In his column today reporting on the shutdown of 890 ESPN, our pal Chad Finn tosses an interesting twist into the local sports radio state of things. He writes:

According to multiple industry sources, ESPN is in discussions to air some of its national programming on WEEI-AM 850 during nights and weekends, with WEEI intending to move to an FM station within months. (Entercom Communications, which owns WEEI, also owns two FM stations in Boston: WAAF 97.7/107.3, and Mike 93.7.)

ESPN Radio would then take over the 850 spot on the dial. The new ESPN 850 station would then be affiliated with the ESPN Boston website, which launches Monday.

Now THAT would be a big shuffle, which would just be latest in a series of frenzied moves by WEEI as they take on the new competitor in the market, 98.5 The SportsHub WBZ-FM.

I talked about the possible FM switch for WEEI a few weeks ago:

Will WEEI Add FM Simulcast In Boston?

That post looks at the options for WEEI in the FM market here, and what the possibilities might be. The move suggested above wouldn’t just be a simulcast, it would be a full switch to FM, with ESPN radio taking over 850…which would be sort of interesting. Why would WEEI want another source of sports radio competition in town, one with a signal that they previously occupied? Would WEEI want to hand ESPN’s Mike & Mike in the Morning a spot where they could compete better with Dennis & Callahan? Unless they feel that having two programs locally to compete against WBZ-FM’s Toucher & Rich is the way to go.

Mike & Mike is the one show that ESPN seems to insist on local affiliates airing.

Dan Kennedy doesn’t think this is a smart move for ESPN.

It’s going to be really interesting to see how this all shakes out.


31 thoughts on “ESPN to 850? WEEI to FM?

  1. The comments on Chad’s article are humorous.

    To the people without XM or Sirius, just having Mike and Mike and Colin Cowherd puts them lightyears ahead of the local offerings. But the truly funny thing is, those guys all suck! Colin Cowherd’s lisp makes him impossible to listen to. Mike and Mike are just dumbassess. The best, hands down without a doubt, sports talk radio is on Fox Sports.

    Dan Patrick, Steve Czaban and Myers/Hartman…

    1. exactly…I don’t think they are that great either…..but if somebody put a gun to my head I would pick Colin Cowherd and Mike and Mike over the following WEEI weekend Ass Clowns…Butch Stearns,Larry Johnson, Craig Mustard, Greg Dickerson and the rest……(by “the rest” I mean, well, you know who I mean, the other no names WEEI gives garbage time to.)

    2. I can’t stand Cowherd and Mike and Mike. I can barely understand anyone picking D and C over Toucher and Rich, Mike and Mike? Completely useless.

      The afternoon show on ESPN is vastly under rated. I’ll miss them over the Big O and Felgy and Mazz.

  2. ‘EEI may well find it necessary to move to the FM side of the dial, but handing their longtime AM frequency to a competitor makes no sense at all. Why not retain the AM spot and simulcast on both bands?

  3. Here’s a thought, bigger FM signal exposes you to more people who then realize how crappy your “talent” is, resulting in a bigger audience for 98.5.

  4. Not everyone likes Mike & Mike, but M&M sure represent the lesser of two evils for thousands of listeners put off by the angry rantings of D&C. These two are tiresome and unlistenable, mostly because they epitomize the caricature of your typical sports media hack: undereducated, never played sports, happily angry, all-knowing, and confrontational.

  5. As far as Dan Kenedy’s asertion goes, I don’t think ESPN’s first priority is or was ever to beat the local sportstalk leader in any of the markets it has full clearance in. Just take a look at the ratings in New York and Los Angelis. FAN has 3 times as many listeners and ESPN is still programming a significant part of their week days locally in NYC. I think they’ll settle for a place ware they can clear national play-by-play in another top ten radio market for the purpose of jacking up the possible add revenue they could get. If they choose to do absolutely no local programming with the acception of running some EEI play-by-play conflicts, then how much investment are they really losing. Basically its just another platform to promote the new Boston website and EEI or sportshub have little to worry about. Now, if EEI wants to get this FM move right, I’d say use both 93-7 and 107-3 to ensure a clear FM signal straight out to Springfield. Then they can move Mike to 97-7 and AAF to HD. Heck give ESPN 1440 and 105-5. Those signals are both considerably week compared to other local signals in Worcester or springfield.

  6. Bruce:

    I am confused so maybe you can help me out. The new 850 ESPN would be owned by Entercom and affliated with ESPN? This way WEEI FM and the rest of the regional affliates can cherry pick the rest of ESPN national radio offerings, they can control 2/3’s of the sports radio stations in Boston and keep a completely independent competitor from reentering the market. I do not see this as a bad move at all assuming I have it correct.

    1. Late if that is correct and Entercom will still own the station then it is a brilliant move by them. I completely agree with you. I will say this about Entercom they have been very proactive in trying to keep control. They just need to improve some of the product.

