In the city of Portland, there are now three radio stations offering full-time sports talk programming. Considering that the market’s population is just above two million people, and the commitment to programming has been filled largely by network shows, I was curious to see how the format was being supported by local fans.
While at first you may flinch and say “three stations offering full-time sports programming isn’t a lot“, keep in mind that large markets such as New York City, Chicago, Washington DC and Philadelphia don’t offer that many choices, and comparable markets such as Baltimore, St. Louis, and Tampa don’t either.
Throughout the years I’ve found that the Portland market does a great job in launching the careers of some excellent radio talent. It’s also been the home to some of the industry’s finest programmers. For example, Colin Cowherd, Gavin Dawson, John Lund, Dave Shore and Chad Doing are just a few who have hosted local shows in the market. Scott Masteller, Allan Davis and Dennis Glasgow have all programmed while calling Portland home.
The city is known for its incredible passion and love for Trail Blazers basketball, and after experiencing it myself last season, I can tell you that the support is as strong as anywhere in the country. That same enthusiasm and interest is also felt on the college football circuit, as the Oregon Ducks and Oregon State Beavers not only occupy the headspace of Portland sports fans, but also the entire state of Oregon!
I wanted to take a look under the hood to see what is happening in the market, and whether or not the market’s appetite for sports, was enough to support three full-time sports talkers. As you’ll see in the examples below, there are many positives for each brand to hang their hat on, but there are also some challenges as well.
When you analyze the three brands, it’s clear that Portland sports radio revolves around 1080 The Fan (KFXX-AM)! They are the market leader, with the firmest commitment to local sports programming, and they’ve been the established brand since 1990. The success of the market starts with them!
Led by programmer Jeff Austin, 1080 The Fan employs many of the biggest local names in the market. Isaac Ropp and “Big Suke” Jason Scukanek are a force locally, not only dominating afternoon drive on radio, but they’re also simulcast locally on television by Comcast Northwest.
Rounding out 1080’s local lineup are “Dirt & Sprague”, which features Anthony “Dirt” Johnson and Brandon Sprague, and “Dusty & Cam” which is hosted by Dusty Harrah and former NFL Tight End Cam Cleeland. The station also features Colin Cowherd in morning drive, a show that has even larger appeal in the market given Colin’s previous local success working for The Fan!
When you look at the other two local brands, 750 The Game (KXTG-AM) and Rip City Radio 620 (KPOJ-AM), it’s a much tighter battle, and there are different parts of the story that make it compelling.
First, for “The Game”, they’ve had an interesting change in philosophy over the past few years. The station was put on to the FM dial in May 2008, and appeared primed for a big run against The Fan. After three years though, and a healthy investment in local content and play by play, the station was returned to the AM dial in May 2011, and re-branded as “750 The Game”.
In making the move back to AM, the station also elected to make some changes to its lineup. Currently the station features national talents Dan Patrick and Jim Rome, as well as local personalities John Canzano and Mike Ragz.
For Rip City Radio 620, they’re only one full year into the format, and clearly they’re banking on their association to the Trail Blazers, the market’s lone professional franchise, to help them drive larger ratings and revenue growth. Even the station’s moniker revolves around the team, which is smart, given the fan base’s affinity towards it.
It also provides the radio station with an opportunity to create strong marketing campaigns inside and outside of the Moda Center, with a brand name that people should recall.
The lineup on 620 also features a mix of local and national. Taylor Danforth, Andy Bunker and Blazers Play by Play voice Brian Wheeler host local programs on the station, and Rich Eisen and Jay Mohr’s national shows round out the remainder of the station’s programming.
