I've been waiting for things to settle down a bit before chiming in on why the Score is no longer. So many people have asked me if I saw this coming and want to know why it happenned. I can't say for certain, but here is MY OPINION on what led to the station's demise.
Let's start by saying that if the Score's ratings and revenue were substantially higher than they were in recent months, this never would have happenned. The fact is that the ratings were fair to poor at times and inconsistent at best. Likewise, sportstalk is an expensive format to run and the revenues generated by the station did not amount to a profit that the company was happy with.
Also understand that radio stations are no longer run by radio people. It's the corporate bean counters on Wall St. that call the shots. They expect a certain profit margin ( I was told an 8:1 ratio or we couldn't do it).
Finally, it was not just one thing but a number of things that all led up to the Score folding up shop.
When the Score signed on the air in October of 1997 there was a buzz in an around Providence and alot of people (mostly men) thought that it was a cool thing. It was 790 The Score back then and it was neat being a part of it from the very beginning.
We had Coach & Gresh 6-10am followed by the Fabulous Sports Babe (which I wasn't crazy about) from 10am-noon. Jim Rome from noon-3pm and the Sportsbeat with me from 3-7pm. In my opinion, mistake #1 was splitting up Coach & Gresh. Yes, the two did not get along toward the end but it was more on Gresh's part. He just didn't want to work with Coach any longer which was his right to feel that way. However, their show worked for me. First, you had two guys who fit well together. Coach was the voice of reason while Andy was the outspoken loud mouth. I thought that the combination worked well together. Secondly, after a few years, Coach & Gresh had built a name for themselves and the show and to just pull it apart was, to me, a mistake.
I remember our former GM Andrea Scott asking me if I could work with Andy and I told here that I could work with anyone. She said that the two were not getting along and had to be split up. Shortly after that, she made the switch. Mistake #1 in my book.
There was the addition of the FM signal which was nice and then lots of changes at the top. Our original program director Ron St. Pierre was no longer in charge and it started a carrousel of PD's to follow. There was David Bernstein (great guy!). He wanted to experiment with a female voice in the AM so he hired Amy Lawrence on a 1-year trial basis. After 1 year she approached him for a contract and he informed her that it wasn't working out so he let her go. Her replacements were Kevin Winter and eventually Zo.
Bernstein was also the PD of WPRO so he could not devote his full attention to the Score. In fact, he had to be more concerned with WPRO because that station was a hell of alot more important to the company than WSKO was.
After he was let go, they decided to give John Crowe a crack at PD. Crowe was the executive producer of the Score under Bernstein and essentially ran the station. He also had a great handle on the New England sports scence. John, however, didn't seemed to have the complete support and respect of upper management which made his job more difficult. He also ruffled alot of feathers of his higher-up's because he can be very blount and to the point. He is very much a straight shooter. I think some may not have liked his frankness. Crowe did hire Bryan Morry which I will always be thankful for.
Our various line-up variations ranged from Gresh & Zo in the morning, middays with Coach, middays with Rooke & Hyder, even middays with Crowe, Chips and others.
Then Jim Brinson was brought in to be the PD. Not a bad guy, but the wrong fit for this market. In his defense, Brinson was told that Opie & Anthony was going to be his new morning show and Gresh & Zo would move to middays with me & Bryan in the afternoons. To me, eliminating local sports in morning drive was a disaster! Even worse was replacing it with a show that seemingly everyone hated! I can honestly say that with all of the line-up changes in my 10+ years at the Score, I never heard more complaints than the thousands of complaints about Opie & Anothony.
What made it even worse was that many listeners would tell me that they're dying for sportstalk in the morning on the way to work and WEEI didn't give it to them at all times because they did news headlines and various political stuff. There was a need for nothing but local sports in the morning and we failed miserably as filling that void.
Brinson was canned after a year and then, after a long search for a new PD, they decided to give Ron St. Pierre another crack at it. We were told that he would be leaving his show with Cianci on WPRO and dedicating his full time to the Score but it never happened. Not his fault!
Also, WEEI invading Providence was a huge blow to the Score! Their brand and product is very good! Their hosts are all solid (although I must admit that I miss Neumie) and their sportstalk was almost always on point and their guests are outstanding. We could not compete with that 10,000 lb. gorilla! They have great ratings and a huge budget to get the guests New England sports fans (like myself) want to hear from. I'm told that they pay the Patriots almost 2 million per for the rights to Patriots Monday to talk to Brady in the AM, Bellichick in the PM and other players in the midday. They just re-upped with the Red Sox for 10 years and 200 million. They have Francona on every week. They have Schilling on every week. We couldn't touch that at the Score. Schilling wanted $80,000 for ALS to do a weekly call-in with us in Providence. We were lucky for Citadel to come up with $12,000 to do Co Co Crisp! They were competing in the majors and we were in the minors from a budgetary standpoint. How do you compete with that?
As Billy Reynolds wrote last week, Providence has become a sports subburb of Boston. The Pats and Sox are #1 and everyone else lags far behind. WEEI had the means to provide Pats and Sox fans with much better coverage than the Score did and there was little we could do about it. Also, because the Pats and the Sox are so popular, local teams like PC, URI, Brown, Pawsox, P-Bruins, etc. just weren't enough to make a difference for the Score. We definitely provided those teams much more coverage than WEEI did. They couldn't afford to and didn't want to cover them, but people still listened to WEEI or at least that's what the Arbitron diaries say.
I also believe that turning our backs on the Pawsox and the money they spent to broadcast their games on the Score and not getting PC and their money to stay hurt the stations bottom line.
Another killer blow to the Score was cultivating a talent like Sean McAdam on the radio only to lose him to WEEI. His Red Sox reports in the morning and afternoon each day were great on the Score. His loss to EEI hurt us.
There were times in the early years of the Score when the company paid to have billboard ads on 95 and 195. We had commercial ads running on cable TV stations like ESPN and TNT. I can only speak for my show but the ratings were excellent! On many occassions my ratings in men 25-54 which was our target demographic, I was second behind only HJY. However, once Citadel went public, those marketing dollars dried up and so too did the outside promotion of the Score. That hurt us also.
For what it's worth, if I called the shots at the Score, here's what I would have done years ago:
Keep Coach & Gresh from 6-10am. Like I said, it worked for me.
I would have made 10am-noon the Providence Journal Sports Report and have that be their 2 hour show to use whatever writers they wanted to to co-host the show each day. It would have been great cross-promotion with the Journal.
Sportsbeat with Scott & Bryan 3-7pm.
I would have tried to cultivate a relationship with Cox Sports to put cameras inside the Score studio to televise our shows when they could like they did with DePietro years ago at HJJ. I think that it would have helped.
I also would have liked to have been given the station's budget on January 1st (however big or small) so that I could decide how to distibute the money. For instance, which contributors should we go after? Tim Kirkjian, Peter Gammons, John Clayton, Sean Salisbury, a Sox player weekly, a Pats player weekly, etc. That stuff is important to me but you have to get the right people that the New England sports fan will make an appointment each week to tune in and listen to.
Finally, I will say that I accept my share of blame in the station's demise. While I worked hard at doing the best show I could possibly do each day, my efforts weren't good enough to make a difference to keep the station viable. I will say that I resent some of the bulletin board cowards who criticize me or Gresh or Zo for not working hard or for not caring or doing a good job. I respect your opinion but we worked our asses off to try to do the best show we could each day. It's not as easy as it looks. I can go to sleep at night knowing that gave that radio station, Citadel Broadcasting and you the listeners everything I had for 10+ years. I admit that I'm not perfect and have made my share of mistakes and I apologize for those. But I loved that station and it's loyal listeners and I'm still in alot of pain over the fact that it is no longer. I am also sorry that I was not given a chance to say thankyou and goodbye to you on the air but that was the companies decision. It would have been a very difficult 4 hours for me to get through.
Once again, thanks for reading this and for all of the kind words from many of you. I want you to know that I really do appreciate it!