  7. I agree with those who say Mike and Mike are bad. I used to like them but dear god they have become just dreadfully boring. I have no interest in them. But I do like Cowherd a lot. I know he is not everyone’s cup of tea but I find his talk interesting and entertaining. At least I will not have to hear him say that Jason Varitek will have to have his captaincy removed because he is a backup like Dale said. I always supported Dale but he continues to say things like that which just make one shake their head. I also would not have to hear that the sky is falling all the time from Chicken Lit…… errr Gary Tanguay. Also yelling does not enhance your point Gary it just makes seem like a five year old.

  8. ESPN Boston portal is up comp. with Boston targeted sportscast.

    Tom Taylor’s column predicts that Entercom would leave 93.7 and 107.3 alone and instead buy or do an agreement to program WCRB 99.5 (antenna in Andover) but I would think they’d
    rather put EEI on 93.7 (stick in Peabody very close to Boston and reaching many areas well) and perhaps move “Mike” to a 99.5, if that were to happen.
    As of 7:30 am ESPN still on 890 but plug prob gets pulled today sometime perhaps even to dead air.

  9. I doen’t think this is a bad move by WEEI, by moving to 93.7, they get a better & clearer signal on FM, and also control 850 AM [revenues].What other AM station is going to go allsports now. By doing this WEEI, in a chess match ,calls check mate on WBZ, Head to head on FM, AND still running the operation on the AM side, with ESPN PROGRAMMING.
    Now the Red Sox & Celtics will be heard on FM.

  10. Bruce–

    Why does everyone seem to assume that 890 will go dark today? ESPN’s national-level content is a 24/7 feed — I would assume they’d just keep broadcasting that and cut all local programming. Heck, if you aren’t doing anything locally, all you need to operate the station is one guy to press the station ID button at the top of the hour, and one licensed engineer. I haven’t heard anything to indicate that 890 is on the verge of running out of cash or anything, i.e. this doesn’t appear to be a situation in which they can’t physically pay their bills after today.

    And it would shock me if ESPN voluntarily let their content disappear from this market if they don’t have to do so.

    1. 890 isn’t owned by ESPN. They were just licensed to carry the content.

      No one is just assuming that they’re changing, it’s been announced. The station is going to a new format today:

      WAMG to end all-sports format

      ESPN is looking for another outlet in the Boston area.

      1. Gotcha. I knew they didn’t have equity in the station, but I thought that they might be able to enforce a contractual obligation upon 890 to air the programming until the expiration of the current agreement or such….

  11. Maybe they go off later today or something but at 11:07 am I heard Terry Francona’s tea ad, “Red Sox Notebook”, and then
    Colin Cowherd on 890. Who knows, could stay on through the day or maybe awhile longer though the word indeed was that they were to lose ESPN today. Somewhere the GM was said to have confirmed it…

  12. 12:30 pm: ESPN 890 now running a looped message saying that they are going off the air today. They thank listeners and sponsors and said they were proud to bring ESPN and local shows to listeners.

  13. Hopefully ESPN will be back soon. No matter how bad the hosts, the shows were always worth checking in on because of the focus on interviews and national sports. The weekend stuff was great and Van Pelt with Rotillo was very good.

  14. Mike and Mike is one of the worst, plain vanilla, overly produced pieces of crap ever to hit the airwaves. Their “odd couple” routine is so tired after all these years.

    1. Mike and Mike – WAY too many commercials, WAY too much time where Greenberg flaunts his forced emascualted male act. When guests like Olney and Gammons are on, it’s good. Otherwise, there’s a lot of wasted time.

      Besides, I like to hear the truth about the world, that’s why I like Gerry and John.

    1. Indeed I tuned in at 5 pm out of curiosity and heard the switchoff; 1400 (Lowell and Lawrence) had already gone off.
      New format: silent, for now.

  15. If you want to read a really, really, really good Red Sox baseball column, check out Gammons’ article on the ESPN Boston website.

    It contains more information that I have read this entire season from the hacks in Boston who masquerade as knowledgeable baseball writers. Tony Mazz is pretty good, but the rest…most of whom can be heard uttering inanities on the AM sports radio station…are ignorant beyond words.

    For example, never once had I read or heard that Josh Beckett, as reported by Gammons, had been ailing with the flu during much of August.

    Never once.

  16. Wondering if an ESPN/WEEI deal could be in two phases. First, some ESPN nights/weekends to WEEI…ESPN baseball playoffs that don’t conflict with Sox go to WRKO, just as RKO picked up gm 2 of Westwood One’s MNF doubleheader Mon night (EEI had real postgame show). Phase two, the move that would put ESPN on 850 and WEEI on FM. Not sure when…start of Celts season? Next yr sometime?

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