On Friday, news broke that John Jurkovic, veteran host at WMVP-AM/ESPN 1000, was resigned to a multi-year renewal. This is the latest of moves made by the station plagued with years of downward ratings.
The impetus for ESPN 1000’s ratings woes by and large came in Jan. 2009 with the sudden exit of superstar host Dan McNeil, who months later would resurface on WSCR-AM/670 The Score. McNeil’s ESPN 1000 exit was a self-inflicted wound since it was Jim Pastor, the station’s then general manager, who gave him the boot.
McNeil’s former afternoon co-hosts Harry Teinowitz and Jurkovic were joined by Carmen DeFalo to help steer the ship, while Tom Waddle and Marc Silverman would continue to hold the fort during middays. Since then, it seemed to be a matter of when, not if, the “Waddle and Silvy” show would eventually move to afternoons.
Months turned into years, while ratings fell deeper, further distancing themselves from the Score.
In March, and a little more than four years following the station’s last significant programming change, ESPN 1000 was ready for change. Gone was Teinowitz, leaving DeFalco and Jurkovic the remaining two hosts in afternoons. In April, the station pulled the trigger on moving “Waddle and Silvy” to afternoons while “Carmen and Jurko” moved to middays (but not after also renewing DeFalco’s contract). A few other programming tweaks made room during the 9 a.m. hour for Colin Cowherd’s nationally syndicated ESPN Radio show, “The Herd.”
The station was quick to tout themselves as the “all new ESPN 1000.”
Ugh, perhaps, more like a fresh coat of paint?
While I don’t think the swapping of the “Carmen and Jurko” and” Waddle and Silvy” shows will mean much in the long-run, there are a few justifications for at least trying.
- Waddle and Silvy’s continued relationship with Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. With Cutler appearing as a weekly guest during Bears season, afternoons may allow for added exposure. This may hold more weight if the appearances take place as sponsored remotes, in which more people may be able to attend after their work day.
- Even though the Score’s “Boers and Bernstein” show is doing very well in the ratings, a lot of people don’t like the awkward, brash, silly and tension that often accompanies the show. Those not liking B&B who previously may not have warmed up to “Carmen and Jurko” may potentially warm up to “Waddle and Silvy.” This, however, is dicey because the many who can’t stand B&B still listen anyways (which is the same reason why people read Jay Mariotti in the Chicago Sun-Times each day).
Another glaring hole in the programming department is the “ESPN 1000 Post Game Show.” Featuring noteworthy segments from the day’s “Waddle and Silvy” and “Carmen and Jurko” shows, the 6 p.m. hour is more or less a throwaway. Since the station continues local programming on most weeknights from 7 to 10 p.m., would it hurt to eliminate the “Post Game Show” and offer an additional hour of live programming, preferably with Jonathan Hood?
I would like for ESPN 1000 to put up more of a fight. I’ve been listening on and off to AM 1000 since the mid 1990s (dating prior to the ESPN Radio takeover in 1998). I’ve also had the privilege of meeting some of their personalities through the years. Personal bias aside, I admit that my ESPN 1000 listening has decreased in sync with other Chicago sports fans who now get most of their sports talk from the Score.
Four months after the swapping of the “Carmen and Jurko” and “Waddle and Silvy” shows, ratings appear to be stagnant. And with Teinowitz’s firing in March, he so far is the lone scapegoat for the station’s ratings woes.
For all we know, overtaking the Score may not be the ultimate goal for ESPN 1000 management, or that of ESPN Radio corporate in Bristol, CT. As long as revenues meet expectations, they just might be content with second place.
On the surface, that appears to be the playbook they are abiding by.