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Unable to dial in the ratings

No Arbitron, no word at WEEI

Normally this is the week when WEEI radio hosts John Dennis and Gerry Callahan would be modestly letting listeners know they had ranked No. 2 in the Boston market among males 25-54 in morning drive time in Arbitron's spring ratings book. Oh, but they're on vacation.

It's also the week when midday host Dale Arnold would be making a similar announcement, to the effect that he and partner Bob Neumeier are No. 1 in that same demographic for their time period. Oops, Dale's on vacation, too.

And afternoon "Big Show" host Glenn Ordway and crew would be whispering the news that they're No. 1 among all adults 25-54 in p.m. drive time for the third straight ratings book. Whispering? OK, they'd be screaming it from the top of Allston's New Balance building, where the studios are located. Hey, what's happening? The Big O is on vacation, too.

So is program director Jason Wolfe, who you know is ecstatic to know that WEEI (850 AM) is No. 1 among all adults 25-54 for the second straight book, a first for a sports talk station anywhere in the country.

But no word about ratings is coming from WEEI . . . and it doesn't have anything to do with all the vacationing staffers.

It seems that Entercom, parent company of WEEI as well as Boston stations WQSX ("Star" 93.7 FM), WAAF (107.3 FM), and WRKO (680 AM), hasn't renewed its contract with Arbitron. As a result, WEEI is prohibited from commenting on its rating numbers, which the station surely knows given the networking that goes on among radio people in this market.

"I'm told the ratings were very good, but I can't comment on them," said WEEI general manager Julie Kahn. "I also heard rumors we might have done very well in Providence for our first appearance in the ratings there, but I can't confirm that, either."

With WEEI's on-air personalities up for ratings bonuses -- and the spring and fall books are considered the two most important of the year -- how can the cash be dispersed on ratings the station isn't even supposed to have?

"I told everyone they couldn't be paid," joked Kahn.

You have to figure that the bonuses somehow will still be paid, though it's hard to believe it would happen on the basis of pirated data.

The no-Arbitron story is the same at Infinity, meaning Boston stations WBZ (1030 AM), WBCN (104.1 FM), WODS (103.3 FM), WZLX (100.7 FM), and WBMX (98.5 FM) don't have any official ratings, either. The news from the numbers-that-Infinity-doesn't-have is that, for the first time in a decade, WBZ wasn't alone at No. 1 among all listeners (12 and older), instead tying for the top spot with WJMN ("Jam'n" 94.5 FM), with 6.0 shares. WEEI jumped from No. 5 to No. 3 in that all-listeners demo with a 5.8. The other news is that Infinity is switching from Arbitron to Media Audit as its measuring service, while Entercom is still in negotiations with Arbitron.

It's been reported that, nationally, the lack of deals with Infinity and Entercom already has cost Arbitron in the area of $12 million.

It's similar to the standoff that Boston's over-the-air TV stations had with Nielsen over the installation of the Portable People Meter audience-measuring system. That TV boycott has ended in Boston, but has moved on to New York and Los Angeles, where People Meters are being implemented.

Leap of faith

Robbie (son of Evel) Knievel is planning a live motorcycle jump tomorrow night (TNT, 8) on the deck of the USS Intrepid, the 900-foot aircraft carrier docked in New York Harbor, where it serves as the Intrepid Air & Space Museum. Knievel will be jumping an array of military aircraft on the carrier's deck. The stunt is designed to promote the premiere showings of the TNT original movie "Evel Knievel" tonight and Sunday at 8 and tomorrow at 9, following the live jump. TNT is sending studio host Ernie Johnson Jr. (NBA, British Open) to describe Kaptain Knievel's jump. NASCAR driver/analyst Wally Dallenbach also will join the telecast, as will reporters Craig Sager and Dave Burns. Knievel has made a successful 200-foot jump over the Grand Canyon (over a 2,500-foot-deep chasm), has jumped from one building to another in Las Vegas, and in 2000 cleared a moving train coming head-on. Jumping on the deck of the Intrepid presents a new challenge. "It's really tight," said Knievel. "I built the highest ski jump [30 feet] I've ever used. I'm going to go off it at 80-85 miles per hour, travel 200 feet in the air, then only have 150 feet to stop." To do that, he plans to lay the bike down on the steel deck at more than 50 m.p.h. and slide into three 7-foot-high rows of hay bales spaced 3 feet apart, as energy absorbers. Knievel rejected an alternate landing plan: flying off the 7 1/2-story ship into 9 feet of water. His goal for the night: "To be able to walk away after the jump."

Riding high

Outdoor Life Network rode its Tour de France coverage to its highest-rated day (last Sunday), highest-rated week (July 19-25), highest-rated month, and highest-rated single program, last Sunday's final stage of the race (a 1.6 national household rating) . . . Tiger Woods is peddling Buicks and playing in the Buick Open today (USA, 4 p.m.) and through the weekend (Channel 4, 3-6 p.m. tomorrow; Channel 38, 3-6 p.m. Sunday). On Monday, he'll take part in the "Battle of the Bridges" prime-time match (ESPN2, 7-8 p.m. and Channel 5, 8-11 p.m.), teaming with Hank Kuehne in a match against Phil Mickelson and John Daly . . . Among the many things that make no sense: With soccer battling for a TV foothold, tomorrow's MLS All-Star Game is on ABC (Channel 5, 2 p.m.), and FSN has a Manchester United-A.C. Milan exhibition tour game at 1 p.m. ABC is doing the MLS game in stereo, miking players Freddy Adu (D.C. United) and Landon Donovan (San Jose Earthquakes) as part of 27 "field effects" microphones . . . The US Olympic basketball team's first exhibition game is tomorrow against Puerto Rico (ESPN, 1 p.m.). ESPN also will have live coverage of US games vs. Italy (Tuesday, 3 p.m.) and Germany (Wednesday, 2 p.m.) from Cologne, Germany . . . Last Sunday's Siemens 300 at Loudon, N.H., was TNT's highest-rated NASCAR race ever with a 4.3 rating. The NBC/TNT NASCAR partnership has a 4.9 rating through two races, up from last year's 4.5 through the same two events (Chicago, New Hampshire) . . . ESPN plans an hourlong trade deadline special tomorrow at 10 p.m., with "Baseball Tonight" host Karl Ravech and analysts Peter Gammons, John Kruk, and Harold Reynolds . . . And, if you have no better way to spend $44.95 tonight, there's always the Mike Tyson-Danny Williams PPV bout, which is also available in high definition on iN DEMAND. 

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