When the monthly ratings come out in New York, the narrative usually revolves around WFAN’s performance. And rightfully so, because they’ve won a lot and earned that respect. It’s hard to knock a brand for producing results.
But when you go inside the numbers, you find that even New York’s leading sports station has some areas to be concerned about. Especially when it comes to local competition versus ESPN New York.
Now based on the way it’s often been presented in the press, you’d be led to believe that ESPN New York is sitting in Antarctica while The Fan is laying out on South Beach in Miami, as both brands search for sunshine. And when you look at the morning story where The Fan’s Boomer and Carton soundly defeat ESPN New York’s Mike and Mike, it’s hard to argue against that notion.
But from where I sit, I think there are a few items worth pointing out.
First, The Fan deserves credit for employing a LIVE and Local strategy. It’s clear that in the nation’s #1 market that it works, and it’s especially evident between 6a-12p where The Fan drives big audiences to their local shows and ESPN New York offers national content which doesn’t have as strong of an appeal.
I’m sure ESPN is looking at the total performance of Mike and Mike throughout the country, not just the New York market, but given their proximity to New York City, I’m sure it drives them nuts to not be a bigger factor in morning drive with arguably the nation’s best national morning show.
But while WFAN holds a strong advantage in the local vs. national category, there’s a different story developing in afternoons and it’s one worth paying attention to, especially over the next 22 months.
Mike Francesa has acknowledged that he’ll be leaving his 1p-6p post on WFAN at the end of 2018. Given his track record over the years, you can see why that’s a major concern for CBS New York. But while Mike remains a top performer in the ratings, there are some signs that show his competition is gaining ground.
That’ll be really interesting to watch going forward because as the audience hears Francesa talk openly about eventually leaving, people could make the decision themselves to listen elsewhere if they feel he’s not invested in entertaining them long-term.
In the January monthly, Francesa did his usual, winning his timeslot of 1p-6p with a ___. He finished ___, which means that if you heard his interview with Katie Nolan in January, he’s likely to get a phone call soon from CBS Executives reminding him that they pay him to finish 1st.
What really stood out to me though in January, was the performance of The Michael Kay Show.
In its 3p-7p timeslot, the show placed 7th with a 4.4 among Men 25-54. WFAN was 2nd during that same time period with a 6.4.
However, this was the fourth straight month that Kay was inside the Top 10. He was 8th in December, 6th in November, and 9th in October.
During the 3p-7p hours, Kay was only 2 ratings points behind Francesa, which isn’t as big as it may seem. The two shows are tied for ATE (Average Time Exposed) and Francesa holds a 40,000 plus advantage in daily and weekly cume. To the outside listener, that may seem like an impossible task, but for radio insiders, that’s a few additional quarter hours or an extra meter or two picking up the show.
Where you have to feel good if you’re in ESPN New York’s shoes, is when you look at two other key factors.
- The Men 18-34 story
- The Total Reach Story
Starting with the Men 18-34 story, the program added Peter Rosenberg in September. He’s brought a youthful exuberance and high energy act to the show from 4p-7p, and his familiarity to New York listeners on Hot 97’s morning show has also served him well.
Has his addition shown signs of making a difference?
Looking at the Men 18-34 numbers, ESPN New York is ahead of WFAN in January 3.3 to 2.9.
But that’s only one month, so it has to be a fluke right?
In December, ESPN New York also won the head to head battle among Men 18-34’s with a 4.0 to 2.6 advantage.
In October and November, WFAN was in front with a 3.7 to 2.8, which means they’ve lost nearly one point during the Fall in that demographic. Additionally, if you go back to the same time last year when Rosenberg wasn’t on the show, WFAN led the way in this demo with a 6.9 to 2.7.
That means that in the span of twelve months, WFAN has lost four ratings points among younger listeners, and ESPN New York has gained between a half a point and a point and a half. That’s a very interesting change.
Switching from the Men 18-34 story, we focus next on Michael Kay’s total reach story.
Why is this important? Because Kay now plays in areas that Francesa doesn’t. Most notably, on television.
