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How Millennials Can Alter The Future of NYC Sports Radio

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WFAN has occupied the penthouse in New York City for quite some time. For over a quarter of a century, Mike Francesa has been a dominant force, and he’s not expected to suffer ratings amnesia during his final eighteen months on the air either. In case you missed it, the WFAN ratings king announced he will leave his radio home at the end of his contract in 2017.

This begs the question, what will happen once Francesa’s gone? Will loyal FAN listeners stick with the radio station and support the next show that follows Mike? Will they jump ship and throw their support behind the Michael Kay Show on 98.7 FM ESPN New York? Or will they change their habits and listen to other alternatives?

Where the story becomes more intriguing is when you take into account WFAN’s wheelhouse. The station has an excellent connection with males 45-54. Those listeners have grown up with the Fan and pledged their allegiance to guys like Francesa, and Joe Beningo, who have hosted daily for over twenty years. Even the radio station’s morning show, Boomer and Carton, has been in morning drive for close to nine years.

We’ve been down this road before wondering if a shift in the market would take place. When Howard Stern left the New York City airwaves, stations tried many different tactics to reel in his listeners. When WFAN parted ways with Don Imus after the I-Man made controversial remarks about the Rutgers Women’s Basketball team, Boomer and Carton took over and proved that they could not only keep the existing audience, but bring in new listeners as well.

But losing Mike Francesa is unchartered territory. Imus didn’t talk sports daily. He wasn’t connected to Chris “Mad Dog” Russo for nineteen years, and viewed as the sports radio show of record in the nation’s top radio market. He was also lining up against a national sports morning show, not a strong legitimate local contender. One of the few things he had in common with Francesa was that each of their shows skewed older, and received strong support from that demographic.

That was then, and this is now. The habits of listeners have changed over the past decade. Loyalty isn’t as strong as it once was. Content options are greater than ever before. And younger listeners are consuming sports radio programming differently. What that means is that prior success doesn’t promise future success.

I was curious to see how younger listeners in New York City were listening to Francesa, and his competitor Michael Kay. In the key demo of Men 25-54, Francesa has long been the king, and that continued in May. Mike finished just under a 7 share. Kay meanwhile was in the top 10 and slightly below a 5 share.

But when you turn the attention to the younger end of the demo, you can see a shift starting to take place. In May, Men 18-34 listened more to Michael Kay’s program between 3p-7p than they did Francesa’s. Kay was a half point higher than Francesa. The two shows tied in April with Men 18-34, delivering shares in the low 3’s. If you turn the clock back twelve months ago, WFAN was doubling ESPN New York’s performance. That’s a pretty significant shift.

It’s even more impressive for ESPN New York when you analyze the hours of 4p-7p. That’s when Peter Rosenberg joins Kay, and Don LaGreca (he doesn’t appear during the first hour of the program). With Kay’s program operating at full strength during those three hours, they’ve beaten Francesa with Men 18-34 during every single month in 2016.

To be fair to Francesa, he hosts his show from 1p-6:30p. I’m focusing on the head to head matchup with Kay, not including the earlier hours when Mike is lined up against Hahn and Humpty. We’re also looking at the younger audience, not the key demo of Men 25-54.

Another factor to take into account is that Francesa’s reach hasn’t grown during the past few years. Kay’s has. The YES Network now airs Kay’s show instead of Francesa’s. That’s helped the ESPN New York host pick up an extra 200,000 viewers daily. Kay, LaGreca, and Rosenberg are also active on Twitter, and collectively have 550,000 followers. Francesa remains uninterested in being present in the space. I don’t have full details to each station’s podcast and streaming data but I’d be very surprised if ESPN New York was losing that battle.

The reason this story interests me, is because we know Francesa plans to leave. Tomorrow’s Men 25-54 audience is starting to turn to Kay, and that hasn’t been the case in the past. Millennials do change their habits frequently, so assuming that these trends can’t be reversed would be a mistake, especially when a permanent replacement for Francesa has yet to be named. But, if you’re Kay, LaGreca, Rosenberg, and ESPN New York’s management, you have to feel optimistic about the way younger audiences are responding.

When you add it all up, here’s what it means. Francesa remains the king of the Men 25-54 competition, but in a radio market as competitive as New York City, Kay is doing quite well. WFAN reaps the benefits of a bigger radio cume. ESPN New York has the advantage of a larger total audience. I don’t see a massive change occurring during the next 18 months unless something unplanned takes place, but given the inconsistencies of radio ratings measurement that’s also not a guarantee.

What is clear though is that younger listeners are tuning in more frequently to ESPN New York. The addition of Rosenberg has paid dividends, and when WFAN moves on without Francesa after 2017, the person or persons they put in afternoon drive will need to have an ability to reach the younger end of the demo.

Nielsen is taking steps to make digital listening a bigger part of the ratings story which will further help ESPN New York’s narrative. It’s still WFAN’s turf until proven otherwise, but yesterday’s fortunes don’t promise tomorrow’s riches. If the FAN stumbles during the next 18 months or replaces Francesa with someone who doesn’t appeal to the younger end of the demo, we could see a shift in the market. That’s a story few thought was possible.

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Tony Bruno Relives Favorite Moments With Angelo Cataldi on 94 WIP

“I loved every day. We did stuff that put Sports Radio in Philly on the map and I’m proud of that.”

