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The Fan Reigns Supreme In Dallas

Jason Barrett



Oh how the tide has turned in Dallas!

For years, Sports Radio 1310 The Ticket has dominated the market and had competitors questioning whether or not they had made a smart decision to enter the sports talk space.

And rightfully so.

The brand has been highly entertaining, the personalities are authentic, funny, larger than life and the competition was minimal.

But over the past few years, competition has improved, signals carrying sports talk programming have gotten stronger, and the once thought to be untouchable and iconic Ticket, now faces a challenge they’ve not had to deal with before.

Enter 105.3 The Fan.

fanOwned and operated by CBS, the station launched into the sports talk format in 2008, and has since undergone a few lineup and Program Director changes.

Currently led by Gavin Spittle and featuring Shan & RJ, G-Bag Nation, Ben & Skin and K&C Masterpiece, the station has experienced some bumps and bruises along the way but is now starting to catch fire and become a force with Dallas sports radio listeners.

The Fan started its climb in 2009 when it acquired the rights to the Dallas Cowboys. While the addition of America’s team put the radio station on the map in a bigger way, the ratings were not to the level they are now.

Part of that is due to consistency with the lineup, which deserves credit for being very entertaining. Some of it stems from having further developed the Cowboys association on their airwaves and carried a few seasons worth of games. The other part of the growth comes from making a critical decision to acquire the rights to Texas Rangers baseball in November 2014.

By offering Dallas sports fans a number of great weekday shows, plus every Texas Rangers and Dallas Cowboys game, on a strong FM signal, it’s no surprise that local listeners are changing their habits and rewarding The Fan.

For the July ratings book, The Fan was ahead of The Ticket and ESPN 103.3 in the Dallas sports radio race in most categories. Here’s how the numbers stack up:

Morning Drive – 6A-10A
105.3 THE FANShan & RJ4.2
THE TICKETThe Musers7.9
ESPN 103.3Mike & Mike + 1-hr of Colin Cowherd3.2
Mid-days – 10A-3P
105.3 THE FANG-Bag Nation5.2
THE TICKETNorm Hitzges/Bad Radio3.5
ESPN 103.31-hr of Colin Cowherd/Dennis & Friedo1.6
Afternoon Drive – 3P-7P
105.3 THE FANBen & Skin5.2
THE TICKETThe Hardline4.5
ESPN 103.3Cowlishaw & Mosley2.3
Evenings – 7P-12A
105.3 THE FANTexas Rangers/K&C Masterpiece8.3
THE TICKETThe Ticket Top 10/Scott Ferrall2.5
ESPN 103.3ESPN Radio1.6
Monday-Sunday 6A-Midnight
105.3 THE FANAll Shows, Ancillary Programming and Play by Play4.6
THE TICKETAll Shows and Ancillary Programming4.1
ESPN 103.3All Shows and Ancillary Programming2.1
Monday-Friday 6A-7P
105.3 THE FANShan & RJ, G-Bag Nation, Ben & Skin4.9
THE TICKETThe Musers, Norm Hitzges, Bad Radio, Hardline5.2
ESPN 103.3M&M, Cowherd, D&F, C&M, ESPN Radio2.3

For those of you reading who don’t understand the differences of ratings and categories, let me keep it simple for you. Men 25-54 represents male listeners between those ages and Persons 25-54 represents men AND women in between those ages.

For example, in July, The Fan was 6th with a 4.1 in the Persons 25-54 demographic. This is for the Monday-Friday 6a-7p time period. That’s a really strong number. For The Ticket, they were 14th with a 3.1 and ESPN 103.3 was 30th with a 1.3.

In the category of Persons 12+ (all male/female listeners older than 12 years old), Monday-Sunday 6a-Midnight, The Fan placed 13th with a 3.0, The Ticket finished 21st with a 1.9 and ESPN 103.3 was 31st with a 1.2.

You can attribute some of those stronger weekend numbers to Texas Rangers baseball airing on The Fan.

In addition to those stories above, what really caught my attention were the differences between all three stations when you look at their performance over a 12-month period. In the radio industry we call this the “year to year” analysis.

musersStarting with morning drive in the Men 25-54 category (sports radio’s target demo), it’s clear that this is the show that drives The Ticket. The Musers are excellent, and have been for a long time, and they remain the market’s top choice. Year to year their ratings haven’t changed much either.

During that period they’ve gone from an 8.2 to 7.9 which is very strong. They did have a little bit of a lull between November 2014 and April 2015 where the show rated between a 4.8 and 5.9 but they are prisoners of their own success. Most morning shows would take a 4.8-5.9 to the bank every time. This is clearly where The Ticket can paint a great local story with their fans, and more importantly their advertisers.

When you look at The Fan during mornings, while they’re not beating The Ticket, they are making major strides. Year to year, Shan & RJ have climbed from a 2.3 to 4.2 and currently rank 5th. Stations can make a lot of money with a Top 5 morning show. The uptick began last September (football season) when the show grew from 2.3 to 3.7 and they’ve been consistent and climbing ever since.

