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Lou Merloni Just Wants To Be Better

“I’ve tried to learn as much as I can from (Ordway), but there’s definitely a transition in being this guy that was just in the second chair to all of a sudden trying to host the show.”

Brady Farkas

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His career as a professional athlete isn’t the sole reason WEEI’s Lou Merloni is a good radio host, but it certainly has helped.

The entertaining and opinionated Merloni, co-host of Merloni and Fauria, spent parts of nine seasons in the major leagues with the Red Sox, Angels, Indians (now the Guardians), and Padres. He also spent portions of 15 straight years in the minor leagues and even did a stint in Japan. 

One of the biggest clichés in all of sports is that baseball is a game of adjustments. The pitcher adjusts to the hitter. The hitter adjusts to the pitcher. Players have to adjust to the ballpark. And in Merloni’s case, you’re adjusting constantly to which roster you’re on and which teammates you’re playing with.

“I played with people all over the country, all over the world,” Merloni told BSM. “Understanding people, and kind of being like, okay, this is maybe what makes this guy tick or that guy tick. I think those things have helped me (in radio) as well.”

Since breaking into the media in 2008, Merloni has worked with different radio partners including Mike Mutnansky, Tim Benz, Glenn Ordway, and current co-host Christian Fauria. Merloni has worked on two-person and three-person radio shows, served as a color commentator on Red Sox radio broadcasts, done pre- and post-game television work on the NESN, not to mention shows on NBC Sports Boston alongside his radio rival, Mike Felger, of 98.5 The Sports Hub.

Merloni continues to adjust today, as his responsibilities on Merloni and Fauria have recently shifted. Since the retirement of former co-host and longtime Boston radio stalwart Glenn Ordway in 2021, Merloni has found himself as the driver of the show—a role we don’t typically see former athletes in.

“I’ve tried to learn as much as I can from (Ordway), but there’s definitely a transition in being this guy that was just in the second chair to all of a sudden trying to host the show,” he said. “It’s something that you still struggle with or still work on. He was a host. And it’s funny, when you are not in that position you don’t realize what’s asked of you, filling in the gaps and the direction of the show and keeping it on line.”

Maybe that will change in the coming weeks. Of course, it was just hours after my deadline that Lou and partner Christian Fauria announced that Meghan Ottolini would be joining their show as the new full-time co-host.

It has certainly been my experience in radio that when the main driver of a show is gone, the others tend to do the show a little looser. It’s often less structured and more of a free-for-all. You’ve all seen it. Heck, some of you are even guilty of it. But for Merloni without Ordway? The opposite is happening.

“I think because I’m new at it, I’m keeping it more in line,” Merloni said. “He would have a little bit more flexibility and that’s something I’ve got to kind of learn sometimes as well at times. So for me, I’m constantly trying to do the fundamentals correctly because I’m new at it. Whether it’s teasing, or whether it’s staying on the clock, it’s something I try to focus on as much as possible just because I’m still trying to feel my way through it and get better at it.” 

While the ability to adjust is one critical trait that crosses over between professional athlete and radio host, it’s not the only one for Merloni. The ability to be coachable and the desire to compete and be better drive him, and his current partner in Fauria.

 “I think one of the things about being an athlete, and this is where I think Christian and I are similar, is that both of us just want to be better,” he said. “When you’re an athlete, it’s like, if I’m not swinging the bat well, I want my hitting coach to come up to me say ‘you’re doing this wrong’. I’m not going to take that personally because you’re trying to help me. And if that’s what I’ve got to do, then that’s what I’m going to do. Because I just want that final goal of excelling and being the best that I can be.”

As Merloni continues to build towards the best version of his media self, he isn’t sure what the ultimate end game is. This offseason, he turned down a potential opportunity to be part of the Red Sox rotating cast of television color commentators. 

“I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about where I’m headed,” Merloni said. “And really, a big impact on my professional career is my son, who’s 12 years old. He plays baseball and, when it comes to my job, I love calling Red Sox games, but there’s isn’t anything I love more than watching my son play sports and just spending that time. If my son was 18 and going off to college, maybe I would be in a booth permanently. I have no idea, but right now I enjoy the flexibility. The time that I’m able to spend with him, you know, the weekends, getting home for dinner and hanging out with him. That, right now, is the most important thing to me. We’ll see how that changes down the road. But right now, I’m just trying to stay in the moment and enjoy what I’m doing.”

Merloni doesn’t know what the future will bring, but it has been quite a ride for the former infielder, who started out doing weekly appearances on The Big Show with Ordway in 2008 before ascending into a mainstay in WEEI’s lineup.