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Tony Bruno has been a staple of the sports radio business for decades. Bruno is from Philadelphia and was teamed up in the early nineties with a duo still dominating the local airwaves there today, Angelo Cataldi and Al Morganti. The three reunited Thursday morning on 94 WIP to remember the glory days of their partnership and friendship.

One of the first moments Cataldi asked Bruno if he remembered was the update he did from a tree outside of their studio and the answer was an emphatic yes.

“Absolutely, it’s one of the highlights of my life – other than interviewing four Presidents and every sports athlete in history – there’s no bigger moment than me climbing up in the tree, which was obstructing our view of William Penn and the city skyline. That’s what I do, I was a man of action. I’m not one of these guys that talks the talk, I climb the tree to do whatever is necessary.”

More frivolity followed when Cataldi harkened back to a segment of ‘Damsels in Distress’ and a time in which Bruno was sent on the street during a snowstorm to help shovel people out of their driveways. Bruno quickly recalled, “Man of the people. I should run for – I should of run for Governor of Pennsylvania or Senate or something.”

Bruno added that his favorite rant (and one that Cataldi loved too) wasn’t about the Cowboys or sports at all. “My favorite was my Infinity Broadcasting rant where I went on one day and even ripped our bosses, all the way up to the top of Infinity Broadcasting.” Cataldi cackled and praised Bruno’s rants more before being interrupted by Bruno saying, “yeah, my only regret is I never really ripped Al (Morganti) the way I should have ripped him. I let him of the hook so many times.”

An insightful moment came at the end of the call when Cataldi asked rhetorically if Bruno ever thought they (Cataldi & Morganti) would still be doing this thirty years later and then asked if Tony ever regretted leaving.

“It was a tough decision, Ang,” Bruno answered. “I was given an ultimatum. When I came to work with you guys, I loved every day. Every day we had fun. We did stuff that put Sports Radio in Philly on the map and I’m proud of that. It wasn’t one of those, ‘oh I got to go; I’m too big for these guys’. I even turned the ESPN job down a couple of times.

“My kids were still younger then, I didn’t want to move. I didn’t have to move. They said just come up here on weekends and that’s how ESPN Radio started. So I was doing weekends and Tom Bigby (Program Director) didn’t like that either, told me it wasn’t going to work. It was a philosophical thing. When he told me, ‘you should go because we are not going to pay you what they’re paying you,’ I said ok.

Cataldi began to sign off with Bruno with genuine thanks: “I got to tell you something Tone, we are indebted to you for the rest of our lives because we both learned so much from you and you are one of the great talents that radio has ever had.”

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Sports Radio News

Dodgers Temporarily Pull Broadcasters Off Road

“If the broadcasters’ are not dealing with severe cases of Covid and they have cleared health and safety protocols, it appears the team is open to sending them back out on the road.”

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When the Los Angeles Dodgers visit the East Coast later this week, the men that call the action on TV and radio will not be with them. The games will instead be broadcast on AM570 LA Sports and SportsNet LA from their respective studios.

“Due to a few members of the Dodgers’ broadcast team having recently tested positive for COVID-19, and out of an abundance of caution, the Dodgers have decided to not travel their broadcasters to upcoming games in Philadelphia and Washington,” the Dodgers announced in a statement. Similar to the 2020 and 2021 MLB seasons, the games will be broadcast from Los Angeles,” reads a statement on the team’s Twitter account.

No further details are available, so the severity and the number of cases remain unknown.

Last September, both members of the Dodgers’ television play-by-play crew were forced into quarantine. Joe Davis was the first to test positive, followed later that month by Orel Hershiser.

On Wednesday, manager Dave Roberts told the media that the Dodgers’ roster and coaching staff are not effected.

“There’s there’s no symptoms in the clubhouse. I think that as far as the upstairs, as an organization, we’re all just trying to be very cautious. But as far as in the clubhouse, coaches, training staff, nothing like that.”

If the broadcasters’ are not dealing with severe cases of Covid and they have cleared health and safety protocols, it appears the team is open to sending them back out on the road. 2022 was supposed to be a return to normal for the Dodgers and many other teams after not letting broadcasters travel in 2020 and 2021.

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Sports Radio News

Pat McAfee: ‘No One Will Disrespect Jim Rome On My Show’

“That’s because you need to respect the f–king jungle.”

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Jim Rome is a sports radio icon and Pat McAfee recognizes that.

On The Pat McAfee Show on Wednesday, McAfee was talking to co-host A.J. Hawk about how Rome trended recently on Twitter.

This happened after news of Tom Brady’s FOX Sports deal surfaced, and a list of the top paid sports media personalities was compiled. Rome came in behind Brady at number two making a reported $30 million a year, and many were surprised by that number. McAfee wasn’t.

“That’s because you need to respect the f–king jungle,” he said. “I have nothing but respect for Jim Rome.”

McAfee gave props to Rome, 57, saying he’s been doing sports talk probably longer than anyone. He’s one of the most widely distributed hosts in the country. Pat said he won’t tolerate anyone talking smack about the Smack-Off King.

“No disrespect will be said on this show of Jim Rome, ever,” he said. “Love that man.”

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