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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.

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Boomer Esiason: ‘Michael Malone’s Response to Reporter Was Ridiculous’

“Everybody wants to beat you; everybody wants to give you their best effort.”

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Boomer Esiason
Courtesy: Gail Schulman, CBS

The matchups for both the Eastern and Western Conference Finals in the NBA were solidified on Sunday to narrow the field to four teams remaining looking to capture a league championship. The early game resulted in a 21-point win for the Indiana Pacers over the New York Knicks. Later in the day, the Minnesota Timberwolves overcame a 20-point deficit to eliminate the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets, gaining key contributions from several members of the team. With the Nuggets having a double-digit lead in the third quarter and losing the game by seven points, the swing surprised many basketball fans and left Ball Arena in a state of shock.

After the game concluded, Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone fielded questions from members of the media about the game and season as a whole. One reporter asked him about how it felt to process a loss of this magnitude, especially when the team had held a substantial lead in the second half of the game. Malone responded with ostensible indignation and disappointment, immediately articulating to move on to the next question.

“The season’s over – that’s what’s hard,” Malone said. “F**k being up 20. The season’s over – you don’t understand that. The season’s over – it’s hard. Stupid ass questions.”

On Monday morning, the Boomer & Gio morning show on WFAN and CBS Sports Network played audio of Malone providing the response, something that was met with incredulity and surprise in the studio. Update anchor Jerry Recco explained the paradox of these athletes being tired from playing heavy minutes in the playoffs, yet taking the court over the summer anyway rather than resting. Throughout the series against the Timberwolves, three-time NBA most valuable player Nikola Jokić averaged 40.2 minutes per game and star guard Jamal Murray averaged 38.2 minutes per contest, both in the upper echelon among the rest of the league. Even so, Malone emitted choleric towards the season coming to a close.

“I can’t believe Mike Malone would do that,” co-host Boomer Esiason said. “I just can’t believe it. You’re in the NBA freaking Playoffs. You have to play, you have to be tired. I mean, you just have to go – you got to go 100 mph, and you know what, because you’re the defending NBA champions, you got the target on your back. Everybody wants to beat you; everybody wants to give you their best effort. I can’t believe he said a ‘stupid ass question;’ that’s ridiculous.”

Co-host Gregg Giannotti agreed with Esiason’s point of view, especially when Malone has a team and standout player who is expected by many basketball fans to win multiple championships. The Nuggets finished as the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference after hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy last year and were considered as a legitimate threat to secure a second consecutive league championship.

“They got embarrassed in this game because they were up 20, ended up losing the game [by] seven at home, and I think he’s grasping at straws and coming up with excuses to cover his own ass for coming up short,” Giannotti said. “That’s really what it is.”

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Rich Shertenlieb: ‘If This Fails, It’s My Name on It, But It’s What I’ve Always Wanted’

“We’re going to complain about the Bruins, we’re going to celebrate the Celtics and analyze the new ‘Road House’ movie like it’s the Zapruder film.”

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Rich Shertenlieb
Courtesy: Rich Shertenlieb on X

After approximately six months off the Boston radio airwaves, Rich Shertenlieb made his long-anticipated return with the launch of his new program, The Rich Shertenlieb Show, on Monday morning on 100.7 WZLX, an iHeartMedia-owned station. Shertenlieb will bring sports and entertainment talk to the classic rock-formatted station on weekday mornings from 6 to 10 a.m. EST, along with an array of co-hosts from various areas in media.

Some of these include former 98.5 The Sports Hub personalities Michael Hurley and Ted Johnson, who were part of the debut episode on Monday. Other contributors include former NFL Network reporter Mike Giardi and former Sports Illustrated reporter Charlotte Wilder, the latter of whom will also continue working as a contributor on Meadowlark Media’s show, The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz.

To open his show on Monday, Shertenlieb expressed how much he had missed talking with listeners in the Boston area and stated that there was a lot to discuss. Additionally, he hinted at the return of popular segments that aired during his time at 98.5 The Sports Hub, some of which include audio from Celtics fans on the street and humorous calls to 9-1-1. Shertenlieb previously worked with Fred Toucher on the popular Toucher & Rich show, which first launched on rock station 104.1 WBCN.

