By David Scott
Boston Sports Media Watch

Local sports talk station, 890 ESPN has officially announced the changes which have been reported here at Scott’s Shots in recent weeks. The release from 890 follows and clears up some my confusion over the afternoon drive times (there’s a noon-2 p.m. slot and a 4-6 p.m., meaning in total, it’s one hour more than the 3-hour block Felger used to give 890. Post Mike & Mike and the in-between slot will be filled with ESPN’s national programming line-up):

890 ESPN EXPANDS LOCAL PROGRAMMING WITH ANNOUNCEMENT OF NEW DAILY LINEUP
Fresh New Voices and Boston Perspectives Highlight Program Change

BOSTON – August 11, 2008 – In a move to expand local programming and help meet Boston’s insatiable appetite for local sports talk, 890 ESPN Radio today announced a new afternoon and drive time program line up.
Beginning Thursday, August 14, WCVB-TV 5 news and sports anchor Bob Halloran will team with current 890 sports reporter Mike Salk for “Salk & Halloran” which will run weekdays between noon and 2pm.
A new drive time show, “Lew and Mike,” hosted by the sports talk team of Lew and Mike (Lew Goldstein and Mike Vallee) will air between 4pm and 6 pm. The “Lew and Mike Show” had run on AM 1510 The Zone.
“These moves allow us to supplement our local sports talk and Boston sports news which our listeners cannot get enough of,” said 890 ESPN program director Len Weiner. “Boston is America’s number one sports town and ESPN is America’s number one sports brand. We are excited to expand our programming and offer more new local voices along with the resources and great talent at ESPN.”
Halloran’s entry into the station lineup is a welcome home of sorts. Before joining WCVB’s SportsCenter 5, Halloran was at ESPNews where he spent three years as an anchor and writer for ESPN.com. He is also the author of “Irish Thunder: The Hard Life and Times of Micky Ward,” published by The Lyons Press.
Mike Salk has been 890 ESPN’s Red Sox reporter for the past two years, and will continue in that role. He also can be heard on ESPN’s national programming.
The “Lew and Mike Show” at AM 1510 meanwhile has earned a significant response and a reputation for edgy sports commentary and news by two local opinionated and enthusiastic sports observers.
“I’m confident that 890′s listeners will embrace these new shows. It’s a new day for 890 ESPN, and we look forward to perhaps bringing even more local programming to the station.” said Weiner.

• It appears that Jessamy Tang is taking a very hands-off approach on the public side of this one. This is clearly Len Weiner’s baby and the latest rumor from Schrafft’s central has the station’s program director also assuming the roles of producer for L&M. It appears Kevin Winter will be the SportsCenter update guy for the afternoon drive. Not sure yet who will fill that role for the Noon show, but Felger’s old producer, Ross “Lisa Loeb” Carey, is set to pilot the Salk and Halloran show.

• Instant analysis: Does the move do anything to “move the needle” for 890.

Barely. The biggest positive is that 890 is getting a chance at a different slot in which to challenge WEEI. “Dale and Holley” is not nearly as strong as The Big Show and the chance exists that Salk and Halloran will be able to borrow a few more sets of ears at the outset, but whether they’ll be keep them is quite a variable to have to deal with.

For a search that supposedly included the semi-sexy names of Ron Borges, Andy Gresh, Ryen Russillo and others, the fact that Tang’s Gang is left with two Mikes, a Lew and a Bob is hardly pulsating.

And let’s not forget the little fact that WEEI is about to embark on a complete website overhaul that will fortify even further it’s radio stations’ (WEEI and WRKO) stranglehold on the market. Not only will WEEI continue to be the 50,000 watt monster that it is, but it will now be able to package what insiders are saying will be a “substantial” and “creative” web set-up at WEEI.com. “It will be like what ESPN is able to do with all its platforms,” said a person familiar with the dot-com’s business plan.

So, we’ll give 890 credit for re-shaping its line-up, but we’ll also remember that most of the contracts it was offering talent were for 13-week deals. That’s one fiscal quarter’s time to make hay and it took Felger almost three full years to even make a recognizable dent.

• Weiner hints at “perhaps” bringing more local programming to 890. That would presumably be beyond the “Metro Gameday” show which will continue from 6 to 7 p.m. though the end of baseball season.

If they could only grab two unknowns for afternoon drive, it’s hard to imagine what else they’d put on the air with even more local offerings. Probably better off to wait and see how this shake-up goes before committing to more chazerai.

• Could be helpful to 890 to actually know that Halloran is more than a sports anchor at WCVB. NOTE: They had it right, my bad. He does weekend news anchor duties mostly. They love him for his versatility. Sort of a Scott Wahle-alike. Or a Gene Lavanchy-type.

• Interesting turn of a phrase: “. . . has earned a significant response and a reputation for edgy sports commentary and news. . . ” My Google search of the duo (even with their last names) found nothing significant or edgy.

• No idea what all this is about, but as one local scribe said to us last week, “You’ll miss Schilling when he’s not around.”