In years past Francesa held this advantage and received a ton of praise for his brand being a success across multiple platforms. Well, Kay’s program now has that edge and deserves equal recognition for what he’s accomplished.
Here are some numbers from the Fall of 2015 that are staggering and illustrate the impact that Kay is making in the Big Apple.
- Podcast Downloads = 509,479
- Mobile Listening Sessions = 466,974
- Desktop Streaming Sessions = 92,783
- YES Television Cume = 201,000
- Radio Total Audience (P6 listeners) = 451,900
If that’s not an impressive story of reaching people, I’m not sure what is. Keep in mind, this doesn’t include duplication or overlap.
I’m sure Francesa’s show has its own powerful digital story, and clearly he leads the Men 25-54 ratings battle, which is the most desirable demographic for sports talk radio measurement.
However, while we’re quick to highlight the power of Mike’s program, and make no mistake, it absolutely is when it comes to the radio ratings picture, we often though ignore the story on the other side of town, or assume that it’s not compelling, which is anything but true in this case.
If I’m inside the sales department of WFAN today, I’m on the phone with my clients reminding them that Mike won the month in the ratings, he wins every month, he’s the most successful host in New York sports radio history, and The Fan is New York’s ratings leader. Those are items you can’t dispute. He also hosts a 5 hour program which gives the client more access to being attached to Mike’s show.
But if I’m inside the sales department of ESPN New York, I’m showing advertisers how my afternoon show has registered in the Top 10 for four straight months (including the latest monthly where it was 7th), is ahead of The Fan with Men 18-34’s, is reaching more than 1.7 million people through radio, television and digital, and is committed to afternoon drive through the end of 2018, whereas the competition is not. I’d also highlight that my program provides three unique personalities that advertisers can connect to (Kay, Rosenberg, and Don LaGreca).
Each radio station has a powerful story to tell, one which should make them a lot of money. The real questions going forward are, will Kay’s program make a bigger impact in the radio ratings, will listeners tune in more or less to Francesa now that they know he’s planning to leave after 2017, and what will matter more to advertisers – the radio ratings or the total reach of a radio program?
The answers to those questions will tell us a lot about the success of these New York sports radio stations in the future.
NBC Sports Names Al Michaels To Emeritus Role
The partnership will keep Michaels on for the Olympics and NBC’s NFL playoff coverage.
NBC Sports, which had been the home of Al Michaels since 2006, will still feature the veteran broadcaster despite Michaels’ moving to Amazon for Thursday Night Football.
The network announced that Michaels will still be a part of NBC Sports’ high-profile broadcasting properties including the Olympics and NFL Playoffs. Michaels’ last broadcast with the network had been Super Bowl LVI in February, his eleventh Super Bowl.
NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua said in a statement, “Revered by viewers and colleagues, Al has been the soundtrack for many of the greatest moments in sports television history. We are thrilled that he’s staying in the family and raising the stature of our events for years to come.”
“I’m looking forward to continuing my longtime NBC relationship while also launching the Thursday Night Football package on Amazon this fall. A special thanks to NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua and the folks at NBCUniversal for their help in making this happen,” Michaels said.
Michaels moved to Amazon Prime Video this season for their Thursday Night Football package. He will be paired with ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit. This season will mark his 37th NFL play-by-play campaign in primetime.
Following another historic broadcasting moment in which Michaels deftly demonstrated his expertise and versatility, he became just the second sportscaster in history to receive a News Emmy nomination for his coverage of the San Francisco earthquake during the 1989 World Series.
In addition to the 11 Super Bowls, Michaels has worked nine Olympics and called eight World Series.
In December 2020, Michaels was honored with the 2021 Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Michaels is one of only five distinguished broadcasters to be recognized with the baseball honor and the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Pete Rozelle Award (Dick Enberg, Lindsey Nelson, Jack Buck, and Curt Gowdy).