In analyzing the ratings, I wanted to take a look at how the three stations matched up, and how each of their approaches were being received in the local market. The data you’re looking at is for the 2015 Spring Book (April-May-June) so the Blazers play by play advantage wasn’t as big of a factor, which means this is a time when it’s largely about the lineups, and to some extent, national and local topics. These are the Men 25-54 numbers, which is the demographic that sports radio stations covet most.
|1080 THE FAN (KFXX)||Mike & Mike 6a-7a; Colin Cowherd 7a-10a||3.7|
|750 THE GAME (KXTG)||Dan Patrick 6a-9a; Jim Rome 9a-10a||2.7|
|RIP CITY RADIO 620 (KPOJ)||Bunker & Danforth 6a-9a; Rich Eisen 9a-10a||1.2|
|1080 THE FAN (KFXX)||Dirt & Sprague; Dusty & Cam||1.7|
|750 THE GAME (KXTG)||Jim Rome 10a-12p; John Canzano 12p-3p||0.8|
|RIP CITY RADIO 620 (KPOJ)||Rich Eisen 10a-12p; Jay Mohr 12p-3p||1.2|
|1080 THE FAN (KFXX)||Primetime w/ Isaac & Suke||4.3|
|750 THE GAME (KXTG)||In The Huddle with Ragz||1.0|
|RIP CITY RADIO 620 (KPOJ)||Wheels at Work 3p-5p; JT The Brick 5p-7p||1.1|
|1080 THE FAN (KFXX)||ESPN Radio||2.6|
|750 THE GAME (KXTG)||NBC Sports Radio||1.3|
|RIP CITY RADIO 620 (KPOJ)||Fox Sports Radio; Trail Blazers Basketball||2.2|
|1080 THE FAN (KFXX)||Colin, Dirt/Sprague, Dusty/Cam, Isaac/Suke||3.1|
|750 THE GAME (KXTG)||DP, Rome, Canzano, Ragz||1.3|
|RIP CITY RADIO 620 (KPOJ)||Bunker/Danforth, Eisen, Mohr, Wheeler, JT||1.2|
|1080 THE FAN (KFXX)||All Shows, Ancillary Programs & Play by Play||2.6|
|750 THE GAME (KXTG)||All Shows, Ancillary Programs & Play by Play||1.2|
|RIP CITY RADIO 620 (KPOJ)||All Shows, Ancillary Programs & Play by Play||1.2|
As I mentioned above, 1080 The Fan clearly owns the market right now, and local fans are loyal, especially to brands who continue to do good things for a sustained period of time. Because The Fan has stayed true to their commitment, and continued to recruit and support strong local talent, the local audience has rewarded them.
Let’s take a deeper look though into what all of these numbers mean, and how each station can use them to their benefit.
In mornings, Colin Cowherd performs really well, which is probably why 1080 The Fan has had some anxiety over the past few months, when Colin was wrestling with his future at either ESPN or Fox Sports Radio. I’m sure the station is going to want to hold on to a program which delivers the second highest overall number in the market.
While that isn’t known yet, I’m assuming they’ll maintain the relationship and continue to offer Colin’s Fox show on the station, considering that Colin is making an in-market appearance later this month to promote his new beer, which just so happens to be brewed in Oregon.
Not far behind Colin though is Dan Patrick, who delivers the highest performance on The Game, and the third best overall ratings performance in the market. That’s a very good story for The Game to use to their advantage. It also demonstrates Dan’s lasting power in the Portland market.
What’s interesting here in morning drive, is that the only local program, “Bunker and Danforth“, is a distant third. However, before you jump the gun and assume that Rip City Radio has morning problems, you need to understand the morning show didn’t start until March 2015. That means this is their first full book, and you never judge a show’s performance by only three months.
If they’re performing this way in 12-18 months, then Rip City Radio executives will probably have a deeper conversation, but this is a brand new product, in a crowded marketplace, and it takes time for people to find a show, listen to it, and become loyal to it. It also takes time for the talent to gel, and build the identity of their program. Making it even harder is the fact that the audience hasn’t had a local option in morning drive for the past few years.
If you’re at 1080 The Fan, you’re loving the fact that you own morning drive, and you’re focused on retaining a successful partnership with Colin Cowherd. For The Game, you’re thrilled with Dan Patrick, and looking at ways to capitalize during the rest of the day.
