Two months into his final ratings book with WFAN, Mike Francesa is trailing The Michael Kay Show. Benefiting from a 14-year head start, WFAN regularly beat ESPN Radio’s New York affiliate since it launched in 2001, but in terms of afternoon drive, ESPN caught FAN.
Ratings for Mike Francesa and The Michael Kay Show have been neck and neck for over a year, as the two shows quarrel about whether or not to include their digital stream when determining a winner. After already beating Francesa in the first month of the current book, The Michael Kay Show beat him again in the second month, 7.5 to 6.9 with the stream included. In the final book before stepping down from his afternoon post on WFAN for the second time, it looks as if Francesa might finally have to admit defeat.
Remains to be seen is what’s next for Francesa, who will be without his daily afternoon show and no longer has an innovative app idea to promote. While the sports radio icon won’t be captaining WFAN’s weekday schedule in 2020, he did sign a three-year contract with their parent-company Entercom. A presence on their RADIO.COM app is expected, but details of how Francesa will contribute have not been shared.
During Francesa’s first retirement in 2018, The Michael Kay Show beat WFAN’s afternoon show Carlin, Maggie and Bart, 4.4 – 4.2, a far cry from the 6’s and 7’s both stations are currently pulling in. While The Kay Show eliminated their ratings gap with WFAN, the rest of 98.7 FM ESPN New York still has work to do.
In the 10am – 1pm timeslot, ESPN New York’s Humpty, Canty and Rothenberg trailed WFAN’s Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts by nearly three points, 5.1 to 8. Joe and Evan have the benefit of the market’s top-rated morning show as a local lead in, Boomer Esiason and Gregg Giannotti, who are currently number 1 even without their streaming audience. On ESPN New York, Humpty, Canty and Rothenberg follow the nationally syndicated Golic and Wingo which finished 12th in the market.
From 1 – 3pm, WFAN’s Maggie Gray and Bart Scott beat Stephen A. Smith’s national ESPN show 7.0 to 5.3.
In an attempt to narrow the ratings gap during their shows not featuring Michael Kay, ESPN New York is preparing to add two local hours and two hosts from WFAN to their lineup.
According to Andrew Marchand of The New York Post, ESPN is set to acquire Bart Scott from WFAN when his contract expires at the end of the year. The appeal of continuing to do local radio, while adding multiple TV opportunities on ESPN has Scott ready to depart WFAN for their rival station.
Marchand also reports ESPN New York is likely to go local from 1 – 3pm, potentially pairing Scott with current evening host Alan Hahn in the timeslot. Hahn previously worked on ESPN’s 10am – 1pm show until he was replaced by Dave Rothenberg in 2017. Hahn departed the midday show to focus on his Knicks television work with MSG. The 1 – 3pm hours might be more manageable for Hahn and his MSG work than the 10am – 1pm show.
If Hahn does move back to a weekday radio show, it frees up ESPN’s evening timeslot. Insert former WFAN host number two. According to Marchand, the evening hours on ESPN New York could be filled by Scott’s ex-WFAN partner, Chris Carlin.
The New York sports radio jostling is somewhat unprecedented, especially for WFAN which remained stagnant from 2008 until Craig Carton’s arrest in 2017. Even with WFAN’s recent lineup shuffling, the stations have rarely exchanged hosts from their weekday lineup. Now ESPN could be set to nab two recent WFAN talkers in Scott and Carlin, while the Fan looks to fill their own gaps.
Joe and Evan could move into WFAN’s afternoon timeslot, although it’s unlikely they’ll be there for long with Benigno planning to retire after next year. Maggie Gray, the soon to be last person standing from the CMB experiment, will likely takeover WFAN’s midday show with a co-host. WFAN nighttime host John Jastremski and CBS Sports Radio’s Marc Malusis appear to be leading candidates for the gig.
With WFAN needing to overhaul their lineup again, jockeying between the two New York sports radio stations will continue. But this time, WFAN might be unequivocally chasing ESPN New York’s afternoon ratings.
