Well, iHeartRadio has struck again, and again it's affecting the sports-talk scene in Michigan.
Two months after longtime WDFN (1130-AM) voice Matt Shepard was let go, Gregg Henson got the axe just ahead of the start of the holiday weekend.
Henson, a voice long known to Detroit sports fans, had been pulling double duty since August, on air in Pittsburgh as well as co-hosting a drive-time show that originated on 96.1 (WMAX-FM) in Grand Rapids but was simulcast on WDFN.
On that show, he worked with Jim Costa and Drew McCarthy, "Jim and Big Drew," to host the alternative to Bill Simonson's "Huge Show" on 107.3 (WBBL-FM).
And they had almost instant success, and in the most recent ratings, beat Simonson in two key demographics: 25 to 54 (3.8 to Simonson's 2.0) and 18 to 34 (3.9 to 1.1). Those numbers come from late April. The Grand Rapids market doesn't get monthly numbers.
Henson worked on that show remotely from his Pittsburgh studios. When he got cut from Pittsburgh due to budget cuts, he lost the Michigan gig, too, because it's the same company.
In Grand Rapids, Henson served as the veteran mentor-type to his millennial co-hosts, and said on Twitter this weekend he's confident the duo will continue to have success in a market where Simonson has a hardcore base, but also can be polarizing.
"I honestly believe if you give @JimCosta_ and @bigdrewCON a shot they will change ur opinion of Detroit sports," Henson posted Sunday. "Give the young guys a shot."
Costa took over the Grand Rapids show in 2015 after Sean Baligian left for Detroit Sports 105.1 (WMGC-FM), which has since switched formats to old-school hip-hop — leaving 97.1 The Ticket (WXYT-FM) also the only all-local sports station in Metro Detroit.
WDFN now doesn't have a single sports show originating from its Farmington Hills studios.
Henson has been in Pittsburgh for five years, and also has worked radio jobs in Philadelphia, Dallas and Austin, Texas, as well as his previous stops in Detroit — at WDFN when it first became an all-sports station in 1994, and later at WXYT.
He is a native of Troy.
Valenti to New York?
In more sports-radio rumblings, is Mike Valenti about to go really big time?
It's long been the chatter in media circles, and now that Mike Francesa's run at WFAN (660-AM) in New York is drawing to a close, Valenti's name continues to be linked to the opening.
Valenti, a New York native whose been a force on 97.1 since graduating from Michigan State in the early 2000s, long has hesitated to leave his perch upon which he hosts one of the highest-rated local sports-talk shows in the country. But times have changed, especially since his longtime co-host, Terry Foster, retired this year after complications from a pair of strokes. Valenti has since done the show solo, and there's no indication a new co-host is in the cards.
Valenti's name has popped up in the New York tabloids recently as a possible replacement for Francesa, whose run officially ends Dec. 15.
It's sensible, given The Ticket and WFAN both are owned by CBS Radio.
Valenti is expected to do the occasional fill-in show on WFAN over the next several months as CBS Radio looks for the winning voice, expected to be in place by Labor Day.
One of Valenti's possible competitors is a fascinating name: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
New player in town
There are no shortage of places to read up on all things Detroit sports — there's us (hello!), that "other" newspaper, MLive, and now The Athletic, which launched last week as a subscription service for in-depth content.
The editor is a familiar name, longtime ESPN hockey writer Craig Custance, and the managing editor is former ESPN hockey and baseball writer Katie Strang. That's made for a heavy dose of Red Wings coverage during the site's launch, though I'm told that should change in short order.
Those are the only full-time hires so far for The Athletic in Detroit. The company, founded by a couple Silicon Valley business partners (one sports fan, one not as much), also has sites in Cleveland, Toronto and Chicago.
Given none of the other Detroit sports-media outlets charge for online content, it'll be interesting to see how The Athletic fares. It's currently running a 30-percent off special, where a monthly subscription is just a little over $4, and a little over $2 if you buy a year.
This and that
More on Justin White's recent departure from Fox Sports Detroit — it had little to do with the quality of his work, and more to do with a simple body count at the regional sports giant. FSD simply had too many workers, and not enough work. Word is White has landed a 9-to-5 gig that's not in television, but is more conducive to raising young children.
... 21st Century Media, owner of The Oakland Press and miprepzone.com, made drastic cuts recently, too, including longtime Tigers and prep writer Matthew B. Mowery. At least he has maintained his sense of humor, tweeting, "So, I've been asked to bring all my work-issued equipment to the office. Probably just giving me all brand-new stuff, right?" Miprepzone.com will cease to exist, a real loss for an industry that doesn't care nearly enough about high school sports coverage.
... MLive's always trying something new, so props to them. This one, though, is a head-scratcher. Starting next season, it sounds like the company will use a single beat writer (Ansar Khan) to cover both the Piston and Red Wings, and won't travel to away games. He might as well set up a cot at Little Caesars Arena. Pistons writer Aaron McMann has moved to the Michigan football beat team.
... Speaking of Shepard, the voice of Michigan men's basketball and Eastern Michigan football recently was named Michigan Sports Broadcaster of the Year by the National Sports Media Association. He also has a new podcast, "Shep, Shower 'N' Shave," co-hosted with his son, Chad.
... Recently I had the privilege of participating in a Sports Illustrated roundtable of gay sports-media members. Found it to be quite a frank and compelling discussion, especially in the wake of Ryan O'Callaghan's coming out. You can read it here.