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Some thoughts on the recent moves at 104.5 The Zone

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I have been listening to sports talk radio in Nashville for a long time. All the way back to the 1990s when my dad would pick me up from whatever practice I had after school and we tuned into 99.7 to listen to George Plaster on the way home. This city, and the sports talk radio scene, has changed a lot since then.

Today the leader in sports talk radio is unquestionably 104.5 The Zone. There is another sports talk station in town, but with the exception of one or two people over there, the lineup is garbage. It also doesn’t help that you can’t the signal from the other station unless you are in a 5-mile radius of downtown Nashville.

The Zone made headlines a couple of weeks ago when they shook up their lineup. They fired Kevin Ingram and Mark Howard who had been on the Wake Up Zone since the station started in 2003. That show started as a 3-man show with Howard, Ingram, and Frank Wycheck. After Wycheck moved on for various reasons, the station moved Blaine Bishop from 3HL (3 Hour Lunch) (more on that in a minute) to the WUZ.

While Blaine seems like a nice guy and was a heck of a football player, he is terrible on the radio. I don’t understand why he got to keep his job while Ingram and Howard were fired. If you need a sampling of Blaine on the radio, just check out this question that he once asked Marcus Mariota. That was the last time Mariota appeared on the show.

The aforementioned 3HL was formed in 2010 with Brent Dougherty, Blaine, and Clay Travis. It ran from noon to three, so the name made sense at the time. That version of the show was really entertaining. Those 3 had good chemistry. They were moved from middays to afternoon drive time when George Plaster’s show left the station somewhere around 2011-2012. Travis left the show in 2014 after he was unhappy with the contract offer he received from Cumulus Radio.

3HL stayed in afternoon drivetime with only Dougherty remaining from the original crew. Mickey Ryan replaced Travis and Dawn Davenport joined the show in 2017 when Blaine was moved to the morning show. Those three were together from August of ‘17 until the shakeup earlier this month. Now Dougherty and Davenport host the show from 3-6.

The Midday 180 with Jonathan Hutton, Chad Withrow, and Paul Kuharsky was formed when 3HL moved from middays to afternoon. Those 3 like to tout themselves as the “longest-running trio” in Nashville sports talk radio. Their show was the only one that wasn’t changed up in the shake-up and the only show that retained the 4-hour format.

So now that we have been through the history of 104.5, let’s talk about the current line-up. They brought in Jason Martin to replace Mark, Kevin, and Blaine from 6:00-9:00. Martin is really good at some things. His pop culture content is some of the best you will find. He ran a podcast with Rhett Bryan of Titans radio and others talking about different TV shows that was fantastic.

With that being said, having him as a solo host on a 3-hour show is not good. He gets really preachy at times and comes off as a guy that says stuff just to stir up controversy. There is also an air of arrogance about him that it doesn’t seem like he has earned at this point. He probably picked that up from his time working with Clay Travis. Hopefully, they will find someone to pair with him that can balance him out a little bit.

I have been told that there was a 3-person show that was pitched to 104.5 which involved people currently at other places in the Nashville media. It would have been a really good lineup that would have been so much better than Martin. Those three never heard back from anyone at the station.

The Midday 180 was shifted from 10:00-2:00 to 9:00-1:00. If you have listened to them since the switch you know they are happy to still be together and still have 4 hours but are also disappointed that they didn’t get the afternoon drive slot. It doesn’t make sense for them to not get the spot with them being the best show on the station. I don’t have access to ratings, but I think it is safe to say they are also the highest-rated show at the station.

My only real beef with the Midday 180 is the fact that they still let John Feinstein come on their show. I haven’t listened to him in over a year, but back when I did he just came off to me as a guy that tried to act like an unbiased journalist but was critical of people he didn’t like no matter what they did. I also don’t know what he brings to the table.

From 1:00-3:00 you now have the Blaine and Mickey Show. The fact that they don’t have a real name probably tells you all you need to know about how long the show will last. I really enjoy the work Mickey Ryan does. He got a really tough break getting stuck with Blaine.

Then you have 3HL with Brent and Dawn from 3:00-6:00. That show really isn’t something that I get excited to listen to, but they are fine. They just seem to be a show that stays on the surface on most topics. Their guests, outside of the Titans Radio people (Dave McGinnis, Mike Keith, and Jim Wyatt) and Buck Reising, don’t really bring anything to the table that you can’t get anywhere else.

Here is what The Zone should have done:

  1. As I already mentioned, they should have moved The Midday 180 to afternoon drive.
  2. When they did that, they should have just flipped 3HL with Brent, Mickey and Dawn to middays.
  3. They should have kept Mark and Kevin and fired Blaine. That would have been a perfect spot to give to Buck Reising, who needs more air time on the station.
  4. If they had to fire Mark and Kevin, then give that show to Buck and bring in Emily Proud and Turron Davenport (although he probably couldn’t do it and stay with ESPN) with him. TD is hands down the best guy in local media when it comes to breaking down film. He needs more run in this market.