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There’s a Big Story Brewing In New York Sports Radio

Jason Barrett

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When the monthly ratings come out in New York, the narrative usually revolves around WFAN’s performance. And rightfully so, because they’ve won a lot and earned that respect. It’s hard to knock a brand for producing results.

But when you go inside the numbers, you find that even New York’s leading sports station has some areas to be concerned about. Especially when it comes to local competition versus ESPN New York.

Now based on the way it’s often been presented in the press, you’d be led to believe that ESPN New York is sitting in Antarctica while The Fan is laying out on South Beach in Miami, as both brands search for sunshine. And when you look at the morning story where The Fan’s Boomer and Carton soundly defeat ESPN New York’s Mike and Mike, it’s hard to argue against that notion.

But from where I sit, I think there are a few items worth pointing out.

First, The Fan deserves credit for employing a LIVE and Local strategy. It’s clear that in the nation’s #1 market that it works, and it’s especially evident between 6a-12p where The Fan drives big audiences to their local shows and ESPN New York offers national content which doesn’t have as strong of an appeal.

I’m sure ESPN is looking at the total performance of Mike and Mike throughout the country, not just the New York market, but given their proximity to New York City, I’m sure it drives them nuts to not be a bigger factor in morning drive with arguably the nation’s best national morning show.

But while WFAN holds a strong advantage in the local vs. national category, there’s a different story developing in afternoons and it’s one worth paying attention to, especially over the next 22 months.

Mike Francesa has acknowledged that he’ll be leaving his 1p-6p post on WFAN at the end of 2018. Given his track record over the years, you can see why that’s a major concern for CBS New York. But while Mike remains a top performer in the ratings, there are some signs that show his competition is gaining ground.

That’ll be really interesting to watch going forward because as the audience hears Francesa talk openly about eventually leaving, people could make the decision themselves to listen elsewhere if they feel he’s not invested in entertaining them long-term.

In the January monthly, Francesa did his usual, winning his timeslot of 1p-6p with a ___. He finished ___, which means that if you heard his interview with Katie Nolan in January, he’s likely to get a phone call soon from CBS Executives reminding him that they pay him to finish 1st.

What really stood out to me though in January, was the performance of The Michael Kay Show.

In its 3p-7p timeslot, the show placed 7th with a 4.4 among Men 25-54. WFAN was 2nd during that same time period with a 6.4.

However, this was the fourth straight month that Kay was inside the Top 10. He was 8th in December, 6th in November, and 9th in October.

During the 3p-7p hours, Kay was only 2 ratings points behind Francesa, which isn’t as big as it may seem. The two shows are tied for ATE (Average Time Exposed) and Francesa holds a 40,000 plus advantage in daily and weekly cume. To the outside listener, that may seem like an impossible task, but for radio insiders, that’s a few additional quarter hours or an extra meter or two picking up the show.

Where you have to feel good if you’re in ESPN New York’s shoes, is when you look at two other key factors.

  1. The Men 18-34 story
  2. The Total Reach Story

Starting with the Men 18-34 story, the program added Peter Rosenberg in September. He’s brought a youthful exuberance and high energy act to the show from 4p-7p, and his familiarity to New York listeners on Hot 97’s morning show has also served him well.

Has his addition shown signs of making a difference?

Absolutely!

Looking at the Men 18-34 numbers, ESPN New York is ahead of WFAN in January 3.3 to 2.9.

But that’s only one month, so it has to be a fluke right?

Not exactly.

In December, ESPN New York also won the head to head battle among Men 18-34’s with a 4.0 to 2.6 advantage.

In October and November, WFAN was in front with a 3.7 to 2.8, which means they’ve lost nearly one point during the Fall in that demographic. Additionally, if you go back to the same time last year when Rosenberg wasn’t on the show, WFAN led the way in this demo with a 6.9 to 2.7.

That means that in the span of twelve months, WFAN has lost four ratings points among younger listeners, and ESPN New York has gained between a half a point and a point and a half. That’s a very interesting change.

Switching from the Men 18-34 story, we focus next on Michael Kay’s total reach story.

Why is this important? Because Kay now plays in areas that Francesa doesn’t. Most notably, on television.

In years past Francesa held this advantage and received a ton of praise for his brand being a success across multiple platforms. Well, Kay’s program now has that edge and deserves equal recognition for what he’s accomplished.

 

Here are some numbers from the Fall of 2015 that are staggering and illustrate the impact that Kay is making in the Big Apple.

  • Podcast Downloads = 509,479
  • Mobile Listening Sessions = 466,974
  • Desktop Streaming Sessions = 92,783
  • YES Television Cume = 201,000
  • Radio Total Audience (P6 listeners) = 451,900

If that’s not an impressive story of reaching people, I’m not sure what is. Keep in mind, this doesn’t include duplication or overlap.

I’m sure Francesa’s show has its own powerful digital story, and clearly he leads the Men 25-54 ratings battle, which is the most desirable demographic for sports talk radio measurement.

However, while we’re quick to highlight the power of Mike’s program, and make no mistake, it absolutely is when it comes to the radio ratings picture, we often though ignore the story on the other side of town, or assume that it’s not compelling, which is anything but true in this case.

