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Media Roundup: WEEI Announces Afternoon Drive-Time Shake-Up

This week brought a shake-up on the Boston sports radio airwaves when WEEI announced it was dismantling its mid-day show, with Michael Holley moving to "The Big Show" to join Glenn Ordway during the afternoon drive-time.

Feeling the ratings heat placed on their morning and afternoon drive shows, WEEI decides to remedy the situation by dismantling their mid-day show -- the only one that was still beating upstart 98.5 FM in the ratings with regularity.

Makes sense to me.

Monday's announcement that Michael Holley would be moving to "The Big Show" to join Glenn Ordway during the afternoon drive-time as a permanent co-host of the show, along with the news that Dale Arnold would become a rotating "fill-in host," was puzzling, to say that least.

"Glenn and Michael are both tremendous talents," said Jason Wolfe, Vice President of AM Programming and Operations at Entercom New England. "They bring incredible passion, unmatched credibility and unique insight into the Boston sports scene. I'm really looking forward to this new partnership becoming one of the great sports radio shows of our time."

The Boston Herald reports that a team of Mike Mutnansky and Lou Merloni has been tapped to replace Dale and Holley during mid-days. No official announcement has been made by WEEI on this move, so take the following analysis with a grain of salt.

Mike Mutnansky is a good host, who has steadily worked his way up in the business. For years he's been doing sports radio in New Hampshire, most recently for WGAM Nashua-Manchester. He's also been doing weekends at WEEI, and the occasional fill-in during the week. He's hard-working and knowledgeable about sports -- not always a given in his profession. He also sounds strikingly similar to Dale. There is almost a Sean McDonough/Don Orsillo type similarity here.

Merloni has been cast as a rising star on the local sports media scene. Apparently 98.5 was very interested in hiring him away from WEEI when they were starting up. WEEI paid to keep him, and now is (apparently) rewarding him with a regular show.

I'm not sold on Merloni's knowledge of sports outside of baseball. A comment he made last week when the Patriots announced their coaching staff changes really stood out to me in this regard. The team said Brian Flores had been named a "defensive assistant." The Patriots had still not named a defensive coordinator, but to Merloni, naming someone a "defensive assistant" was the same thing, even without the actual title -- he said that Flores must be the closest thing to a defensive coordinator on the staff.

A casual fan might not pick up on this, and Glenn Ordway knew this so, so he didn't disagree with Merloni's assessment. A defensive assistant is a very low position on the coaching staff. It is a coach who basically isn't assigned a position, and instead helps out where needed. Flores had served last season as an offensive assistant coach/special teams. As I said, this information would not be known to a casual fan, but someone being paid to be knowledgeable about the local sports scene should know enough to not make that kind of statement.

It's a tiny thing, I admit. But listening to Lou talk about baseball -- an area of discussion in which he is very good -- compared to when he ventures outside of the sport he played is night and day. He's got some work to do. Because of this, I'm a bit skeptical of a Mutnansky/Merloni mid-day show. What type of show will they bring? Will they try too hard to be "edgy?" Is that what WEEI is looking for?

Clearly WEEI made the moves they did in an effort to get younger, and to add something of an edge to their offerings, in response to the challenge mounted by rival 98.5 FM. Adding Holley to "The Big Show" should give that show a boost with a younger audience. Additionally, Mutnansky and Merloni together makes a show of two guys under the age of 40 (well, Merloni turns 40 in April), which is something the station hasn't had in years. They couldn't do anything with the morning show because of the contracts of Gerry Callahan and John Dennis, and Ordway isn't going anywhere, so they had to cut up the one show that was actually beating the competition.

I guess that makes sense. Now we'll see if it actually does anything for them.