Today is Glenn Ordway's last Big Show.
The PM Drive host of WEEI does his last show this afternoon. Ordway has been on the air in the Boston area since the mid-70's: on the old WMEX, on WRKO, broadcasting Celtics games with Johnny Most, and on WEEI since it was at 590 AM - that was before 850 AM and later 93.7 FM.
The program was originally called The Big Show with the Big O, with Glenn as the main host surrounded by rotating co-hosts: former BC and NFL players Fred Smerlas and Steve DeOssie during football season, Mike Felger, former Red Sox player Lou Merloni, and Boston Herald columnist Tony Massarotti during baseball season. Pete Sheppard was the Sports Flash guy, constantly derided because he pronounced it like "Sptfsh." Everyone was always fighting to get a word in edgewise. During the Magical season of 2004 WEEI was #1 25-54 for the entire year. With adults, not just men. Ordway was honored with an NAB Marconi Award nomination for Personality of the Year.
So what happened?
In January 2009 Ordway was signed to a new contract for a million dollars per year. This was 2009, remember. Big contracts for radio Talent typically come with ratings incentives, because the correlation between ratings and revenue is very clear. The beginning of that contract coincided with the Red Sox not winning any more playoff games, the economy hitting the bottom and parent company Entercom nearly being delisted from the NYSE because the shares fell to under a dollar, and a new FM sports talk competitor, WBZ-FM, going on the air that summer. Two-and a half years into the contract Ordway's salary was cut in half because ratings incentives were not being met. Still, he was making five large.
WBZ-FM, known as "98.5 the Sports Hub," surpassed WEEI quickly. They had a younger sound - especially in morning drive. In afternoon drive Ordway's Big Show was competing with WBZ-FM's Felger and Mazz, (Mike Felger and Tony Massarotti, both former co-hosts of Ordway's). In the summer of 2010 WBZ-FM was #1 with Men 25-54 in afternoon drive and WEEI was a close #3, but WEEI was still slightly ahead with all adults. By September of 2011, when the Red Sox fell apart, WBZ-FM was #3 with adults and WEEI had dropped to 14th. Entercom responded by cutting Ordway's salary in half, firing Pete Sheppard, and moving WEEI from 850 AM to 93.7 FM.
Hope springs eternal.
It does, every year. By Opening Day last year Ordway was #6 in afternoon and Felger and Mazz were 8th. We all know what happened in 2012, and by year's end Ordway came in 12th 25-54 and Felger and Mazz were 4th, and #1 with Men.
Who's to blame?
WEEI is the flagship of the Red Sox and Celtics, and WBZ-FM is the flagship of the Patriots and Bruins. Certainly the fortunes of the flagship teams affect ratings, but the primary blame here goes to Entercom. Poor management, poor decisions when it came to teaming co-hosts with Ordway. They should have moved to FM much earlier. They should never have given Ordway that huge contract in the depths of a recession. They should never made made the 50% salary cut public because it made them look scared and Ordway look like a loser.
One good thing I'll say for Entercom.
The announcement of Ordway's firing was made on Tuesday evening, and he has been allowed to stay on the air through this afternoon. That is unheard of in radio. When they decide you're gone, you're gone immediately, like you never existed. Ordway has handled it on the air like a true gentleman. Glenn may be out, but he is not gone.