It’s official but not surprising: 790/The Zone has taken the 2 Live Stews off the air three months before their contracts are up.
This may ease the transition to another gig. The most obvious place for Ryan and Doug Stewart to go is the new sports talk station at 92.9, owned by CBS, which launches next month, obliterating adult rock station Dave FM in the process.
There is a problem: a pesky non compete clause that is six months long and technically prevents them from being on air in Atlanta until July 1, 2013. Their agent Norm Schrutt is trying to get them out of their current contract early so the non-compete could kick in sooner. Obviously, 92.9 is trying to solidify its lineup as soon as possible and this non-compete is a hindrance for them do so since the station is interested.
Schrutt said he was a little upset with Zone management because they told him earlier this month they were going to possibly offer the Stews a contract extension next week. Instead, the Stews were told they were off air yesterday and could take a three-month paid vacation instead.
The Stews’ rise and fall on 790/The Zone was epic. The brothers started at night in the early 2000s, given a lot of leeway to learn the radio craft and built a following as African-American sports talk hosts in a world where minorities are still relatively scarce. Via their fraternity Omega Psi Phi, they would call each other affectionately as dogs. Soon, they began calling their regular callers the same. And since calling a female caller a “dog” sounded inadvertently harsh, the pair began dubbing the ladies “poodles.”
They were loud and proud and would mix in entertainment/pop culture news in between comments about the Falcons and Hawks. They were not “wonky” stats guys but entertainers.
The Zone gave them gradually better time slots and soon, they were the station’s most popular show, pulling in huge ratings in the afternoon. They nabbed a syndication deal with Sporting News, heard at one point on more than 20 stations. They also had a regular gig on ESPN. The Stews were flying high – until they weren’t.
In 2010, Lincoln Financial took over management of 790/The Zone and the Stews quickly found out their hip-hop approach didn’t appeal to the new guys in charge. Hip-hop songs that used to lead into their show were replaced by the Goo Goo Dolls. They were told to tone down the “urban” sound and entertainment news about Usher and T.I. They did as they were told. And to many readers of this blog, their schtick was starting to feel stale. Others felt they weren’t doing enough show prep. Some listeners were not thrilled by their support of Michael Vick in 2007 during the dogfighting scandal. (See the comments below.)
Then they lost their syndication deal last year. Their hours were cut. Ratings slipped. Then in May of this year, their show was diluted into something called “The Red Zone” mid-days with Hans Heiserer and a rotating set of hosts. At the same time, ESPN chose not to renew their contract.
This past Wednesday was the Stews final hurrah on the Zone after nearly 11 years. Or as they often yelped about callers: “And they’re gone!”
“They’ve been consummate pros,” said program director Bob Richards, who arrived 18 months ago.”I really respect the time and energy they put into this radio station. Without them, I’m not sure the station would have launched the way they did years ago.”
Doug Stewart, in an interview, chose not to dwell on the negative. “It’s incredible what we’ve done there over 11 years,” he said today. “I want to thank the fans who supported. This isn’t the last you’ve heard from us.”
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk