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The Ticket Leads The Present; The Fan Looks To The Future

Jason Barrett

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If you only look at what appears on the surface, sometimes you can miss developing trends. In Dallas, there are some signs to keep an eye on that could impact the landscape of the ratings race in the future.

At this time though, The Ticket is on a roll with Men 25-54. That’s especially evident in mornings where The Musers continue to deliver double digit ratings and one of the best performances in the format across the country. What Jeff Catlin and his team have done to perform at an elite level over a consistent period is very impressive.

However, as we’ve seen over the past few months, the ratings can turn quickly in the Metroplex. It was only this past fall and last summer when The Fan was in front.

If you’re inside the offices of The Ticket, you’d attribute The Fan’s success to play by play. Being the radio partner of the Dallas Cowboys, and Texas Rangers certainly has its ratings benefits. You’d also remind advertisers of how the two stations measure up during prime time programs when play by play isn’t a central part of the conversation. The winter ratings would seem to support The Ticket’s case.

But with baseball back in full swing, that’s a positive for The Fan. As I’ve said before, there’s no reason for them to apologize for providing games that local fans want to hear. With the Rangers expected to be in contention, that local enthusiasm and interest should carry over to the radio station’s weekday programs.

Despite the play by play details, I was curious to see how Men 18-34 were responding to The Fan, and what the radio station’s performance looked like over the past three years. The reason that’s important is that the competition between the two top sports radio brands has become stronger over the past few years, and The Fan skews younger with its weekday shows.

To become a premier brand in a market takes a lot of time, and persistence. By endearing the brand and its personalities to younger listeners, Gavin Spittle is counting on a long-term play for his brand.

If there’s a positive for the radio station to hang their hat on, it’s that they’ve been the preferred sports radio option among Males 18-34 for the past 14 months. That should give the brand great confidence about its future.

Additionally, when you look at the past three years among Men 25-54, The Fan has grown from a 2.6 (16th) in March of 2014, to a 2.8 (14th) in March of 2015, to a 3.6 (9th) in March 2016. That shows that they’re making strides.

It’s customary to want to win each ratings book, but if you’re inside the halls at The Fan, you have to acknowledge that The Ticket is a dominant force and they’re going to enjoy some wins. To knock them down to #2 status on a regular basis is going to be a very difficult task. They’ve established a strong brand and lineup, and have more than two decades of success in the format.

That’s why The Fan’s connection to the younger demo is important. If they can grow with the younger demographic and remain healthy in the current environment, that bodes well for their future. A Rangers world series and Cowboys Super Bowl probably wouldn’t hurt either!

Although the signs for The Fan are strong with their younger audience, and the consistent growth during the past three years has to make them feel like they’re headed in the right direction, the one area that can’t be overlooked is the powerful performance of The Ticket among Men 25-54. What The Musers, Hardline, Norm Hitzges and Donovan Lewis have produced this month, and during the first quarter of 2016 is worthy of a tip of the cap.

Sometimes when you compete head to head, it’s difficult to acknowledge a competitor’s success. But, just as The Ticket had to accept the fact that they were knocked from the top spot last summer and fall, The Fan has to do the same this month.

The beauty of it is that this is last month’s performance. It’s already forgotten. All eyes now will turn towards the April book.

If you’re at The Ticket, you’re looking to keep the momentum building during the weekday shows, and hoping that the lead you’ve built over the past three months is strong enough to sustain the return of Rangers baseball. The Ticket has won in the spring and summer in the past despite the challenge, and I’m sure they expect to do the same this time around.

For The Fan, you’re counting on a great lift from the Rangers, continued quality and consistency from your talk shows, and the return of the Cowboys this summer/fall. When all of those things are clicking, the radio station gets a big ratings boost, and that makes the competition a close one. It’s even helped them ascend to the top of the mountain.