If I’m inside the sales department of WFAN today, I’m on the phone with my clients reminding them that Mike won the month in the ratings, he wins every month, he’s the most successful host in New York sports radio history, and The Fan is New York’s ratings leader. Those are items you can’t dispute. He also hosts a 5 hour program which gives the client more access to being attached to Mike’s show.

But if I’m inside the sales department of ESPN New York, I’m showing advertisers how my afternoon show has registered in the Top 10 for four straight months (including the latest monthly where it was 7th), is ahead of The Fan with Men 18-34’s, is reaching more than 1.7 million people through radio, television and digital, and is committed to afternoon drive through the end of 2018, whereas the competition is not. I’d also highlight that my program provides three unique personalities that advertisers can connect to (Kay, Rosenberg, and Don LaGreca).

Each radio station has a powerful story to tell, one which should make them a lot of money. The real questions going forward are, will Kay’s program make a bigger impact in the radio ratings, will listeners tune in more or less to Francesa now that they know he’s planning to leave after 2017, and what will matter more to advertisers – the radio ratings or the total reach of a radio program?

The answers to those questions will tell us a lot about the success of these New York sports radio stations in the future.

Sports Radio News

Good Karma Brands Expands Two ESPN Wisconsin Shows to 1430 ESPN

“We are excited to integrate ESPN Wisconsin programming into our lineup with the launch of 1430 ESPN,” said Ryan Gabel, GM

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1430 Beaver Dam

Four days after flipping WBEV1430 to sports, Good Karma Brands is adding two programs, Wilde and Tausch and Scalzo and Brust, to it’s Beaver Dam, Wisconsin station 1430 ESPN. Both shows currently air in Madison and Milwaukee, are coming to Beaver Dam, Wisconsin.

Wilde and Ausch airs 9a – Noon while Scalzo and Brust broadcasts from 4p-6p.

“We are excited to integrate ESPN Wisconsin programming into our lineup with the launch of 1430 ESPN,” said Ryan Gabel, GM. “Every morning, fans in Dodge County will hear from Packers Hall-of-Famer Mark Tauscher and award-winning Packers reporter Jason Wilde. In the afternoon, they can tune into former Wisconsin Badger basketball star Ben Brust and longtime ESPN Radio host Greg Scalzo. The versatility and analysis from each of the shows will make 1430 ESPN a one-stop sports station for our listeners.”

The new line-up in Beaver Dam starts August 22.

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Sports Radio News

Pat McAfee: ‘Hard to Believe, But Tom Brady on The Masked Singer Makes Sense’

“He’s gonna have a goat head on him obviously.”

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The absence of Tom Brady from training camp has had people buzzing this entire week. Most of the mainstream media speculation has centered on his health and what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are capable of without their quarterback.

That was until Friday when an internet theory that Tom Brady was fulfilling an obligation to FOX to appear on The Masked Singer started gaining steam. The theory has been fleshed out on reddit and shared by Kendall Valenzuela on The Fantasy Life Twitter account.

Pat McAfee took notice and talked about the theory on his show Friday afternoon. He noted that the details of Brady’s absence from Bucs’ camp work. He had a specific date he had to leave and was not able to tell the team when he would be back.

“What is something that has a beginning date that was planned, but doesn’t have an end date?” McAfee asked rhetorically.

The next season of The Masked Singer, a reality competition featuring celebrities in disguised competing in a karaoke contest, is set to debut in a month. McAfee says it isn’t hard to guess how FOX would dress Tom Brady if he were participating.

“He’s gonna have a goat head on him obviously.”

Part of the theory details the business relationship between FOX and Brady. When his playing career is over, the quarterback will start a ten-year contract with FOX that will see him in the booth alongside Kevin Burkhardt for the top NFL game on the network each week and have him serve as an ambassador for the network. The deal pays Brady $375 million and many believe this is the first of his duties under the terms of the contract.

“That seems, like, not possible, but maybe,” McAfee said. He noted that whether it was negotiations or a demand, FOX telling Tom Brady that they need him for The Masked Singer in the middle of the NFL preseason is hard to imagine.

“Fox has literally survived off the NFL, so I would love to hear the conversation between FOX and Tom Brady going ‘We’re paying you $375 million at some point, right? You’re gonna do The Masked Singer in the middle of training camp.’ That’s what would have had to have happened, right, for that to take place?”

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers expect Tom Brady back in time to start the regular season. FOX has not said whether or not it has given Brady a date that it expects him in the broadcast booth.

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Sports Radio News

Tim Allen Joins 97.3 The Game

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It took Tim Allen just over 24 hours to find a new job after being laid off by 1250 The Fan‘s during Audacy’s round of cuts.

Allen tweeted he’s joining iHeartMedia’s 97.3 The Game to continue his long running Milwaukee Brewers postgame shows. Allen worked for 1250 The Fan for 17 years before being cut Tuesday.

97.3 The Game announced this news this morning during The Steve Czaban Show.

“It has been a crazy few days. I will just say that,” Allen said during his appearance. “Change is something that people handle a little bit differently and, man, what a run. It really was…I’m excited for this change.”

Bill Schmid noted how influential Allen was in starting his career. Schmid also said when he got the news of Allen’s departure from 1250 The Fan, he sent a text to his boss that just said “Tim Allen” and Allen’s phone number.

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