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WFAN Wins August But ESPN NY Is Closing The Gap

Jason Barrett

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The August book in New York produced some signs that should make the fall book in the big apple very interesting. For the first time in a while we’re seeing some signs of a much closer race between WFAN and ESPN NY 98.7FM.

As both brands enter the fall, they should each benefit from the addition of play by play. WFAN will add New York Giants football, Brooklyn Nets basketball, and New Jersey Devils hockey. ESPN NY 98.7FM will air New York Jets, New York Knicks, and New York Rangers broadcasts. There’s an outside chance of the Yankees making the playoffs and helping WFAN’s October push, but right now the Bronx Bombers are on the outside looking in so expecting playoff audiences to show up and fuel additional October growth seems far fetched.

In analyzing the August book, WFAN is in familiar territory – leading the race. They win each daypart with Men 25-54, and that news should give CBS New York executives plenty to feel good about. However, although WFAN remains in front, they’re not as far out in front as they have been in the past.

To illustrate the point, I’ve included the current month and last year’s numbers during the same period. This is what many sports stations use to measure their growth. When you look at the comparisons, you’ll see ESPN NY has grown in nearly every category. WFAN during the same period has slightly declined, with morning drive and 10a-12p being the exceptions. Bear in mind, The Fan has had the benefit of airing New York Yankees games during the summer. ESPN NY doesn’t have local baseball games to provide additional cume. That has to make ESPN executives feel encouraged.

What really stands out from ESPN NY’s side in this book is the continued progress in afternoons by The Michael Kay show. The program won the Men 18-34 demo for the fifth consecutive month against WFAN, and gained a full point with Men 25-54 from July to August. It also grew by nearly a point and a half year to year. In August the show trailed WFAN by just six tenths of a point and two ranking positions. Last year they were down two and a half points and eight positions. That’s tremendous progress.

Looking further at ESPN NY, the station has to feel great about the way some of their changes have paid off. The radio station dropped Mike Lupica in favor of Hahn and Humpty, and replaced Colin Cowherd with Dan Le Batard when Colin left for FOX Sports, and in both cases they’re up in the ratings. Mike and Mike have also remained consistent in share while growing in rank. Those are very healthy signs. They’re not as strong M-SU 6a-Mid due to a lack of play by play during the summer months, but once the fall arrives that performance should change.

But let’s not ignore where WFAN is either. They are still the market leader and inside the top 5 in almost every category. I was surprised to see Mike Francesa’s show finish in 4th given his past performances but Fan supporters will point out that Mike was on vacation most of the month. That’s a valid point. However, the ratings system doesn’t measure attendance, and during the same time last year when Mike also took a vacation, the share was six tenths of a point higher.

The Fan does have the better signal, heavier local focus, and personalities who have been the authority on New York sports for decades. Those should serve them well going forward. But if they take their eye off the ball, things can change in a hurry. All they need to do is look at what’s developing in the heart of afternoon drive.

The real questions going forward are, how will these numbers look next August? Or in January 2018 once Mike Francesa leaves? Can ESPN NY make further inroads this fall when both brands carry a ton of play by play and sports radio interest increases? Will WFAN strengthen its performance with younger listeners or does ESPN NY continue to widen the gap with listeners who don’t have built in loyalty to Francesa, Joe and Evan, and Boomer and Carton? Has ESPN NY milked all it can from its national shows or can further strides be made?

There are a lot of questions left to be answered. But for now, let’s be satisfied that there are two great options to listen to in the big apple. Judging from the results, listeners are enjoying the programming provided by both brands.

STATION/SHOW Aug-16 Aug-15
M-SU 6A-Mid
WFAN 4.9 (4th) 5.1 (8th)
ESPN NY 98.7FM 2.7 (15th) 2.5 (14th)
M-F 6A-7P
WFAN 5.3 (4th) 5.6 (5th)
ESPN NY 98.7FM 3.6 (8th) 3.0 (14th)
M-F 6A-10A
Boomer & Carton 5.8 (4th) 5.5 (3rd)
Mike & Mike 3.4 (9th) 3.5 (12th)
M-F 10A-12P
Joe & Evan 4.4 (5th) 4.3 (7th)
Dan Le Batard 2.5 (12th) 2.0 (16th)
M-F 12P-3P
Joe/Evan + Francesa 5.1 (6th) 5.5 (6th)
Hahn & Humpty 2.7 (11th) 2.6 (14th)
M-F 3P-7P
Francesa + Somers/NY Yankees 5.5 (4th) 6.0 (4th)
The Michael Kay Show 4.9 (6th) 3.5 (12th)
M-F 10A-1P
Joe & Evan 4.3 (5th)  4.8 (6th)
Le Batard/Hahn & Humpty 2.6 (10th)  2.2 (14th)
M-F 1P-6:30P
Francesa 5.6 (4th)  6.2 (4th)
Hahn & Humpty/Michael Kay 4.2 (8th)  3.2 (13th)

*** All numbers are for Men 25-54

Sports Radio News

Jonathan Zaslow No Longer With WQAM

An attempt to reach out to Zaslow for comment went unanswered.