For Rip City Radio, you now have actual data to measure your morning show, and you now need to further support them, coach them, and market them. The upcoming NBA season will tell you a lot about the local audience, and if they’re willing to adjust their listening patterns in morning drive.
When you shift to the mid-days, you can see that the overall listening goes down, but once again, 1080 The Fan has a solid lead. There are though a few interesting items to focus on.
First, for The Game, they’ve got to be a little disappointed because they were given a strong lead-in with Dan Patrick, and yet middays gave a lot of it away. Jim Rome and John Canzano are usually well received in the Portland market, and I’ve listened to Canzano before myself and can tell you he’s an exceptional talent, so to lose nearly two full ratings points off of morning drive is a tough blow. It could be a one time problem, a sampling issue, or something else, I’m not sure at this time, but it’s something for folks at the Game to keep an eye on.
If you’re at Rip City Radio, you’ve got to like the consistency between mornings and middays, especially when you take into account that you’re switching from local programming into national content. One way to spin this is by analyzing it from a business point of view.
While people on the programming end live for the ratings to justify their success and connection to the local market, there is also a business side to examine. Along that line of thinking, what makes more sense, spending a ton on money on local talent to be a half of a ratings point better, or coming in a half point lower, yet having no expenses due to using national programming? That’s what Rip City Radio can use to their advantage in this daypart.
For The Fan, they’re in front once again, but they too are only one full book into their new mid-day offerings. That means it’s way too early to analyze the impact of their strategy, but if you’re in their shoes, you’ve got to feel good about coming out of the gate in front. The challenge now is to build on it, and grow that lead even higher, because right now, Rip City is not far behind. When you take into account the strong number Colin Cowherd is providing as a lead-in during morning drive, there’s room for improvement.
As we shift to afternoons, this is where The Fan makes their money. “Primetime” with Isaac & Big Suke, dominates. Not only are they the highest rated show in the market, they’re local celebrities due to their years together on radio, and their visual presence on television. When you deliver 4x higher than your competition, and double the collective performance of two radio stations, that’s called making an impact. The Fan I’m sure is making a lot of money with this afternoon show crushing it the way that they do.
For The Game and Rip City in afternoons, they’re in a dead heat, but what’s worth looking at is the fact that Rip City has the advantage of utilizing Blazers Play by Play man Brian Wheeler in afternoons, however he’s only working half of the daypart. That means the other half belongs to national programming courtesy of JT The Brick.
On the positive side, Wheeler’s name value should continue to help Rip City Radio make some inroads, especially when the Blazers return. On the negative side, that momentum gained between 3p-5p will be cancelled out if JT isn’t on topics that have local appeal. I’d love to see how the Game and Rip City would rate if they were going head to head locally for the entire daypart but right now that’s not an option.
For The Game, there’s two ways to look at this. First, you’re even in the ratings with Rip City’s afternoon show, which is hosted by one of the most popular voices in the community in Wheeler. The Game’s Mike Ragz has also only been in the market since last August, so for a relative newcomer to be in the conversation with an established talent like Wheeler is a pretty solid story.
The downside of it is that while the show’s numbers are equal to Rip City, you’ve had a longer period of time operating the format, and building a connection in the market. Your competitor is also producing half local programming and half network programming, which means you have an advantage in building local connectivity due to offering four hours of local content.
In both The Game and Rip City’s cases in afternoons, the numbers are very low, and unless they can cut into Isaac and Suke’s lead, it’s going to be a rough road ahead. There is more money to be earned from advertisers in afternoons, but you need the numbers to be higher to justify getting your fair share.
For our final look we head to evenings, which for the most part were filled by three national networks. Rip City did gain some help due to the Blazers playing during the early part of the book, and it’s possible some national play by play offerings were provided by one or two of the brands, but in any case, The Fan has the lead, and they use ESPN Radio programming, while their competitors offer Fox and NBC.