The show moved to 98.5 The Sports Hub upon the launch of the station in 2009 and was frequently on top of the ratings books, building and sustaining a loyal and dedicated audience. Beasley Media Group said in a statement that it had offered Shertenlieb a multi-year contract extension to which he never accepted, and there was apparent ambiguity surrounding his sudden exit from the station.

“Better opportunity, and it’s that easy,” Shertenlieb said in an interview with CBS Boston. “I really liked where I worked – I liked a lot of the people over there – but sometimes you get presented with something as cool as this and you just can’t say ‘No.’ I know that that’s not what people want to hear, but it’s the truth.”

Shertenlieb explained that the program will discuss sports and a variety of other topics, working to build a new on-air product akin to the beginning of his time with 98.5 The Sports Hub. Toucher had previously stated that he believed Shertenlieb should find an opportunity outside of sports radio through which he would be able to demonstrate his penchant for comedy and simply have fun.

Toucher is now hosting morning drive with Rob “Hardy” Poole in morning drive as part of the new Toucher & Hardy show, which made its debut in early January. On WZLX, Shertenlieb, Hurley and a rotation of co-hosts and show contributors will seek to foster a new sound in the Boston marketplace on the classic rock station as a part of morning drive.

“It’s awesome, but you know all the pressure’s on,” Shertenlieb said. “If this fails, it’s my name on it, but you know what, it’s what I’ve always wanted. It’s what I’ve worked my whole career towards, and I’m glad that [W]ZLX and iHeart were able to give it to me.”

There were other opportunities within the process that Shertenlieb was offered, and he may be open to discussing some of them down the road. There had been speculation that he was being considered for an afternoon drive program on WEEI, with several industry professionals predicting that the outcome would render itself a reality. In an interview with Chad Finn of Boston.com, Shertenlieb explained that he considered other opportunities when previously signing contracts with 98.5 The Sports Hub. In launching something new, he is excited to make an impact and construct a new product in the city.

“We’re going to complain about the Bruins, we’re going to celebrate the Celtics and analyze the new ‘Road House’ movie like it’s the Zapruder film,” Shertenlieb said.

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Mike Florio: Giving Teams Too Many Prime-Time Games ‘Compromises the Integrity of the Game’

“At some point it’s just going to be whatever we think every week is going to lead to the biggest ratings and the biggest numbers and the most money, that’s what we’re going to do and it’s unfair to certain teams to do that.”

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Mike Florio
Courtesy: Denny Medley, USA TODAY Sports

Mike Florio spent time on his Pro Football Talk Live show talking about the NFL schedule which was released in full earlier this week. The focus of the discussion was on the New York Jets schedule, however the topic related to many of the top teams in football. With the league wanting to maximize revenue there are more stand-alone games, which Florio says have “an extra layer of stress and strain.”

The Jets will have six prime-time games over the team’s first 11 weeks of the season. This includes an opening week Monday Night Football road game on the other side of the country against the San Franciso 49ers, two Sunday Night Football games, a Thursday Night Football game, one other appearance on Monday Night Football and a trip to London to play the Vikings.

Florio believes it is unfair to have teams with this much travel and this many featured games. “See, this is a TV show,” he said. “This is where the pursuit of money, the pursuit of maximum ratings, laying the foundation for putting all of the TV contracts out to bid again after the 2029 season, it gets in the way of giving teams a fair shake.”

He later added, “The truth is, the broadcast partners are clamoring for Aaron Rodgers…so they loaded it up early before the Jets have the wheels come off…The problem is they’re kicking the wheels off by doing this. By having them hopscotch the country and play short weeks twice and all of these prime-time games. There’s an extra layer of stress and strain that goes into all of these stand-alone games and all of this travel early in the season.”

Rodgers is coming off missing an entire season due to an Achilles injury and will turn 41 in early December. “Let’s be realistic about it, you’re putting him in a position where this 40-year-old body is going to be strained beyond reasonable limits from all these games on short [rest],” Florio said. “…It’s dangerous to Aaron Rodgers and its disadvantageous to the Jets and it compromises the integrity of the game.

“You still have an obligation to balance things out. It can’t be ‘let’s have the best possible TV audiences, that can’t be the driving factor…It should be a fair balance for all teams…At some point it’s just going to be whatever we think every week is going to lead to the biggest ratings and the biggest numbers and the most money, that’s what we’re going to do and it’s unfair to certain teams to do that.”

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