As football season steps into overdrive and we all start hemming and hawing about our favorite college and pro teams, I called an old friend who is quite knowledgeable about sports and treated myself to a rainy afternoon sports jam session (or descarga, as we like to say in Spanish) over a delectable stogie at a tucked away cigar shop in Kendall.
The difference between my sports chat and the thousands of others taking place that very drizzly afternoon in South Florida is that I was conversing with none other than WQAM’s sports talk host Orlando “the big O” Alzugaray — and what a treat it was.
The “Big O” as he is affectionately called by listeners, has been a fixture on South Florida’s radio waves for over two decades. Consistently offering a local take on the Dolphins, Heat, Canes, Marlins and Panthers, Alzugaray is as down home Miami as you can get — a homer, a fan, the kind of guy you want to tailgate with.
Part of Alzugaray’s success in connecting with his listeners has been the fact that he feels the same pain we do when our local teams flop. “I love the home teams. I feel the pain the average fan feels, though I try to be analytical and realistic,” Alzugaray explained between puffs of his aromatic cigar. “And no matter how much I try to take a step back and be impartial,” he confided, “sometimes I too can be a ‘blind ass fan’ (a term that he has popularized on his show).”
It is precisely that “blind” passionate flare for local sports that keeps listeners like me tuning in every day.
In a market full of transplants, particularly from the Northeast, Alzugaray is refreshingly native. From his distinct musical rejoiners to references to events of Miami’s past, Alzugaray provides a rarity in South Florida media, a connection to our history — to events on and off sports fields.
“I’ve had a chance to go elsewhere,” he told me, “but Miami is where I want to be. It’s where my wife and I are raising our daughter. It’s home.”
The Big O is sometimes abrasive and challenging. However, it’s always done in the most unpretentious of ways. When you tune in to his show (weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) you’ll never hear him auditioning to get a network gig. He is as non-politically-correct as any radio talent in this market since the late, great Neil Rogers — quite refreshing in today’s cookie cutter, homogenous world of entertainment.
I began my own career in media over 20 years ago covering sports on the same station alongside the Big O and what impressed me about him then is still true about him today: He is tireless when it comes to watching, breaking down and analyzing sports. This guy really does his homework.
An example of this is his yearly trip to the college football Senior Bowl—an all-star game for college seniors, where pro scouts gather to evaluate talent. Alzugaray has been a mainstay at this bowl game in Mobile, Ala., and especially the week of practice leading up to the game for over 15 years — for most of those, he has paid his own way
“Actually, cigars have gone a long way for me in building relationships with lots of NFL scouts and general managers,” Alzugaray confided. “I stock up on stogies when I go up to Mobile and spend the week having after-hour cigars with many decision makers in the NFL. That’s how I’ve built some great relationships over the years. “
That is a testament to his work ethic and his desire to learn more about the game he talks about on the air, and the deep respect he has for the listeners who are intrigued by the inside information that the Big O gathers and shares with them on the air — or while enjoying a good cigar.
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].
iHeartMedia Ending WEEI Simulcast in Cape Cod
A job opening for a sports talk co-host/producer/programming assistant that says its salary will “be funded by the savings that the market is acquiring from the expiring Audacy/WEEI & Red Sox contracts”.
iHeartMedia is preparing to drop its simulcast of WEEI on its 96.3 WEII-FM signal in Hyannis/Cape Cod.
According to a report from Radio Insight, iHeartMedia has posted a job opening for a sports talk co-host/producer/programming assistant that says its salary will “be funded by the savings that the market is acquiring from the expiring Audacy/WEEI & Red Sox contracts”.
It goes on to state that the contract between the company and Audacy was $300,000 annually and it paid the Red Sox $65,000 annually.
The job posting alleges 96.3 FM will continue to carry sports programming with a local show.
WEEI is currently simulcast on stations in Springfield and Worcester, MA; Providence; and on stations in New Hampshire and Vermont, as well. Earlier this year, the station’s offices in Warwick, Rhode Island closed as part of a cost-cutting measure.
WEII-FM is licensed to Dennis, MA and features a 25,000-watt Class B signal.
97.1 The Fan’s Mike Ricordati Threatened with Removal, Suspension After Refusing to Take Commercial Breaks
“I’m not supposed to talk about what just happened in there, but I will. There’s a chance that I may get a ‘rest’ tomorrow.”
On Saturday, Ohio State suffered its third consecutive defeat to Michigan in one of college football’s biggest rivalry games. The mental effect the loss had has trickled down to local radio hosts, as Mike Ricordati and Jonathan “T-Bone” Smith were nearly pulled off the air Monday.
While discussing the Buckeyes’ loss Monday, Ricordati noted that it was time for the station to take a break, but he was refusing to allow the show to enter commercials.
“I don’t want to take a break. As a matter of fact, I’m not going to take a break,” Ricordati said. “How much are all the ads in this commercial break? If we tallied them all up. I just bought ’em. I’ll buy ’em. I don’t want to play any more commercials today.”
When T-Bone followed up by asking if he was on the hook for paying for half the commercials, Ricordati said the responsibility was his and his alone.
“I’m sorry to put you in this position, but I’m not going to break,” continued Ricoradti. “I’m doing three hours of sitting here, drinking my bourbon, talking to my buddy about how bad I feel. They may take me off the air.”
97.1 The Fan Program Director Matt Fishman — who joined the station in September — then entered the producer’s studio and questioned why Ricordati was taking the stance he was.