But as the road eventually comes into more clarity, you can bet Merloni will adjust and adapt.

He’s made a career out of it after all.


When writing one of these pieces, you are always paying attention to the narrative that emerges and trying to make everything included fit the story you’re trying to tell. That means good stuff ends up on the cutting room floor.

Well, in this case, I had two questions that Lou gave great answers to, and unfortunately, I just could not find a way to work them in. Here they are, presented just as they were asked and answered.

BSM: You and Mike Felger are radio rivals, how do you handle doing a television show on NBC Sports Boston with a guy you aren’t “supposed” to like?

LM: I’ve known Mike for a long time. I respect what he does. So for me, it’s like, it is competitive but we don’t play them. It’s not like a one-on-one matchup for me as an athlete. So all I can do is to just worry about our show and do what I think is best. I know what the ratings are, we are getting our ass kicked, and the idea is for that to start turning around, close the gap a little bit, and then it’s a little positive that you try to build on from there. Felger is good at what he does, we all know that, but our job is to kind of counterprogram that and just be the best we can be and hopefully grab people back. When I’ve worked with him, it’s not like, “I don’t want to work with you because you’re the competitor” type of thing. I try to just separate it and focus on what I do, because that’s the only thing that could help us.

BSM: Do you run with the whole “Angry Lou” bit or is that something you roll your eyes at?

LM: I think it was always kind of therapeutic for me at times, to be honest with you. People always say, “Oh, you’re negative on the Patriots or the Celtics or something.” The Angry Lou really comes out with the Red Sox. That’s where it kind of started. That’s what it’s all about, just things bothering me with the organization at times over the years. I’m just passionate about it. It’s not an act. I’ve got to get something off my chest and it sort of turned into this rant that organically just started happening.

BSM Writers

The Future Is Now, Embrace Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+

As annoying as streaming sports is and as much as I haven’t fully adapted to the habit yet, Amazon and Apple have done a magnificent job of trying to make the process as easy and simplified as possible.

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This week has been a reckoning for sports and its streaming future on Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+, ESPN+, and more.

Amazon announced that Thursday Night Football, which averaged 13 million viewers, generated the highest number of U.S. sign ups over a three hour period in the app’s history. More people in the United States subscribed to Prime during the September 15th broadcast than they did during Black Friday, Prime Day, and Cyber Monday. It was also “the most watched night of primetime in Prime Video’s history,” according to Amazon executive Jay Marine. The NFL and sports in general have the power to move mountains even for some of the nation’s biggest and most successful brands.

This leads us to the conversation happening surrounding Aaron Judge’s chase for history. Judge has been in pursuit of former major leaguer Roger Maris’ record for the most home runs hit during one season in American League history.

The sports world has turned its attention to the Yankees causing national rights holders such as ESPN, Fox, and TBS to pick up extra games in hopes that they capture the moment history is made. Apple TV+ also happened to have a Yankees game scheduled for Friday night against the Red Sox right in the middle of this chase for glory.

Baseball fans have been wildin’ out at the prospects of missing the grand moment when Judge passes Maris or even the moments afterwards as Judge chases home run number 70 and tries to truly create monumental history of his own. The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand has even reported there were talks between YES, MLB, and Apple to bring Michael Kay into Apple’s broadcast to call the game, allow YES Network to air its own production of the game, or allow YES Network to simulcast Apple TV+’s broadcast. In my opinion, all of this hysteria is extremely bogus.

As annoying as streaming sports is and as much as I haven’t fully adapted to the habit yet, Amazon and Apple have done a magnificent job of trying to make the process as easy and simplified as possible. Amazon brought in NBC to help with production of TNF and if you watch the flow of the broadcast, the graphics of the broadcast, NBC personalities like Michael Smith, Al Michaels, and Terry McAuliffe make appearances on the telecast – it is very clear that the network’s imprint is all over the show.

NBC’s experience in conducting the broadcast has made the viewing experience much more seamless. Apple has also used MLB Network and its personalities for assistance in ensuring there’s no major difference between what you see on air vs. what you’re streaming.

Amazon and Apple have also decided to not hide their games behind a paywall. Since the beginning of the season, all of Apple’s games have been available free of charge. No subscription has ever been required. As long as you have an Apple device and can download Apple TV+, you can watch their MLB package this season.

Guess what? Friday’s game against the Red Sox is also available for free on your iPhone, your laptop, or your TV simply by downloading the AppleTV app. Amazon will also simulcast all Thursday Night Football games on Twitch for free. It may be a little harder or confusing to find the free options, but they are out there and they are legal and, once again, they are free.