If you’re on the outside looking in at the Portland market, here’s the moral of the story – The Fan owns the sports radio space, and The Game and Rip City are battling to see who will emerge as the clear number two. Given Rip City’s ties with the Blazers, and Brian Wheeler, and the addition of a new morning show, it’ll be interesting to see if the upcoming basketball season gives them the boost they need to present a bigger in-market challenge.
For The Game, they have something strong in mornings with Dan Patrick, but their other dayparts need higher performances. Adding Colin Cowherd would be excellent, and instantly create some local audience shifting, but it doesn’t look like they’ll be able to make that happen. That means they’re going to need to take a deeper look to figure out how they can build off their mornings, and deliver stronger in mid-days and afternoons.
For The Fan, right now it’s about protecting your turf, and that starts with retaining Colin Cowherd. You’re also looking to further develop your midday shows, let Isaac and Big Suke continue their ratings dominance, and utilize some play by play, network shows and additional local content to keep the brand on track.
Barring a major slip up by The Fan, the results should remain similar in upcoming months in the Portland market. The challenge for 750 The Game and Rip City Radio 620 is to figure out a way to make sure they aren’t.
Peter Schrager: ‘Next Good Morning Football Host Has Massive Shoes To Fill’
“I don’t know where they are going for that and I don’t play coach or GM. I’m just going to sit back and if they ask my opinion, I’ll give it.”
This week, Good Morning Football ended up winning a Sports Emmy for the best daily studio show. It is a show that has turned into part most football fans’ morning routines. However, there will be new people on the panel eventually with the departures of Nate Burleson and Kay Adams.
This week, one of those left, Peter Schrager, was on The Pat McAfee Show. He did not have a name for McAfee that would fill the role Adams leaves behind and he isn’t going to interfere in the process of the executives picking the next host.
“I would think that there is going to be a long line of people who will want that,” he said. “Those are massive shoes to fill. I don’t know where they are going for that and I don’t play coach or GM. I’m just going to sit back and if they ask my opinion, I’ll give it. But, for now, I trust the executives to hire someone who is going to take care of that hosting job.”
As for Burleson’s seat, the show has used a number of ex-players to fill-in. Schrager likes it that way because he can learn many different stories each week:
“Nate and I can finish each other’s sentences. Now, you have a guy I don’t know the story this player is going to tell. I don’t know where he’s going to take it and I think it’s kind of cool for us.”
Last summer, Schrager hosted The Flying Coach podcast on The Ringer with Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay. Unfortunately, there will be no season 2 of that show this summer. That doesn’t mean there won’t be another season of the podcast in the future though.
“I won’t do it without McVay. I begged him. He’s just out….He’s getting married this offseason. He’s got his honeymoon. He’s like, we’ll pick it up another offseason. I’m upset. I love doing it. All these new coaches, Sean and I would have had a good time with it and we talked about it, but it’s his decision and he’s saying no and I totally get it. He’s really good at it and he liked it. He’ll have opportunities and you see some of these numbers that these guys are getting. Trust me, he’s aware.”
Shan & RJ: ‘Inside The NBA Was Trying To Prevent A Riot Last Night’
“You know that moment? Everyone’s joking around. Everyone’s having fun, then someone doesn’t take the joke as a joke anymore and all the fun is sucked out of the room and things are awkward and serious?”
Things were very far from normal on Thursday night on the set of Inside the NBA. During the postgame show, Warriors fans threw objects at Charles Barkley as TNT was broadcasting live outside of the Chase Center in San Francisco.
Friday morning on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, Shan and RJ discussed the scene and said things felt out of the ordinary long before anything was even thrown.
“You know that moment? Everyone’s joking around. Everyone’s having fun, then someone doesn’t take the joke as a joke anymore and all the fun is sucked out of the room and things are awkward and serious?” Shan Shariff said. “That’s what happened yesterday on Inside the NBA both in the pregame and the postgame.”
Barkley had been picking on Warriors fans calling them annoying and describing San Francisco as having “dirty ass streets full of homeless people” throughout the series.