“What’s happening?,” Fishman pondered.
“I just don’t want to take the break,” replied Ricordati.
“Ok. ‘I don’t want to eat my vegetables’? Is that what this is now?,” Fishman asked.
“No, I think we’d have a better show today if we just went the whole way through and didn’t take a break,” Ricordati retorted. “I’ll pay for the spots. Take them out of my check.”
“So, I appreciate what you’re trying to do for the fans. I do,” Fishman reiterated, before Ricordati interrupted by saying it isn’t about the fans, it’s about him. “But we do have a business to run,” Fishman continued. “I hate to be that guy. But I’m now that guy.”
Later in the show, Mike Ricordati noted he had received an email from 97.1 The Fan’s parent company — TEGNA — sent him an email telling him he would be removed from the air if he did not take his regularly scheduled commercial breaks.
“We’ll get back on schedule, then,” Ricordati said. “That’s a first. 20 years on the air here. Here’s what’s happening. I’m gonna take a break, I’m gonna go outside, get chewed out by our boss, and I may or may not see you in the next segment.”
Evening host Tim Hall joined the station after Ricordati didn’t make it back to the studio in time from the end of the commercial break after speaking with management.
“I’m not supposed to talk about what just happened in there, but I will,” Ricordati shared. “There’s a chance that I may get a ‘rest’ tomorrow.”
After the confrontation, Mike Ricordati spent the rest of the show taking his regularly scheduled breaks. He took to X Tuesday morning to tell fans that he was “still alive” and employed by the station, saying “Talk to you at 3pm.”
Fred Toucher: 98.5 The Sports Hub is Responsible for 18% of Beasley Revenue
“If you don’t want to own this station, you don’t want to be in radio.”
On the air, Toucher shared that he has been receiving messages from prospective co-hosts looking to state their case as to why they should be considered to fill the position. However, he is not involved in reviewing résumés and conveyed that there is nothing he can do about it. The conversation started when station anchor and reporter Dan Roche asked Toucher if anyone had contacted him to inquire about the role.
“Not to insult anyone, but there have been people that have no background in radio whatsoever who have reached out to me with the sincere belief that they were qualified for the job due to the fact that they like sports, which makes me really think how little people think of this whole medium now,” Toucher said Tuesday morning. “People are just like, ‘Yeah, I like sports. I’ll just come on and do it. Why not? It’s Boston; I’ll just jump on the old Boston morning show and just do whatever I want.’”
At the moment, Fred Toucher is working with a variety of members at the station as the outlet searches for a new permanent co-host and felt bad for making fun of the prospective employees while on the air.
The aspect of the situation that concerns himr is the sentiment being perpetuated from people that anyone is able to work in radio. After the program yesterday, he revealed that he told station staff members that terrestrial radio had recently grossed around $12 billion annually, a figure that was down from the numbers before the COVID-19 global pandemic. In contrast, Fred Toucher asserted that podcasts generate $2 billion and cannot be monetized because of the deluge of different niche programming in the marketplace.
“So what big radio companies said was, ‘Alright, we’re going to acquire all these stations, and what we’re also going to do is move into podcasting,’” Toucher shared, “but what they realized was they couldn’t monetize podcasting.”
Toucher stated that he listens to the Rich Roll Podcast, a wellness program that implements guests from different industries to engage in conversations designed to inform and empower the listening audience to discover their most authentic selves. Although he enjoys the program, he questions how many people want to listen to a spiritual advisor discuss topics such as mindful meditation for two hours.
Within his commentary, he cited iHeartMedia and elucidated how the company has been unable to make any money based on its podcasts. Maintaining a reverence for terrestrial radio and the impact it continues to have within a dynamic media ecosystem is something Toucher seems to hope his next co-host will possess, propounded by depicting a hypothetical scenario symbolizing the mindset referenced therein.
“It’s kind of like picking up a baseball bat and walking into Fenway [Park] like, ‘Throw me a fastball,’” Toucher suggested. “You’ve got to at least intern somewhere or do something.”
At the beginning of the month, Beasley Broadcast Group – the parent company of Beasley Media Group – recorded quarterly net revenue of $60.1 million, which, in the three quarters of its fiscal year, totals $181.4 million. The company, however, reported an operating income loss of $85.5 million for the quarter, something it attributes to the impact of non-cash impairment losses totaling $88.8 million. Its net income finished at a $67.5 million loss, which equates to $81.5 million through its first three fiscal quarters.
Within its quarterly revenue, digital accounted for 18.6% as the company continues to remain focused on attaining its goal of the sector accounting for between 20% and 30% of total revenue. Toucher shared additional information about the role of 98.5 The Sports Hub within those earnings that had not been previously divulged.
“This station is… responsible for like 18% of the revenue for the whole effing company,” Fred Toucher said. “If you don’t want to own this station, you don’t want to be in radio. That’s kind of the thing. If you own The Sports Hub – you just own The Sports Hub; you bought The Sports Hub and you ran it, you’d get an incredible return on your investment.”
Not only is Fred Toucher unaware of the contents of specific résumés, but he is not interested in negotiating deals, an endeavor he claims is above his head. He knows what it takes to succeed in the marketplace and is excited for the next iteration of the program, which is set to be revealed at the beginning of 2024.
“All I can tell you is that it is what it is,” Toucher said. “If you think you’re coming in here and making a ton of money, you’re not. It’s up to them.”