One of television’s most respected journalists, Michaels has covered more major sports events than any sportscaster, including 20 years as the play-by-play voice of Monday Night Football. He is the only commentator to call the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals and host the Stanley Cup Final for network television. In addition, Michaels called the classic 1985 championship boxing match between Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns and “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler.
Among his many accolades, Michaels has captured eight Emmy Awards – seven for Outstanding Sports Personality – Play-by-Play and one in 2011 for the Lifetime Achievement Award, and has three times (1980, 1983 and 1986) received the NSSA Award from the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association; he was inducted into the NSSA Hall of Fame in 1998. Michaels was named Sportscaster of the Year in 1996 by the American Sportscasters Association, and, in 1991, he was named Sportscaster of the Year by the Washington Journalism Review.
Thom Brennaman Continues to Search for a Second Chance
Brennaman has been searching for a broadcasting gig since he spoke a homophobic slur in August 2020 on a Cincinnati Reds broadcast.
The last time Thom Brennaman sported the microphone for a major broadcast was August 19, 2020. It was game that featured a doubleheader between the Cincinnati Reds and the Kanasas City Royals and in between the two, Brennaman blurted a homophobic slur that has thus far kept him off radio and television.
Brennaman has struggled to find his footing since that error. Recently, Brennaman recorded an episode of Tell Me A Story I Don’t Know, a podcast hosted George Ofman. That episode was available Tuesday and in it, Ofman asks where Brennaman thinks he’ll be in six months.
Brennaman said, “I have no idea. I really don’t. There were a couple of times I thought that maybe somebody out there was going to give me a chance to broadcast again and then this same thing comes up again.”
Brennaman sounded baffled that he’s still searching for work, citing other influential local leaders and what they opined in the days after the incident. “You know what you find out George, the guy who’s considered to be the leading voice of the LGBT community here in Cincinnati, he’s a big executive with Johnson and Johnson, a guy named Ryan Messer. He had written, and I had never met Ryan Messer at this point in time, like two days after what I said, he wrote a letter to the editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer, local paper, that Thom Brennaman should not be fired. There is room for growth here in so many areas and a great opportunity for him, for the gay community, for the Reds, for our society.”
Brennaman added that the two met as well as did Brennaman with other leaders in the LGBT community at the time. “I reached out to the guy and made contact with him and he’s the guy who’s house we went to that I made reference to earlier in listening to a bunch of the stories with some gay leaders. But anyway, I said ‘if you have people there – and I know you do – that are gay that work there, I would put up the amount of hours that I have spent in the gay community in some form or fashion over the last year against anybody you have that works in that office that’s gay’.”
Despite his efforts, the broadcasting veteran is dismayed that it’s failed to sway opinion, “it’s almost like in some cases it just falls on deaf ears.”
Regardless of where he is at now, he’s confident that eventually he’ll be afforded another opportunity. “But I ‘d like to think there’s somebody out there – and there will be and all it takes is one – is just to say ‘you know what, this was a mistake. Here’s the documentation of what the guy’s tried to do since then. We’re going to take a chance – answer some tough questions – and take a chance and get him back in the booth.”
And if another opportunity doesn’t present itself? “If it doesn’t happen, it’s not going to be the end of my life.”
The Rundown With Jeff Michael Coming To SportsMap Radio
“The Rundown with Jeff Michael will debut on June 6.”
Jeff Michael is getting a promotion at SportsMap Radio. He is moving from the part-time staff into a new midday show.
The Rundown with Jeff Michael will debut on June 6. The network describes the new two-hour show as energetic and fast-paced.
“Sports talk radio always meant the world to me,” Jeff Michael said in a press release. “Having an opportunity to reach such a large national audience is something I do not take lightly. While I’m so grateful for the opportunity, my focus will always be on creating captivating and informative content.”
Michael has been with SportsMap Radio since 2020. He has also been a prolific host in the podcasting space.
“I feel this is a perfect format for Jeff to excel,” CEO David Gow added. “From listening to fill-in appearances, you can tell he has tremendous command of his audience. You cannot easily teach what Jeff Michael already possesses.”