16.9% of All Sports Radio Listeners Are Streaming
The news comes as Nielsen reported that 11.3% of all radio listenership comes thru a stream, up from 6.9% in May of 2020.
According to Nielsen, sports radio stations are the third-most streamed spoken word format, just behind Talk/Personality and News/Talk/Info. The trend is continuing to show that streaming is on the uptick.
The survey found that in May 2022, 16.9% of sports talk radio’s audience tunes in via the station’s online stream. That news comes as Nielson reported that 11.3% of all radio listenership comes thru a stream, up from 6.9% in May of 2020.
Nielsen notes that in the 45 PPM markets they are grabbing data from and the 4,800+ stations that stream in those markets, just 30% of them are encoded. That encoding allows for Nielsen to accurately measure the streams. They used the listener data from 1,500 stations across the U.S., in their latest report, AM/FM Radio Streaming Growth in PPM Markets.
The survey also showed that streaming levels differ widely by radio format. Spoken word formats display strong streaming listenership (Talk/Personality: 31.2%, News/Talk/Info: 19.1%, All Sports: 16.9%). In fact, Nielsen found that 1/3 of all AM/FM streaming in PPM markets is to spoken word formats.
New Study Finds Listeners to MLB on Radio Are Willing to Spend
More than one third (34%) of the respondents recently purchased clothing/apparel that features their favorite team… 27% have visited a ballpark in the past year. That compares to only 19% of the average MLB fan base has made an apparel purchase to support their team while just 11% have gone to a game in person in that same time span.
When it comes to advertiser’s attempting to reach an affluent and engaged audience, sports talk radio might have a whale on their hands. Major League Baseball play-by-play features an audience that has money and has no problems spending it.
In a recent MRI-Simmons study, data shows that consumers who listen to MLB broadcasts on the radio are the perfect audience for sports marketers. According to the analysis, done by Katz Radio Group, nearly two thirds (62%) of those surveyed consider themselves “super fans” of baseball. That number is 58% higher than the average.
Those “super fans” are willing to spend to support their team, as well. More than one third (34%) of the respondents recently purchased clothing/apparel that features their favorite team. Those fans are also far more willing to make the trip to see their team. The study found that 27% have visited a ballpark in the past year. That compares to only 19% of the average MLB fan base has made an apparel purchase to support their team while just 11% have gone to a game in person in that same time span.
The news continues getting better for advertisers. Continued analysis reveals that 66% of listeners are currently employed and have a median household income greater than $106,000.
Listeners to MLB games on the radio are also 34% more likely to place a sports bet and 106% more likely to be a participant in fantasy baseball.
Jeff Dean Signs Off At ESPN Tucson for The Final Time
Dean said on Facebook: “…the years of burning the candle at both ends has taken a dire toll on my health and for the first time in my life, I’m going to put myself and my livelihood first”
Fans will no longer be able to tune into ESPN Tucson and hear Jeff Dean hosting his show. Friday morning was his last show, according to his Facebook and Twitter pages.
The Jeff Dean Show had been airing from 7-9a MT weekday mornings. Dean took to social media to relay the news and the reason behind him stepping away from the microphone. Dean said on Facebook:
“This morning I signed off from my radio show on ESPN Tucson for the final time. I have been devoting too much of my life and my time to working multiple jobs…the years of burning the candle at both ends has taken a dire toll on my health and for the first time in my life, I’m going to put myself and my livelihood first”
Dean went on to emphasize that he isn’t stepping away from ESPN Tucson, he’s just taking himself off the air. He also added that “gladly, I will be continuing my position as PA announcer of University of Arizona Football and Men’s basketball.”
Dean would also go onto Twitter to add even further context for his self-removal from the ESPN Tucson airwaves. He added, “It’s not a decision I arrived at hastily, as it’s been a 6 month mental grind to make the ultimate decision that had to be made, and I’m not particularly happy about it, but I have to put my health first, we all do, and make sure we’re around long enough to enjoy life”.
Dean had been ESPN Tucson’s morning host since November 2019.