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COMMENTARY

WGR's Paul Hamilton no longer travels with Sabres; opener for team gets strong rating

Alan Pergament

WGR sports reporter Paul Hamilton has been shut out from traveling to Buffalo Sabres road games for the first time in recent memory.

Some discerning Sabres fans have noticed that Hamilton hasn’t been in Pittsburgh or Columbus for the team’s first two road games to do postgame interviews.

Hamilton declined comment and passed the question to Greg Ried, the local leader of Entercom stations. Ried hasn’t responded to an email or a telephone call.

However, Hamilton has told many people who have covered the Sabres that he has been pulled off the road because of a corporate Entercom edict to save expenses and he will work away games from the station’s studio.

The timing isn’t great, since the Sabres’ strong start to the season has increased interest in the team.

It also is unclear how much Entercom will be saving since Hamilton flew with the team as part of WGR’s rights deal to simulcast game coverage with MSG.

If the Sabres continue to do well, it wouldn’t be surprising if Hamilton returned to the road later in the season. For now, the extra time he will have because he isn’t traveling could free him up to do more coverage of the Buffalo Bills.

Hamilton essentially is caught in the same Entercom cost-cutting that led to last month’s dismissal of Star 102.5 personality Roger Christian after 43 years, as well as the dismissal of several other behind-the-scenes staffers at the company’s local stations.

Entercom, which owns 235 stations in the country, has been making cost-cutting moves of personnel at stations across the nation.

It owns seven stations in Buffalo, including WGR, WBEN-AM, WWKB-AM (ESPN 1520), Kiss 98.5 (WKSE-FM), Alternative Buffalo 107.7 (WLKK-FM), Star 102.5 (WTSS-FM) and Classic R&B (107.3 FM, 1400 AM, WWWS-AM).

The company’s stock reportedly declined by 36% in August, with its acquisition of the CBS radio empire in 2017 being blamed for its problems. Entercom’s stock traded in the range of $15-$16 at the time of acquisition. At the time of the August report, the stock was trading at $3.36 a share. As of Tuesday, it was down to $3.08.

Ratings time: The Sabres’ season-opening victory over Pittsburgh on Oct. 3 had a strong 9.2 rating on MSG. It peaked with an 11.3 rating near game’s end.

The rating was especially strong since an hour or more of the game was played opposite Seattle’s 30-29 win over the Los Angeles Rams. That NFL game had a 10.0 rating on WUTV, the local Fox affiliate. It is rare for any prime-time entertainment program to get a local rating near the 9.2 that the Sabres game had. On that Thursday night, the highest-rated broadcast network entertainment program was CBS’ “Young Sheldon” with an 8.4 rating on WIVB-TV.  Local ratings are delayed by a day or more now because Nielsen has a larger sample size here than it has had in the past.

The hiring of Rob Gronkowski, the Western New York native and former All-Pro tight end for the New England Patriots, as an analyst could be viewed by Fox as one of need.

The Fox Sports pregame crew of Terry Bradshaw (age 71), Howie Long (59), Jimmy Johnson (76), Michael Strahan (47) and Tony Gonzalez (43) is a little top heavy with older players and needs someone like Gronk (30) more recently connected to the game to attract younger viewers.

It might seem odd that Fox, which primarily carries NFC games, would hire a former AFC star like Gronk to be an analyst “for its extensive portfolio of NFL programming.”

But Bradshaw (Pittsburgh), Long (Oakland), Johnson (Miami, NFC’s Dallas) and Gonzalez (Kansas City, NFC’s Atlanta) were AFC guys, too.

Rob Gronkowski on retirement, living without pain and 'the Buffalo mentality'

email: apergament@buffnews.com

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