Bubba vs. The Bone, Round 2: The Sponge Strikes Back

Bubba The Love Sponge and Mike Calta keep battling for morning ratings in Tampa Bay.

  • Bubba's been back on the radio at 98.7 FM for nearly four months.

When Bubba The Love Sponge returned to the airwaves in January on FM 98.7, he promised to topple his former radio station (102.5 FM The Bone) and beat his now-nemesis, Mike Calta, who heads the morning show at 102.5.

So, nearly four months in, did he succeed? Like a relationship status on social media, it's complicated.

First, the good news for Bubba: He's taken a radio station at the bottom of the ratings and put his show in solid competition with The Bone's morning show. Most weeks his ratings and Calta's ratings are within fractions of a point from each other in their desired demographics: Adults 25-54, and, specifically, men 25-54. And recently he beat Calta in both demos.

(These ratings change from week to week, so it might be reversed in a few days. There's a good amount of fluctuation in the numbers).

But Bubba (a.k.a. Todd Clem) didn't say he would just beat Calta. He promised to "bury the Bone" with people losing their jobs and the station even changing formats soon after he came to town. And that hasn't happened. Calta's ratings might have slipped since he took over the morning show, but he hasn't folded. He's keeping listeners despite Bubba's return. They go back and forth in the ratings, but Calta's proving to be a formidable obstacle in Bubba's quest to dominate mornings. Four months in, they're still fighting for the same demographic with no clear winner. And when the two spar on-air, Calta has the confidence of a guy in charge. He's not backing down.

Still, looking at the big picture it's an impressive accomplishment for Bubba. His station has a fraction of the signal strength and a much smaller marketing budget. Despite a stronger signal, plenty of advertising and giveaways, Calta's show has seen Bubba threaten, and sometimes beat them in the ratings. Bubba's name alone is overcoming all of that firepower. He has a lot of fans in the area, and is known for his support of local law enforcement.

Then again, Bubba has been a morning presence in Tampa Bay for several years. Many expected he'd return, dethrone Calta with no problem and continue his morning show dominance. But that's not how it's working out so far. Calta (who worked with Bubba years ago) has his own crew, books top comedians who are in town as guests and holds special events (like his recent Brew-Ha-Ha comedy show and the upcoming Mike Calta's Punch Out!, which serves as a bizarre undercard for the upcoming Mayweather/Pacquaio tilt).

So is it a win for Bubba to take a small station from absolutely nothing and bring his show neck-and-neck with a bigger station's show and their bigger budget in just four months? Or is it a win for Calta to not only survive Bubba's return, but continue to compete in the hotly-contested morning ratings battle? Fans of each show have their own opinions, but neither can claim victory just yet. If there's going to be a clear-cut winner, it will probably take a lot longer than four months to determine.

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