As 3 p.m. hits each weekday, fans with an insatiable appetite for Indianapolis sports talk have choices.
Three local drive-time radio shows commence, each claiming to have a special recipe for success.
For the “Kent Sterling Show,” it’s all sports all the time, no veering into pop culture. On “The Ride” with JMV, Lady Gaga (and almost anyone else) is fair game. “Query & Schultz,” the only two-man show in the time slot, is somewhere in between with a twist — banter sparked by their differing viewpoints.
In the cutthroat industry of radio — which is battling a seemingly ever-increasing ocean of competing media from the Internet to iTunes to satellite radio — sports is as cutthroat as any genre.
How many people are listening to the local shows? In Indianapolis, the 40th largest among U.S. radio markets, JMV’s station leads the way. Nielsen audio rankings show WFNI (107.5 FM, 1070 AM) garnered a 3.8 rating in January. Query & Schultz’s WNDE (1260 AM) received a 0.4 rating and WXNT (1430 AM), where Sterling airs, finished the month with a 0.1 rating.
When it came to afternoon drive time ratings for individual shows, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., WFNI received a 4.2, WNDE a 0.6 and WXNT a 0.2.
In a market such as Indy, home to the Colts, Pacers, IU, Purdue and Butler, there is room for plenty of sports talk. But is there enough room for this much? Or is it just a matter of time until one falls off the airwaves?
“I think there’s room. I sure hope there is,” said Jeff Smulyan, founder and CEO of Emmis Communications, which owns WFNI. He’s also the man who invented the format, launching the first 24-hour sports talk station in New York in July 1987. “Ultimately, it’s up to what the audience wants.”
The hosts of the three shows say that there is a market for all to survive. All three shy away from talking ratings. In fact, all say that they don’t even consider one another competitors, and that the more high-quality shows there are, the better.
“That is smoke,” said Scott Bridge, internship director for the college of communication at Butler University, who teaches electronic journalism and sports broadcasting. “Everybody is being professional and that’s nice. But I think when behind closed doors, they want to kick each other’s asses.”
They are all trying to nab the biggest share they can of the sports talk radio pie in Indianapolis, appealing to an audience that is two-thirds men ages 25 to 54, according to Bridge’s research.
Sterling, who previously worked at WFNI and has been doing his show less than a year, delivers analysis to the diehard sports fan without references to what Lady Gaga did at the Academy Awards.
“We talk about sports. That’s just what I do best,” said Sterling, 52. “It wasn’t a competitive decision to do that. It’s just what I think this format does best and what listeners like best.”
JMV, who moved from WNDE to WFNI in 2010, mixes pop culture and some non-sports stories into talk about the games, teams and players. He wants to grab those listeners who want entertainment beyond sports.
“It’s like the Super Bowl,” said JMV, whose real name is John Gliva, 45. “They don’t have to have Katy Perry because people are going to watch, but I’m trying to get everybody into the club to hang out and have fun. It’s all about trying to fish for what is going to pull in and keep that person that maybe wouldn’t necessarily be listening, while also keeping that person that’s your top-level listener.”
“Query & Schultz,” which started in 2011, combine the two approaches while using the dynamic duo approach to banter, argue and make fun of each other.
“When you have two people, you have a greater opportunity of diversity of thought,” said Jake Query, 42. “One of the benefits of having a two-person show is Derek and I never intentionally disagree. We never pre-write who’s going to take what stance but, because we’re of different ages (Schultz is 11 years younger), because we’re of different backgrounds to an extent, I think that by and large people listening are going to have their opinion expressed.”
None of the hosts would comment on how successful their approach affects ratings. Some voiced concerns that the method Nielsen uses to measure audience listening is inaccurate and doesn’t tell the whole story.
Smulyan said it’s clear that JMV is running away with the sports talk market in Indianapolis.
The ESPN backing, radio signal strength and affiliation with the Colts, Indiana, Pacers and Butler give WFNI a decided advantage, Bridge said. (WNDE broadcasts Purdue.) He doesn’t believe that means the others can’t survive.
“People need their sports,” Bridge said. “We are a nation of rabid sports fans. I think they are always going to have an audience.”
Credit to the Indy Star who originally published this article
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at [email protected].
ESPN 97.5 in Houston Announces New Lineup
“The station had to make some very tough & unfortunate economic decisions last week.”
ESPN 97.5 in Houston announced they will have a new lineup starting Monday Feb. 26. The drive time slots will continue to feature John Granato and Lance Zierlein in mornings and The Killer B’s, Jeremy Branham and Joel Blank, in the afternoon.
In between the two shows will now have The Del Olaleye Show airing from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. followed by Gallant and George with Paul Gallant, who had been hosting the early midday slot previously and Joe George, the station’s Assistant Program Director.
Earlier this week, Josh Beard and Michael Connor confirmed they had been let go from the station after being in the midday slot for just six months. George posted on X at the time, “So here’s the deal. The station had to make some very tough & unfortunate economic decisions last week. It has nothing to do with the quality of their show and work they did. Programming on the station will be weird this week, then back to fully local from 7 am – 6 pm on 2/26.”
Former Toronto Blue Jays Announcer Ben Wagner Named to Baltimore Orioles Broadcast Team
A release from the Blue Jays says Wagner will appear on radio and select television broadcasts throughout the year.
The Baltimore Orioles announced the club’s broadcast talent lineup for the 2024 season, which includes former Toronto Blue Jays announcer Ben Wagner. Wagner had served as the radio voice of the Blue Jays for the last six seasons before Sportsnet announced it decided not to renew his contract. Prior to joining the Blue Jays broadcast team, Wagner spent 11 seasons with Toronto’s Triple-A affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons. A release from the Orioles says Wagner will appear on radio and select television broadcasts throughout the year.
The Orioles will continue to use guest analysts throughout the season, including Orioles Hall of Famers Mike Devereaux and Brian Roberts, as well as former Orioles Brad Brach and Dave Johnson.
Geoff Arnold will return for his fifth season with the Orioles broadcast team and will be the primary play-by-play announcer. Kevin Brown will be in his third season as the primary television play-by-play announcer for MASN.
Other team members for the 2024 season include Scott Garceau, Brett Hollander, Rob Long, Ben McDonald, Melanie Newman and Hall of Famer Jim Palmer, who will be in his 32nd season as an analyst and 61st year as a member of the Orioles organization.
Fred Toucher: ‘I Would Feel Weird’ if Rich Shertenlieb Reached Out to Me
“Even if it was nice, I wouldn’t like it, so if he’s listening, don’t reach out to me.”
Fred Toucher is in the midst of co-hosting a new morning program on 98.5 The Sports Hub with Rob “Hardy” Poole. The Toucher & Hardy show made its premiere in January following the end of a 17-year run in which he worked alongside Rich Shertenlieb. Last November, Shertenlieb parted ways with the outlet that elicited questions and nostalgia from listeners, some of which continue to persist on the new program.
On Friday’s edition of the program, a caller asked Toucher about the last time he spoke to Shertenlieb and if there was still communication between them. The duo started hosting their radio program together at rock radio station WBCN-FM before making the move to the sports talk format with 98.5 The Sports Hub (WBZ-FM) for its launch in the summer of 2009. The caller wanted to specifically hear a “juicy story” and apologized if his broaching the topic was “a forbidden path.”
“I have not talked to Rich,” Toucher said. “I told you I got the text message the Saturday after they didn’t put him on the air anymore, and I haven’t talked to him.”
Toucher wondered who among former members of the Toucher & Rich program had heard from Shertenlieb, leading him to go around the studio and ask. Update anchor Jon Wallach revealed that Shertenlieb texted him on Thanksgiving Day to discuss how the music group Bell Biv DeVoe was performing, but he has not heard from him since. None of the others in the studio had heard from Shertenlieb in a considerable amount of time either.
“None of us were really friends with him so I don’t know what to tell you,” Toucher replied to the caller. “I wasn’t friends with him; I didn’t talk to him, so it’s not odd that I don’t talk to him.”
Toucher then began to hypothesize what would happen if Shertenlieb were to reach out to him. As he thought over such a potential occurrence, he realized that he would have a feeling in his stomach and get anxiety. He did concede, however, that if someone paid him a large sum of money to appear somewhere with Shertenlieb, he would do the 10 seconds.
“I would feel weird; I wouldn’t enjoy the process,” Toucher said. “Even if it was nice, I wouldn’t like it, so if he’s listening, don’t reach out to me. You’d make me incredibly uncomfortable. Just don’t do it.”
In thinking about the potential nostalgia from Toucher & Rich, the program briefly mentioned Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo and his relationship with former co-host Mike Francesa. Toucher believes that Russo is doing fine without Francesa, a sentiment Wallach concurred. Wallach also shared that he feels Russo is doing better after Mike and the Mad Dog than Francesa.
Russo hosts a SiriusXM program on the Mad Dog Sports Radio channel named after him, in addition to High Heat on MLB Network and a weekly appearance on ESPN’s First Take. The split between both shows elicited interest from the listening public, something Toucher completely understands because of the unique facets of radio.
“People consume you 20 hours a week or they conceivably could, so when there’s any change, your immediate reaction to it, even though it hasn’t been bad, a lot of people if you listen to an old thing all the time it’s going to be strange to you, a new thing, or when a component of it is missing,” Toucher explained, “even if it’s better than it was, which I contend Toucher & Hardy over the last three weeks is better than Toucher & Rich was in 2023 and 2022 certainly.”
The segment concluded with Toucher proclaiming that he had answered the question and now will not have to entertain it again. “I have no idea what he’s doing and no one I know does, and no one I know has seen him,” Toucher said. “I haven’t even had a listener email me and go, ‘I saw him.’”