For ESPN 103.3, the story is built around consistency too. They’ve gone year to year from a 3.1 to 3.2, which puts them in 11th place. Considering that the programming is national and they’re competing against two other powerful local sports stations, that’s actually a very healthy number and one they can use to drive business to the radio station, especially when advertisers have to pay a king’s ransom on the other two brands.

Digging into the 10a-3p section with Men 25-54, this is where The Fan has really caught fire. G-Bag Nation led by Gavin Dawson has risen in 12 months from a 1.7 to a 5.2. That growth is massive and shows that the station has stumbled onto something big which local listeners are really enjoying.

During the same period of time, The Ticket has dropped from a 6.0 to 3.5. Think some of those listeners might have jumped ship over to The Fan?

For ESPN 103.3 this is the area where they’re getting hurt. They’ve been consistent during the past 12 months, but their numbers are a significant drop off from what they deliver in mornings. They’ve gone from a 1.7 last year to 1.6 this year. That means they lose half their ratings between morning drive and midday.

bsNext up is afternoons with Men 25-54 and there’s a real strong battle taking place here between Ben & Skin and The Hardline. While B&S won for the month of July, placing 2nd with a 5.2, the Ticket wasn’t far behind, finishing 7th with a 4.5.

When you dive deeper into the numbers you find that this is the first month Ben & Skin have beaten The Ticket since March, but even in the months where they’ve finished second, it’s been a neck and neck race. That’s drastically different than a year ago when The Ticket was hammering The Fan 6.3 to 2.1.

If you’re looking at it from The Ticket’s point of view, you’d highlight the fact that you’re winning in morning drive, have won five of the seven ratings books this year in afternoons and overall you’re ahead Monday-Friday 6a-7p with Men 25-54.

You would be pretty concerned about your margin for error because it’s very small and with your competitor having a play by play advantage, that makes things tougher when having to answer questions from clients about why you’re no longer dominating everyone.

None the less, you should still feel pretty good about your brand because your shows still have a great connection in the marketplace, especially The Musers, and despite no play by play, you’re very much in the thick of the race.

For ESPN 103.3 the afternoon story is better than the 10a-3p situation but given the large levels of listening taking place on The Fan and The Ticket, it becomes harder to deliver an impact. Cowlishaw and Mosley have been very consistent for the past year, slightly dipping from a 2.7 to 2.3, but they’ve placed as high as 6th with a 3.8 in January, so it’s clear that there’s room for three strong local afternoon shows. Given that their show provides a different approach than their competitors, that’s a positive in the market.

Wrapping up the ratings breakdowns we have nights, 7p-12a with Men 25-54. This is an area where you’d expect The Fan to take charge given their association with the Rangers and the other two stations not having play by play during that time, and sure enough, they do.

The Fan was dominant in this category, finishing 1st with an 8.3. This marks the third consecutive month where the station was #1 during evenings, and since baseball started, the numbers have grown from a 4.0 to 8.3. Clearly the baseball team is delivering more listeners and longer listening times, which is good news for the station’s weekday shows which should receive more sampling.

For The Ticket and ESPN 103.3, it’s a tougher road to hoe without live sports during the evening. While the numbers aren’t very high, what is interesting is that during the past year The Ticket has gone from a 1.7 to 2.5 while ESPN 103.3 has gone from a 3.0 to 1.6. ESPN’s dip though I’m guessing is due to having the Rangers last year and being without them this year.

1053Overall the Dallas market has three different stations, presenting three different approaches, and the real winners are the local listening audience who have great options. Based on the numbers, the overall leading choice this month is The Fan, and considering where they were a year ago, the tide seems to be turning in their favor. They should be applauded for making adjustments and further investments because it’s starting to pay dividends.

The Ticket however remains a powerful brand with a great lineup and based on their drive time numbers, they’re not far off. Their morning show remains dominant, and if they regain the top spot in afternoons, they can easily position themselves as the lead dog with advertisers because clients want their messages heard during prime time hours.

The real interesting story to follow going forward will be how The Fan capitalizes on their play by play advantage. What they’re doing right now is working, and they’re only into the first year of their agreement with the Rangers.

If the Cowboys are good again, which many expect them to be, and the Rangers compete down the stretch, especially now that they’ve added Cole Hamels and made themselves even more compelling, those listeners will be visiting The Fan’s weekday programs more frequently. It’s then the job of the radio station’s on-air talent to convert those samplers into loyal listeners.

Based on what I saw in July, The Fan is on the right track.

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95.7 The Game’s Bonta Hill, Joe Shasky and Matt Nahigian Address KNBR Cuts

Jordan Bondurant



A photo of Bonta Hill
(Photo: Bonta Hill)

Bay Area sports station KNBR parted ways with several staffers this week including morning show co-host Paul McCaffrey. The departures took many in sports media by surprise, including 95.7 The Game morning host Bonta Hill.

