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Making Sense of The Latest Houston Ratings

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The Houston sports radio ratings were published this week in the Houston Chronicle, and I usually refrain from interjecting my opinion on other ratings pieces, but given what I just read, I felt it necessary to do so.

One of the major challenges radio faces as an industry is having their story told by the print media. Most writers don’t understand the complexities of the ratings game or the way radio stations evaluate short-term and long-term success. They simply look at a number for one demographic (Men 25-54) and compare it to the one the station generated the month before. They then use that gain or decrease as the evidence to support their position on defining whether the station was a success or failure for the current month.

First, it’s clear that the intent of this particular article was to stir up controversy by using Josh Innes’ name as the centerpiece. I’m sure Josh won’t mind the exposure, and the publication is probably satisfied with the traffic they’ve generated from it, but unless you understand the way new shows are measured, this is simply an attempt to create buzz around manufactured drama.

Let me be clear, Innes is off to a slow start. That part of the story deserves to be told. But, most new shows take time to develop and capture an audience, which is why most programmers provide a 1-2 year cushion when evaluating the growth of a show. iHeartmedia in Houston didn’t hire Innes with the false belief that he’d lead them to the top of the ratings in 3 months. If it were that simple they’d have hired him sooner.

There are certain situations when shows on highly rated brands win faster, or certain shows are a mess and need to have the plug pulled sooner, but Innes inherited a small audience, and provides a stark contrast in style to his predecessor Charlie Pallilo. That means he has to build an entirely new audience because Pallilo’s listener’s are less likely to stick around for Innes, at least in the short-term. To expect Josh to reverse the station’s ratings woes in afternoons in 90 days is unrealistic.

I understand the local press’ affinity towards Pallilo, but he was given a long leash by the iHeartmedia brass in Houston. I’m sure local executives wrestled with making a change for a while before deciding it was time to change direction.

Every host understands when they accept an opportunity to host a show in this business that they’re a prisoner to the ratings. Unfortunately for Charlie his numbers weren’t there. That doesn’t mean he’s not talented, a good guy, or someone capable of helping another station make money and enjoy success. It simply means he didn’t generate enough ratings to satisfy 790’s business objectives.

The even bigger part of the story that was missing was the credit that Sports Radio 610 deserved for winning the month. There are some very talented people on the airwaves at 790 and 97.5, and to win the head to head competition against them and remain in control as 610 has done for the majority of 2016 is a feat worth highlighting. The station literally received one line of recognition in the first 8 paragraphs of the story.

Since the local outlet didn’t provide it, let me be the first to extend a congrats to Ryan McCredden and the 610 staff on their latest performance.

If the goal was to generate buzz off of negativity, one could’ve pointed to the fact that the ratings were down for all three stations during the past three months. It’s football season, and the Texans were playing for a chance to make the playoffs, and there was a lot of drama surrounding the team’s starting Quarterback Brock Osweiler. The Rockets were also one month into the season, and playing great basketball. You’d think those things would help generate a spike in listening, but for whatever reason, the shares were slightly lower.

Was that due to Nielsen losing 8% of their sample? Maybe. But even if the 8% was located, I don’t believe the numbers would’ve matched what each brand produced in October.

I realize the Innes-Pallilo story provides drama. That then leads to clicks, and given Josh’s track record in Houston and Philadelphia, he’s a newspaper media writer’s dream. But I don’t think it’s too much to ask for the whole story to be told.

I have no horse in this race, I just like seeing the performance of sports radio brands reflected in a fair and honest way. For Houston listeners, I see it as a positive that they have three good options to choose from when they’re in the mood to consume Houston sports radio. Regardless of the ratings, if the brands are generating revenue and showing a profit, then all will be fine inside the walls of each operation.

When you add it all up, here’s what you have.

Sports Radio 610 is in the driver’s seat, and has consistently led the market.

790 is in building mode and counting on Innes to provide a ratings boost in the future, but they need time to take that next step.

ESPN 97.5 remains in the conversation in second place, and is currently giving 610 their strongest ratings competition. Their best performance though is coming from Mike and Mike, which could be problematic down the line if changes occur with ESPN Radio’s morning show.

Here are the numbers the Chronicle published which show how each station and it’s key weekday shows performed in the latest December book.

STATION TIMESLOT/LOCAL SHOWS 16-Dec 16-Nov 16-Oct
M-F 6A-7P
Sports Radio 610 3.2 3.6 3.7
ESPN 97.5 1.6 1.7 2.2
SportsTalk 790 0.8 1.1 1.7
Mornings
Sports Radio 610 Mad Radio – 6a-10a 3.4 3.9 4
ESPN 97.5 Mike & Mike – 5a-9a N/A N/A N/A
SportsTalk 790 Proper Gentlemen – 6a-10a 0.8 1.3 1.8
Middays
Sports Radio 610 John Lopez & Cody Stoots – 10a-2p 2.6 3.5 3
ESPN 97.5 Granato & Ramzanali – 9a-11a 1.5 1.8 2.4
ESPN 97.5 Granato & Salisbury – 11a-1p 2.2 2 2.5
ESPN 97.5 Joel Blank – 1p-4p 1.6 1.3 2
SportsTalk 790 Koch & Kalu – 10a-12p 1 0.8 1.3
SportsTalk 790 Jones & Clanton – 12p-3p 1.1 1.5 1.8
Afternoons
Sports Radio 610 The Triple Threat – 2p-6p 3.8 4.4 4.5
ESPN 97.5 The Blitz – 4p-7p 1.7 2.7 2.7
SportsTalk 790 Josh Innes – 3p-7p 0.9 1.4 N/A
SportsTalk 790 Charlie Pallilo 2.3

*** Mike and Mike’s ratings were not provided but the show delivers the three strongest rated hours of the entire broadcast day on ESPN 97.5. From 5a-6a M&M produce a 5.8. During the 7a-8a hour they record a 3.0, and from 8a-9a they generate a 2.6.

Sports Radio News

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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