two stations, and as of now, no more sports programming. Both WGHM 900 Nashua and WGAM Manchester 1250 have dropped "ESPN New Hampshire" and switched to a music format. The stations had simulcast sports programming going back to 2006, including having had local programming from Noon to 6 PM on weekdays.

PORTLAND ME: Finally, an added sports station. Big Jab sports adds a third smaller signal to its Portland area coverage, adding 92.3 to also carry WRED 1440 from Westbrook. They also air on WJJB 96.3 from Gray.

NEW CASTLE PA: Sorry to report the passing of sportscaster Mark Shaas of WKST 1200, who died in a multi-vehicle pile up last week.

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