Now let’s take a closer look at the head to head comparisons for March:

M-F 6a-10a:

  • The Ticket = 10.6 (1st)
  • ESPN 103.3 = 4.0 (6th)
  • The Fan = 3.5 (7th)

*** The Musers remain the highest rated sports program in the market and perform higher than the two other morning shows combined. Even scarier is that the show picked up a half a ratings point between February and March. For Shan and RJ, they’ve closed the gap on Mike and Mike. Their show also added a half of a point and climbed from 8th to 7th. Mike and Mike meanwhile gained one tenth but dropped from 5th to 6th. Overall, three sports morning shows in the Top 7 is really impressive, and speaks to the Dallas market’s appetite for sports radio content during the morning commute.

M-F 10a-3p:

  • The Ticket = 6.9 (2nd)
  • The Fan = 3.3 (10th)
  • ESPN 103.3 = 1.3 (26th)

*** Norm Hitzges and Donovan Lewis are on a roll and gained three tenths of a point and rose from 3rd to 2nd. G-Bag Nation did return back to the Top 10 thanks to adding eight tenths of a point. ESPN 103.3 continues to lag far behind. They were down two tenths and lost two ranking positions.

M-F 3p-7p:

  • The Ticket = 8.1 (1st)
  • The Fan = 4.6 (5th)
  • ESPN 103.3 = 2.0 (22nd)

*** The Ticket took the top spot again, but were flat. Given that they’re turning in an 8 share, I’m sure they don’t mind. For Ben and Skin, this was a great month. The show returned to the Top 5, and grew from a 3.2 to 4.6. That was the best improvement month to month out of any of the key weekday 6a-7p shows. For ESPN 103.3 they’re down one tenth and two ranking positions.

M-F 7p-11p:

  • The Fan = 7.1 (1st)
  • The Ticket = 2.1 (20th)
  • ESPN 103.3 = 2.1 (20th)

*** The Fan has to feel great about this. K&C Masterpiece finished 1st and were ahead of The Ticket and ESPN 103.3 by five full points. The Ticket doesn’t put a lot of stock in their evening programming, but there does remain interest in evening listening in the market, and K&C have tapped into that and deserve credit for seizing the opportunity.

M-F 6a-7p:

  • The Ticket = 8.4 (1st)
  • The Fan = 3.8 (7th)
  • ESPN 103.3 = 2.4 (16th)

*** A big month again for The Ticket. That’s now back to back months in 1st place. They’ve started the year with nothing less than a 2nd place finish which has to give the talent and sales team a lot of confidence heading into the spring, summer and fall. On the other hand, The Fan has to feel good about gaining nine tenths of a point month to month. That’s a positive sign heading into the April book. ESPN 103.3 was flat month to month but lost one ranking position. 

M-SU 6a-Mid:

  • The Ticket = 6.4 (2nd)
  • The Fan = 3.6 (9th)
  • ESPN 103.3 = 2.2 (19th)

*** The Ticket has finished 3rd, 2nd and 2nd over the past three months, and are comfortably ahead in this matchup. The real question will be, how does The Fan cut into that lead with the return of baseball? If the Rangers perform well, their play by play should help The Fan close the gap. That said, the radio station still grew by eight tenths during the past month so that’s great news entering the spring book. Last but not least, ESPN 103.3 had their worst performance of the quarter, losing six tenths month to month.

Sports Radio News

The Musers Mock Jim Nantz’s Farewell To Nick Faldo

“I’m telling you, Jim, he made it worse with his funeral director voice,” said co-host George Dunham.

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Nick Faldo

On Sunday, CBS Golf analyst Nick Faldo called his final tournament with CBS after sixteen years with the network. He was poised in the tower above the 18th green with Jim Nantz as he said his final goodbyes. It was an emotional moment that The Musers on The Ticket in Dallas had to comment on.

In the message, Faldo clearly has an issue getting thru the moment while Nantz tries to comfort his friend and buy him some time to regain his composure. However, The Musers thought it wasn’t helpful at all.

“I’m telling you, Jim, he made it worse with his funeral director voice,” said co-host George Dunham. “It sounded like he was going to say, ‘now, it’s time to send you to your happy place’. When he said that and when Nick said, in tears, ‘I’m ready,’ that made it sound like Jim was putting him to sleep.”