Hill, who worked at KNBR on the Murph and Mac show, felt obligated to discuss McCaffrey’s exit on The Morning Roast on Thursday, offering his condolences.

“Whenever I worked with him on that morning show as a board op or producer, I always left with a smile on my face,” Hill said. “They made me laugh, they treated me right, they taught me the ropes. And when you have an 18-year run together, that is legendary. Legendary.”

“Morning radio, that’s what we grew up on, and he was a pioneer,” Bonta added.

Bonta Hill shared that Mac was one of his favorite people at the station, and that he did and continues to look up to him.

“I just feel bad, man. Christmas is around the corner, and people are losing their jobs,” Hill said. “You never want to see that. You never want to see that, but Paulie Mac, Murph, those guys are one of one. They are. They truly are man.”

“Murph and Mac is the combo in this market in terms of longevity, excellence, what they symbolized with that Giants run and how we gravitated towards them,” co-host Joe Shasky chipped in. “All of my sports radio love came through those guys’ love for each other. And you could feel it.”

95.7 The Game brand manager Matt Nahigian echoed the sentiments from Hill during a video commentary on X. He said despite the two stations being fierce competitors, there’s a mutual respect between leadership, talent and staff.

“I think it’s important to point out that the stations compete against each other hardcore,” Nahigian said. “We want to beat each other every month in the ratings and the whole bit. But all of us for the most part get along really well.”

“KNBR didn’t gloat and celebrate when we made changes in March, and we won’t do that either,” he added. “Onward and upward. Great run by Paulie Mac, Murph and Mac.”

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Gary Danielson: CBS Sports Isn’t Required To Use Me For Big Ten Games

Danielson told 97.1 The Ticket’s Stoney & Jansen that just because he’s under contract doesn’t mean he’ll be on Big Ten games in 2024 with CBS.

Jordan Bondurant



A photo of Gary Danielson
(Photo: CBS Sports)

Saturday marks the end of an era for CBS. The SEC championship game between Alabama and Georgia will be the final conference game on CBS before it takes over as one of the Big Ten’s media partners next year. Longtime color commentator Gary Danielson joined Stoney and Jansen on 97.1 The Ticket on Thursday ahead of Michigan’s appearance in the Big Ten championship, and Gary said it was hard to believe the SEC adventure was coming to an end.

“I started this gig in announcing in 1990 and then started at CBS in 2006, and this is it,” Danielson said.

Gary Danielson was asked if he would be a part of the new Big Ten broadcast crew alongside Brad Nessler, and he joked that it hadn’t been set in stone just yet.

“I have a contract, I guess they don’t have to use me,” he said. “I think they have to pay me. I’ll have to check it out one more time to make sure.”

Danielson did get a taste of some Big Ten broadcasting this season, though. He was on the call for three different games featuring Big Ten teams. He called UNLV/Michigan, Ohio State/Indiana and Penn State/Iowa.

Michigan is playing Iowa in the Big Ten title game on Saturday, and so Danielson thought it was nice that even though he didn’t get a full slate of Big Ten games to broadcast, he still was able to familiarize himself with the conference’s perennial powers.

“We saw the three best teams and Iowa,” Danielson said. “So that’s very interesting.”

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Greg Papa: ‘These Are Rough Times’ After KNBR Cuts

“Murph, I’ve known forever, going back to the A’s days. These are rough times. Things change.”



A photo of Greg Papa
(Photo: KNBR)

Late Wednesday, it was unveiled that KNBR had undergone a series of cost-cutting measures that eliminated the jobs of morning co-host Paul McCaffrey and evening host F.P. Santangelo. KNBR midday host Greg Papa reflected on the changes Thursday morning.

To open Papa and Lund, Greg Papa took the opportunity to address the elephant in the room.

“With Murph and Mac, and Pauly, I’ve been on with them every Friday since I started working with the Niners in 2019, and we hardly ever talked football,” Papa said. “It was always about other things and coming to the studio and getting to know them. Murph, I’ve known forever, going back to the A’s days. These are rough times. Things change. Look at what’s going on with the RSNs in the country. Certainly, terrestrial radio is feeling the brunt of it for a number of factors.”

John Lund agreed, calling McCaffrey “one of my favorites”.

Fill-in host Deiter Kurtenbach hosted the morning show Thursday in place of Brian Murphy. Papa joked that the fill-in host needed a better understanding of radio if he’s going to have the job full-time.

“For Deiter, if you’re going to be on in the morning, you gotta get on the clock better. We can’t start at 10:08 AM. You get a false start right away.”

It is unclear what Murphy’s role with KNBR will be going forward. The station has removed him from its website, and he has yet to comment publicly about his future. Kurtenbach said this morning he would host the morning timeslot for the remainder of the week.

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