Shariff said even in the pregame show, it seemed that the Inside the NBA crew was wary of the crowd gathered behind them.
“It felt like yesterday instead of having fun and cutting loose, it felt like they were trying to prevent a riot.”
After a rolled-up t-shirt struck Barkley, he got up and acted as if he was going to throw a ceramic coffee mug into the crowd. Shariff said it was clear that Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith thought Barkley was about to be involved in an altercation of some sort.
RJ Choppy disagreed though. His immediate thought in seeing the video was that Barkley was just taking his ribbing of the crowd to the next level like a WWE superstar might.
“I think he knew the wrestling role, but I don’t think the other guys did,” Choppy said.
Sean and RJ expounded on the wrestling comparison, saying that he had a specific event in mind. He compared the way the crowd treated Barkley on Thursday night to how the crowd at ECW’s One Night Stand in 2006 treated John Cena. Cena and security may have thought they knew what was coming, but it was clear when fans started throwing chairs at the WWE champ that their ire was more serious than anticipated.
There can be peace for the time being. TNT’s NBA season ends at the conclusion of the Western Conference Finals. It will be interesting to see if this animosity returns in the 2022-23 season.
Don La Greca: ‘Howie Rose Was The Only Sports Talk Host As Passionate About Hockey As Me’
“When you look at the history of sports radio, the only person that I can think of that called games and was [as] passionate about hockey as I am that had a regular radio show was Howie Rose.”
Don LaGreca has been working on Rangers radio broadcasts since 2005, and has served as the backup play-by-play announcer for the last few seasons, filling in for Kenny Albert when he is unable to be on the call. Because of Albert’s responsibilities in calling national playoff games on television amid the new media rights agreement between the league and its partners (ESPN and Turner Sports), La Greca has called more Rangers games of late, and received positive reviews.
Yesterday on The Michael Kay Show on 98.7 ESPN New York, Kay mentioned the compliments callers have been giving La Greca for his ability to call hockey games, some of whom credit him for introducing them to the sport.
“The one thing hockey is is underexposed,” said La Greca. “Because you hear a lot of people say, ‘Boy, I didn’t realize how much fun this sport is; how great it is to go to a game,’ because a lot of us don’t grow up around it.”
La Greca realizes that he is in a unique position being the co-host of a sports radio show and an NHL play-by-play announcer, giving him a responsibility to communicate and opine on the game of hockey to his listening audience at large. He considers himself the second person to have such a distinction – the pioneer of which, while he may no longer be calling hockey games, still frequently discusses the sport on Twitter.
“When you look at the history of sports radio, the only person that I can think of that called games and was [as] passionate about hockey as I am that had a regular radio show was Howie Rose,” said La Greca. “And Howie Rose has been out of the sports radio game for 25 years.”
Rose was with WFAN from its launch on July 1, 1987 as its weekday nighttime host. Additionally, he served in the same role as La Greca, backing up Kenny Albert’s father Marv on Rangers radio broadcasts – where, in 1994, he delivered the illustrious call of Stephane Matteau’s game-winning, double-overtime goal in game 7 that sent the team to the Stanley Cup Finals. One year later, Rose left WFAN to begin calling games for the NHL’s New York Islanders on Sportschannel, and did not host a sports radio show during his time as a lead hockey play-by-play announcer.
While there are other sports radio hosts in the New York marketplace that exhibit a passion for hockey such as Boomer Esiason and Gregg Giannotti, La Greca is the only one who actively calls the games – akin to how Michael Kay is the only active New York sports radio host who regularly calls professional baseball.
“You don’t have somebody who is as close to the sport as I am to have this kind of forum, so maybe there are a few people like, ‘Hey, I’m a fan of Don. I really don’t like hockey, but he calls a few games so let me listen,’ and it kind of opened a door that otherwise wouldn’t have been opened” said La Greca. “….I don’t think it’s anything that I’m doing. It’s just an opportunity that I have, and it is humbling and it’s pretty cool to hear and I hope those people stick with the sport.”