WEEKLY MEDIA COLUMN
For eight years, Marc Hochman was the creative architect behind his buddy Dan Le Batard’s radio show, combining with Le Batard and Jon Weiner to present the highest-rated and most compelling sports-talk radio program in South Florida.
Friends since they were classmates at the University of Miami, Hochman and Le Batard have traveled together, to Las Vegas and the Bahamas, and Le Batard appeared in Hochman’s wedding 16 years ago. Le Batard hired him as his executive producer when 790 The Ticket launched.
So when Hochman officially joins rival WQAM-560 next week and starts competing directly with Le Batard on Tuesday, “it will feel a little strange because I still take great pride in that show,” Hochman said.
Nevertheless, Hochman insists going head-to-head with Le Batard from 3 to 7 p.m. weekdays won’t be daunting or intimidating or any other frightening adjective. That’s partly because Le Batard’s show on 790 AM and 104.3 FM airs nationally on ESPN Radio from 4 to 7 p.m.
“My show is hopefully going to be this place where anyone who lives in South Florida can hang out for a couple hours, talk about things interesting to people in South Florida,” he said. “Dan's show has grown into a national show. It's got a different feel to it.
“I can’t compete with him on guests. He's going to get an A list of sports guests. But he is doing something I'm not trying to do. I want to work in South Florida the rest of my life.”
Competing with Le Batard “is not daunting because I know he's rooting for me. He was one of the first people I called when I decided to take the job. He was thrilled for me, wished me the best. He's such a unique individual.
“I'm not competition to him. He's a network radio host. He's got bigger fish to fry than worrying about what is happening about the show against him on the local station.”
Hochman, 44, hasn’t worked professionally with Le Batard since becoming The Ticket’s morning show co-host in the spring of 2012.
Though the Ticket wanted to keep him, Hochman left that job in December, partly because he felt his future would be more secure at WQAM. Hochman couldn’t start at WQAM immediately because of a three-month non-compete clause, and WQAM management said it’s still not permitted to comment publicly about him.
“The real motivating factor was picturing myself 10 years from now doing a talk show in Miami and who I think would afford me that opportunity,” he said. “I have seen that happen at WQAM, with Hank Goldberg, Neil Rogers, Jim Mandich. The Beasley family [which owns WQAM] is committed to radio in this market. Lincoln Financial [which owns The Ticket] is a multi-million dollar insurance company. I am making a calculated decision.”
He said WQAM also appealed to him because they share a similar vision of doing “an entertaining radio show” rather than a hard-core, sports-only program. “Sports will be the backbone and I love sports, but I love pop culture and current events. Each show will be the vibe of that particular day.”
He will use some segments he created on The Ticket, including “Mount Rushmore” and “Honked off like a goose.”
Hochman hired Zack Krantz, Joe Rose’s former radio producer, as his co-host because “I love a guy who's always smiling and laughing and enjoying sports and life the way I try to. If Joe Rose didn't give his blessing, I wouldn't have pursued it.”
Producer Victor Bermudez and Sha Tabb, a former model and Dolphins cheerleader, also will have on-air roles. And Hochman made an eye-opening hire by convincing legendary coach Howard Schnellenberger to become the “voice” of the show, narrating introductions and more.
Perhaps Hochman will give WQAM the long-term stability it has lacked in afternoon drive since the retirement of Mandich, who died in 2012 after a battle with cancer. Sid Rosenberg (now doing mornings on WMEN-640) lost his WQAM afternoon gig because of a DUI arrest, and Jorge Sedano – who was a strong hire – left in September for ESPN Radio.
But it will be very difficult for Hochman to post ratings comparable to Le Batard, who has become a radio juggernaut.
This much is clear: Hochman, a native of Highland Park, Ill., has come a long way from the guy who was making $165 a week as a disk jockey in Belle Glade after graduating from UM 23 years ago.
AROUND THE DIAL
### The Dolphins on Thursday hired WQAM's Greg Likens --- one of the more thoughtful, polished young hosts on local radio --- to replace Jesse Agler as host of WINZ's Finsiders. Agler left for a job with the San Diego Padres.
### Jeff Fox and Ed Freeman, who have handled WQAM’s 3 to 7 p.m. shift the past three months, will go back to being fill-in hosts on the station.
### The Ticket, which has a marketing partnership with The Miami Herald, hired a new program director: Len Weiner, who was an executive for radio stations in Tampa, Orlando and Melbourne.
### Fox dropped NFL analyst Brian Billick… NBC lead analyst Cris Collinsworth is giving up his gig on Showtime’s Inside the NFL and may do some cable work for NBC Sports Network before or after the Sunday games that he calls with Al Michaels on NBC. The move will reduce Collinsworth’s travel load. Collinsworth, who lives in Cincinnati, needed to travel to Mount Laurel, N.J. every week to do the show.
The chemistry between Collinsworth and Phil Simms made the show especially lively and will be missed. CBS said it hasn't decided how Collinsworth will be replaced.
### Heat-Pacers on Wednesday night generated a strong 12.7 rating in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale market: a 7.4 on Sun Sports and a 5.3 on ESPN.
### Fort Myers sports anchor Clayton Ferraro is the new No. 2 sportscaster at WPLG-10, replacing Victor Oquendo, who was promoted to a news anchor position.