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WQAM midday host Jonathan Zaslow is no longer with WQAM in Miami.

The radio station has removed his show from the website and references to him and his normal 10a-2p ET midday timeslot program have been scrubbed from the station website.

Zaslow tweeted at 5:19p ET confirming the news.

Whether or not this has any effect on his involvement with the Miami Heat broadcasts is unknown as of now.

Barry Jackson, a veteran journalist with the Miami Herald, reports that 790 The Ticket morning hosts Brendan Tobin and Leroy Hoard will move to that 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. WQAM slot during the week of Oct. 3.

In more station movement, Joe Rose’s WQAM morning show with Zach Krantz now will be simulcast on The Ticket, replacing the Tobin/Hoard program. Audacy, which owns both WQAM and The Ticket, also simulcast Marc Hochman’s and Channing Crowder’s afternoon show.

Zaslow had been with 790 the Ticket since 2004. He was transitioned from Audacy-owned 790 to sister station AM 560 Sports WQAM last October. During his tenure he has worked with a number of established local voices including Joy Taylor, Amber Wilson, Brett Romberg, and Brendan Tobin amongst others.

WQAM has gone thru a number of changes, including a rebranding effort to call the station “560 The Joe”. That ended last year with the station returning to the AM 560 Sports WQAM brand listeners were more familiar with. What they have planned next in Zaslow’s timeslot is unclear but local listeners will likely get some answers next week.

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Sports Radio News

Vanessa Richardson Named Houston Rockets Sideline Reporter, Paul Gallant to Host Solo on ESPN 97.5

Vanessa Richardson will be on the sidelines for the Houston Rockets and Paul Gallant will host solo show on ESPN 97.5.

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Vanessa and Gallant

Changes are taking place in Houston sports media. First, the Houston Rockets will have a new television sideline reporter this season, and she’s a familiar name to Houston sports fans.

Vanessa Richardson, the now former co-host of ESPN 97.5’s Vanessa and Gallant, revealed that she will be on the sidelines for the NBA franchise covering the team for AT&T SportsNet Southwest.

She tweeted the news saying, “Elated to be the new Houston Rockets sideline reporter! I can’t wait to travel the country & share the stories of this dynamic team during 80+ games on AT&T SportsNet Southwest. I’ll continue to fill-in as a host/reporter for Astros broadcasts as well.”

Richardson’s co-host, Paul Gallant, tweeted that with Richardson leaving the show for the Rockets sideline gig, Vanessa and Gallant will become the Paul Gallant Show. The solo show led by Gallant begins Monday September 26th.

“We’re excited to have Paul host his own show”, said Todd Farquharson, General Manager of ESPN 97.5 & 92.5.  “He’s super creative, energetic, and likeable.  He’ll get the audience involved and have fun.”

Paul commented, “You know what I’ve always loved about sports talk radio?  That it’s interactive.  Whether through a phone call, text message, tweet or on Twitch, it’s the best place for sports fans to come together and celebrate…or vent.  And that’s what The Paul Gallant Show is going to be…Houston’s platform to talk about its teams. THE most interactive sports talk show in Houston.”

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Sports Radio News

Ken Carman: Al Michaels ‘Feels Untethered’ On Amazon Prime Video

“The thing that stuck out was Kirk Herbstreit ripping the elf,” said Carman. “Don’t be ripping Brownie the Elf, man.”

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The Cleveland Browns defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers during Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime Video. 92.3 The Fan morning host Ken Carman applauded Al Michaels for his performance during the presentation.

“Al Michaels feels untethered for the first time. He’s not network television anymore and he can say whatever he wants. We interviewed him on the pregame show and I was nervous,” Carman said.

“He’s a legend,” co-host Anthony Lima added.

During the final play of the game, the Steelers fumbled a lateral into the endzone which the Browns recovered to make the final score 29-17. Michaels said “that may be meaningful to some of you. And you know who I mean”, alluding to people who had placed wagers on the game.

Carman, who hosts two-hours of pre-game coverage on the Browns Radio Network, continued to discuss how nervous he was interviewing Michaels. He also discussed how impressive Amazon’s behind-the-scenes production was, pointing out the only football broadcast with more cameras is the Super Bowl. More than 400 people work behind the scenes for Amazon Prime Video.

“The thing that stuck out was Kirk Herbstreit ripping the elf,” said Carman. “Don’t be ripping Brownie the Elf, man.”

Carman later said people angry that Michaels misspoke by saying the Pro Football Hall of Fame is “down I-71” instead of I-77 were unreasonable, and joked “Al Michaels hasn’t been on a highway in 20 years”.

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