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There’s a Big Story Brewing In New York Sports Radio

Jason Barrett

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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.

  1. The Men 18-34 story
  2. 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?

Absolutely!

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?

Not exactly.

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.

Sports Radio News

Tyler Polumbus: ‘I Couldn’t Talk About Colorado Football On Denver Radio Before Deion Sanders’

“You are now a cultural icon for kids all across the country.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Over the weekend Deion Sanders was formally announced as the new head football coach at Colorado University after three seasons at FCS Jackson State.

The hall of fame defensive back transformed Jackson State in his short stint at the HBCU, and the hope is that Sanders will be able to make football in Boulder relevant again.

Talking to Pete Medhurst and Chris Russell on The Team 980 in D.C. on Wednesday, Altitude Sports Radio host Tyler Polumbus explained how Deion’s hiring alone has already started to make an impact on the Buffaloes program.

“In 48 hours, Colorado’s social media accounts grew by 150,000 people,” Polumbus said. “And that’s the Deion Sanders effect. You are now a cultural icon for kids all across the country.”

Polumbus, a Denver native who played football at Colorado and recently joined Altitude Sports Radio after a stint at rival 104.3 The Fan, said the hiring has even made the school’s program a relevant topic on the radio.

“I couldn’t talk about CU on my radio show. CU is never talked about,” he said. “And Colorado is a one-sport (state). It is the Denver Broncos – that’s it. And from here on out until Deion Sanders is no longer the head coach at CU, they will be the top story here in Colorado.”

Medhurst mentioned how USC and UCLA exiting the Pac-12 for the Big Ten starting in 2024 could open the door for Colorado under Deion’s leadership to make some noise in the conference. But despite all the excitement from the Sanders hiring and not having seen what he can do with the team on the field, Polumbus said he’s trying to keep things in perspective.

“We already got catfished once this offseason with Russell Wilson,” he said of the Broncos quarterback. “So we’re trying to not let our hopes and enthusiasm get all too high with Deion Sanders, because I can’t let myself get catfished twice in one year.”

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Sports Radio News

Colin Cowherd: Baker Mayfield Isn’t That Interesting To Me Anymore

“Carolina’s weak, and he has proven to be over-drafted. The Rams right now are boring, I don’t think with a bad o-line and limited weapons he’ll find it any easier than he did in Carolina.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Former Cleveland Browns top draft pick Baker Mayfield’s stint with the Carolina Panthers ended after this past week, with the team placing him on waivers. On Tuesday, news broke that the L.A. Rams claimed Mayfield.

On FOX Sports Radio, host Colin Cowherd said Wednesday he didn’t have a hot take on the news.

“For a couple of years, three years or so, I talked about Baker Mayfield I swear to God every other day during the football season,” Cowherd said. He was considered one of Mayfield’s most vocal critics even going back to his playing days at Oklahoma.

“But I said when he left Cleveland I wouldn’t talk about him as much, because he’s just not that interesting,” he added. “Carolina’s weak, and he has proven to be over-drafted. The Rams right now are boring, I don’t think with a bad o-line and limited weapons he’ll find it any easier than he did in Carolina.”

Despite the fall from grace for Mayfield, Colin Cowherd said he hoped for the best for Baker moving forward.

“I honestly wish him well. I don’t root against professional athletes. Russell Westbrook can drive me crazy. Baker Mayfield drove me crazy, but he’s a nice kid.”

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Sports Radio News

Bobby Belt: ‘Pat McAfee Butchered The Name Shan and RJ’

“I mean, it clearly says on the graphics ‘Shan and RJ’.”

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Shan and RJ is a show that routinely finds itself in the media spotlight. They may be a Dallas show, but when Jerry and Stephen Jones routinely appear on your airwaves, you are going to draw attention from outside of the market.

On Tuesday, Pat McAfee played a clip of the hosts talking to Jerry Jones. McAfee threw to the clip introducing the show as “Shan, RJ, and Chop.” On Wednesday morning, the 105.3 The Fan’s morning show had some fun with the former Colts punter’s struggles.

“There’s a lot to unpack here,” newly added co-host Bobby Belt said after listening to McAfee and his crew take three unsuccessful cracks at naming the show.

“Reggie made a good point yesterday when I was talking to him about this,” Belt said. “Reggie was like ‘I think McAfee was going to the clip, saw three faces and didn’t know a third name, and so he’s like ‘well, that must be RJ and Chop.’”

Belt delighted in the idea that in McAfee’s mind, RJ Choppy goes by “Chop” on air and even pointed out that one of the producers said that RJ “looks like a Chop.”

Pat McAfee called the show “Shan, RJ, and Chop,” “Shana, RJ and Chop,” and “Shannon and RJ” on different occasions according to Belt. He didn’t think it was disrespectful. He just didn’t understand how McAfee got it so wrong so often.

“They butchered this three ways to the weekend. I have no idea. I mean, it clearly says on the graphics ‘Shan and RJ’.”

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