Apple has invested $85 million into baseball, money that will go towards your team becoming better hypothetically. They’ve invested money towards creating a new kind of streaming experience. Why in the hell would they offer YES Network this game for free? There’s no better way for them to drive subscriptions to their product than by offering fans a chance at watching history on their platform.

A moment like this are the main reason Apple paid for rights in the first place. When Apple sees what the NFL has done for Amazon in just one week and coincidentally has the ability to broadcast one of the biggest moments in baseball history – it would be a terrible business decision to let viewers watch it outside of the Apple ecosystem and lose the ability to gain new fans.

It’s time for sports fans to grow up and face reality. Streaming is here to stay. 

MLB Network is another option

If you don’t feel like going through the hassle of watching the Yankees take on the Red Sox for free on Apple TV+, MLB Network will also air all of Judge’s at bats live as they are happening. In case the moment doesn’t happen on Apple TV+ on Friday night, Judge’s next games will air in full on MLB Network (Saturday), ESPN (Sunday), MLB Network again (Monday), TBS (Tuesday) and MLB Network for a third time on Wednesday. All of MLB Network’s games will be simulcast of YES Network’s local New York broadcast. It wouldn’t shock me to see Fox pick up another game next Thursday if the pursuit still maintains national interest.

Quick bites

  • One of the weirdest things about the experience of streaming sports is that you lose the desire to channel surf. Is that a good thing or bad thing? Brandon Ross of LightShed Ventures wonders if the difficulty that comes with going from app to app will help Amazon keep viewers on TNF the entire time no matter what the score of the game is. If it does, Amazon needs to work on developing programming to surround the games or start replaying the games, pre and post shows so that when you fall asleep and wake up you’re still on the same stream on Prime Video or so that coming to Prime Video for sports becomes just as much of a habit for fans as tuning in to ESPN is.
  • CNN has announced the launch of a new morning show with Don Lemon, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlin Collins. Variety reports, “Two people familiar with plans for the show say it is likely to use big Warner Bros. properties — a visit from the cast of HBO’s Succession or sports analysis from TNT’s NBA crew — to lure eyeballs.” It’ll be interesting to see if Turner Sports becomes a cornerstone of this broadcast. Will the NBA start doing schedule releases during the show? Will a big Taylor Rooks interview debut on this show before it appears on B/R? Will the Stanley Cup or Final Four MVP do an interview on CNN’s show the morning after winning the title? Does the show do remote broadcasts from Turner’s biggest sports events throughout the year?
  • The Clippers are back on over the air television. They announced a deal with Nexstar to broadcast games on KTLA and other Nexstar owned affiliates in California. The team hasn’t reached a deal to air games on Bally Sports SoCal or Bally Sports Plus for the upcoming season. Could the Clippers pursue a solo route and start their own OTT service in time for the season? Are they talking to Apple, Amazon, or ESPN about a local streaming deal? Is Spectrum a possible destination? I think these are all possibilities but its likely that the Clippers end up back on Bally Sports since its the status quo. I just find it interesting that it has taken so long to solidify an agreement and that it wasn’t announced in conjunction with the KTLA deal. The Clippers are finally healthy this season, moving into a new arena soon, have the technology via Second Spectrum to produce immersive game casts. Maybe something is brewing?
  • ESPN’s Monday Night Football double box was a great concept. The execution sucked. Kudos to ESPN for adjusting on the fly once complaints began to lodge across social media. I think the double box works as a separate feed. ESPN2 should’ve been the home to the double box. SVP and Stanford Steve could’ve held a watch party from ESPN’s DC studio with special guests. The double box watch party on ESPN2 could’ve been interrupted whenever SVP was giving an update on games for ESPN and ABC. It would give ESPN2 a bit of a behind the scenes look at how the magic happens similarly to what MLB Tonight did last week. Credit to ESPN and the NFL for experimenting and continuing to try and give fans unique experiences.

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BSM Writers

ESPN Shows Foresight With Monday Night Football Doubleheader Timing

ESPN is obviously testing something, and it’s worth poking around at why the network wouldn’t follow the schedule it has used for the last 16 years, scheduling kickoffs at 7 and then 10 on their primary channel.

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The Monday Night Football doubleheader was a little bit different this time around for ESPN.

First, it came in Week 2 instead of Week 1. And then, the games were staggered 75 minutes apart on two different channels, the Titans and Bills beginning on ESPN at 7:15 PM ET and the Vikings at the Eagles starting at 8:30 PM on ABC and ESPN+. This was a departure from the usual schedule in which the games kicked off at 7:00 PM ET and then 10:00 PM ET with the latter game on the West Coast.

