On The Air
by Laura Nachman
Bucks County Courier Times
September 8, 2006

On-air radio wars are nothing compared to what new Sports Talk 950-AM morning drive host Gregg Henson went through in his personal life this summer.

“We were supposed to launch our show the second week in July, but my mother was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor,” said Henson, 38, a native of Detroit. After his mother died at the age of 61, Henson, his wife and two children moved to the Philadelphia area in August.

“The day we were moving in, my mother-in-law took my children (ages 3 and 1) out for a ride in the car, so they would fall asleep,” he said. “Instead, she fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a pole.”

Henson's mother-in-law suffered two broken wrists. Fortunately, the children were not hurt.

With all of that, Henson was given the task of starting a new morning show and working as program director for WPEN.

“The feedback we get from the people is that WIP is mean, old, and nasty. People are disgruntled by the way WIP talks to people. We want to be the younger, hipper, sports station,” said the radio veteran, who began in the business at 19.

He acknowledged that his station has a way to go.

“We need to get the product right,” he said. “It's not right yet.”

(If the definition of “not right” means getting hardly any callers, booking dubious guests like a female roller derby player, and talking about almost everything except Philly sports, then Henson is correct — the product is not right.)

Henson hopes to duplicate his success in Detroit, where he was a popular on-air host before getting fired in October of last year for making on-air accusations about a rival radio host. He worked in Austin, Texas, since November 2005 before joining WPEN.

In other station news, when the Eagles play at 1 p.m. on Sunday, there won't be an Eagles pre-game show until noon. Jay Lamont, the host of a real estate show left over from the station's old format, does not want to change his time slot, which runs until noon, according to Henson.

NFL will help NBC

The addition of the NFL to its schedule will help NBC in the ratings battle, but it won't be enough to get it out of fourth place among the broadcast networks this season, says Marc Berman, an analyst for the trade publication “Mediaweek.”

“The NFL is a temporary positive. It's a good way to promote the other shows on the NBC schedule. It will help NBC in the fourth quarter [October through December], but once the football season is over, it will lose a lot of steam,” he said.

Peyton Manning and the Colts will play Eli Manning and the Giants in the first regular-season Sunday night game this week. NBC has assembled an all-star team including Al Michaels, John Madden, Bob Costas, Cris Collinsworth, Andrea Kremer, Peter King, Sterling Sharpe and Jerome Bettis for the telecast.

This is the first time NBC is broadcasting the NFL since it lost the AFC package to CBS in 1998. In the time that NBC didn't have the NFL, it dropped from 10.2 average rating in 1997-98 (the last year it had football) to a 6.3 rating in 2005-06.

Meanwhile, NBC10 will try to carry the “Sunday Night Football” momentum by airing “Sports Final” immediately after the game around 11 p.m. The local news with Lauren Cohn and Amy Freeze will air after “Sports Final.” Vai Sikahema, John Clark, Jade McCarthy and Howard Eskin (yes, he's back on 10 again) are the “Sports Final” team.

September 8, 2006 7:02 AM