“(Australian accent) Go ahead and smother me, Jim,” Gordon Keith quipped, “go ahead and take that pillow over there and choke me out right now.”

“Nick are you ready for us to unplug the life support machine?” asked Dunham.

“Yeah, kick that thing right out the wall, mate.”

Dunham would later say, “I don’t think that any famous broadcaster has ever signed off in tears, proclaiming ‘I’m ready, I’m ready'”.

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Sports Radio News

Keyshawn Johnson: ‘I Don’t Like Sunday Night Baseball Putting Mics on Players’

“I’ve got an IFB in my ear and I’m trying to pay attention to the game and I’ve got air traffic control talking to me. There’s no way you can tell me that doesn’t affect you.”

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Most people seem to really like Sunday Night Baseball adding mics to players in the field this season. Fans and critics alike have commended ESPN for giving fans access that they have never had before. But don’t expect Keyshawn Johnson to join that praise chorus anytime soon.

“I don’t like the interaction with broadcast teams talking to players during the game, in the field,” he said on Monday morning’s edition of Keyshawn, JWill and Max.

The ESPN Radio morning man is convinced that eventually, the in-game conversations are going to cause a costly error.

Freddie Coleman, who was filling in for both Jay Williams and Max Kellerman, played a clip from Sunday night’s game for Johnson. In the clip, listeners could hear the Padres’ newly acquired slugger Juan Soto pleading with a ball hit by Cody Bellinger to stay in the park during the team’s 0-4 shutout loss to the Dodgers.

“I don’t like that as a player,” Johnson said. “I know the fans love it.”

He said that when he sees players mic’d up and answering a question during the game, he is constantly worried about how it will affect what happens on the field. He said he felt some empathy for the fielder on the mic once the ball is put into play, because if it comes that fielder’s way and he is distracted, the instant reaction from the crowd will be to question the player’s effort or ability rather than ask if the distraction is worth it.

Coleman pointed out that there is some very famous video of Keyshawn Johnson during his playing career mic’d up on the sidelines. Johnson defended NFL Films, saying that getting live sound of a game is very different than what Major League Baseball is making players do.

“That’s different than interacting with Karl Ravech and company in the booth. I’ve got an IFB in my ear and I’m trying to pay attention to the game and I’ve got air traffic control talking to me. There’s no way you can tell me that doesn’t affect you.”

The closing months of the regular season as playoff races start to take shape are not the ideal times for networks to be having conversations with guys in the middle of the field. That doesn’t mean it is never good content. Keyshawn Johnson said that as a viewer, he would welcome in-game interviews during Spring Training and the All-Star Game. He just has trouble believing players are happy to participate.

“It’s cool. I’m not mad that it’s being done. I just wouldn’t like it as a player,” he said.

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Sports Radio News

Rob Hipp Named New Voice of North Dakota State

In addition to his role as the play-by-play announcer for Bison football and basketball, Hipp will also serve as the Director of Operations for Bison 1660.

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Rob Hipp is the new “Voice of the Bison”.

The former Sam Houston State play-by-play announcer will serve in the same capacity for North Dakota State. He replaces Jeff Culhane, who left the position for a similar role at Florida State earlier this summer.

In addition to his role as the play-by-play announcer for Bison football and basketball, Hipp will also serve as the Director of Operations for Bison 1660.

“It’s an incredible opportunity and blessing to be here. The word that comes to mind with everything associated with NDSU is excellence,” Hipp said. “Matt Larsen, Coach (Matt) Entz, Coach (David) Richman, the support staff and everyone with Bison Sports Properties led by Josh Hartman made this a transparent and smooth process. I also want to thank Tom Boman with Learfield as well as Nancy Odney and the great people at Radio FM Media. My family and I are proud to be in Fargo!”

“We are thrilled to have Rob join the team at Radio FM Media as the new voice of the Bison, Director of Operations for Bison 1660-92.7, and Sports Director for our group,” said Radio FM COO Nancy Odney. “Rob is a very talented play-by-play announcer and a top sports radio host. His creative energy, new content, and passion for sports and broadcasting is going to be an exciting addition to the team.”

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