ESPN is obviously testing something, and it’s worth poking around at why the network wouldn’t follow the schedule it has used for the last 16 years, scheduling kickoffs at 7:00 PM and then 10:00 PM ET on their primary channel. That’s the typical approach, right? The NFL is the most valuable offering in all of sports and ESPN would have at least six consecutive hours of live programming without any other game to switch to.

Instead, they staggered the starts so the second game kicked off just before the first game reached halftime. They placed the games on two different channels, which risked cannibalizing their audience. Why? Well, it’s the same reason that ESPN was so excited about the last year’s Manningcast that it’s bringing it back for 10 weeks this season. ESPN is not just recognizing the reality of how their customers behave, but they’re embracing it.

Instead of hoping with everything they have that the customer stays in one place for the duration of the game, they’re recognizing the reality that they will leave and providing another product within their portfolio to be a destination when they do.

It’s the kind of experiment everyone in broadcasting should be investigating because, for all the talk about meeting the customer where they are, we still tend to be a little bit stubborn about adapting to what they do. 

Customers have more choices than ever when it comes to media consumption. First, cable networks softened the distribution advantages of broadcast networks, and now digital offerings have eroded the distribution advantages of cable networks. It’s not quite a free-for-all, but the battle for viewership is more intense, more wide open than ever because that viewer has so many options of not just when and where but how they will consume media.

Programmers have a choice in how to react to this. On the one hand, they can hold on tighter to the existing model and try to squeeze as much out of it as they can. If ESPN was thinking this way it would stack those two Monday night games one after the other just like it always has and hope like hell for a couple of close games to juice the ratings. Why would you make it impossible for your customer to watch both of these products you’ve paid so much to televise?

I’ve heard radio programmers and hosts recite take this same approach for more than 10 years now when it comes to making shows available on-demand. Why would you give your customers the option of consuming the product in a way that’s not as remunerative or in a way that is not measured?

That thinking is outdated and it is dangerous from an economic perspective because it means you’re trying to make the customer behave in your best interest by restricting their choices. And maybe that will work. Maybe they like that program enough that they’ll consume it in the way you’d prefer or maybe they decide that’s inconvenient or annoying or they decide to try something else and now this customer who would have listened to your product in an on-demand format is choosing to listen to someone else’s product entirely.

After all, you’re the only one that is restricting that customer’s choices because you’re the only one with a desire to keep your customer where he is. Everyone else is more than happy to give your customer something else. 

There’s a danger in holding on too tightly to the existing model because the tighter you squeeze, the more customers will slip through your fingers, and if you need a physical demonstration to complete this metaphor go grab a handful of sand and squeeze it hard.

Your business model is only as good as its ability to predict the behavior of your customers, and as soon as it stops doing that, you need to adjust that business model. Don’t just recognize the reality that customers today will exercise the freedom that all these media choices provide, embrace it.

Offer more products. Experiment with more ways to deliver those products. The more you attempt to dictate the terms of your customer’s engagement with your product, the more customers you’ll lose, and by accepting this you’ll open yourself to the reality that if your customer is going to leave your main offering, it’s better to have them hopping to another one of your products as opposed to leaving your network entirely.

Think in terms of depth of engagement, and breadth of experience. That’s clearly what ESPN is doing because conventional thinking would see the Manningcast as a program that competes with the main Monday Night Football broadcast, that cannibalizes it. ESPN sees it as a complimentary experience. An addition to the main broadcast, but it also has the benefit that if the customer feels compelled to jump away from the main broadcast – for whatever reason – it has another ESPN offering that they may land on.

I’ll be watching to see what ESPN decides going forward. The network will have three Monday Night Football doubleheaders beginning next year, and the game times have not been set. Will they line them up back-to-back as they had up until this year? If they do it will be a vote of confidence that its traditional programming approach that evening is still viable. But if they overlap those games going forward, it’s another sign that less is not more when it comes to giving your customers a choice in products.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: Sunday Ticket Has Problems, Marcellus Wiley Does Not

Demetri Ravanos

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On this episode of Media Noise, Demetri is joined by Brian Noe to talk about the wild year FS1’s Marcellus Wiley has had and by Garrett Searight to discuss the tumultuous present and bright future of NFL Sunday Ticket.

ITunes: https://buff.ly/3PjJWpO

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3AVwa90

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3cbINCp

Google: https://buff.ly/3PbgHWx

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3cbIOpX

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