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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.

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John Sterling: Retirement ‘Was Not a Hard Decision’

“Anyway, I just don’t want to do any more work.”

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John Sterling
Courtesy: Rich Schultz, Getty Images

John Sterling, the radio play-by-play announcer for the New York Yankees over the last 36 years, is retiring from the role effective immediately. Sterling has called 5,420 regular-season Yankees games and 211 postseason Yankees games and has made an indelible mark on the team, Major League Baseball and sports media as a whole. He will be honored in a pregame ceremony on Saturday, April 20 and will also visit the WFAN Yankees radio booth during the game, in addition to partaking in a pregame press conference.

Upon the news of Sterling’s retirement becoming official after it had been reported by various media outlets, he joined Evan & Tiki in afternoon drive on WFAN to explain the rationale behind his decision. Since the Yankees did not qualify for the MLB postseason last year for the first time since 2016, Sterling was not working in October and found that he had more time to live his life happily, consuming sports from afar by watching games and engaging with talk programming.

“I guess if I was smarter – and I’m not – if I was smarter, I would have done this March 1 or March 31,” Sterling said. “During the winter, the Yankees – obviously you know we didn’t make the playoffs – we were free October 3, and October, November, December, January, February, March – I lived my life as happy as I’ve lived it, including listening to you guys all the time and watching all the games.”

At the beginning of the season while being interviewed for a piece by The Athletic, Sterling remarked that the end of his broadcast career was forthcoming. Afternoon drive co-host Tiki Barber asked Sterling if it was a difficult decision for him to make, a decision that he reportedly informed Yankees and WFAN management about late last week as reported by Andrew Marchand of The Athletic.

“It was not a hard decision, and I can’t wait for it to finally happen,” Sterling said. “As I’ve told my family – I’ve got four kids who are grown – and my friends, I’ve said, ‘Now we can have dinner anytime,’ so that’s how I feel.”

Sterling acknowledged Audacy New York market president Chris Oliviero during his on-air appearance, conveying that he is an intelligent and well-meaning leader. Over the last several seasons, he has cut back his schedule to calling home games and select road games. He was on the Yankees’ season-opening road trip where the team faced the Houston Astros and Arizona Diamondbacks in seven games. Afterwards, Sterling called the team’s opening homestand against the Toronto Blue Jays and Miami Marlins and was behind the microphone for his final contest on April 7, a game the Yankees won 8-3.

“I don’t want to get up in the afternoon and have to go somewhere,” Sterling said. “In fact, I’d much rather listen to you guys and then listen to the game. I can watch 800 games here; in fact, that’s my plan. I’m going to watch and listen to 162 Yankee games, Mets games, all the games on Turner and ESPN, all the games on MLB.”

Afternoon drive co-host Evan Roberts concluded the interview by offering Sterling a guest spot on their radio show any time he would like. As a former talk show host in Baltimore, New York City and Atlanta, he articulated his staunch belief in that facet of sports media and told them to give him a call any time they wanted him on. Before that though, Roberts said he is glad Sterling did not retire before the season started because the Yankees look like they could win the World Series.

With a 12-4 overall record, the Yankees currently have the most wins in Major League Baseball and feature a young, dynamic lineup anchored by Aaron Judge and Juan Soto. Sterling concurred that the team is looking good thus far but that there is a long season to go. As the Yankees look to earn their 28th World Series championship, Sterling will be watching the team from afar and feeling the fervent zeal and passion of the Yankees fans.

“You know I’m the greatest sports fan in history, and I’ve got TVs all over the joint, and I should have stopped then,” Sterling said. “Anyway, I just don’t want to do any more work. I’ve worked for 64 years, and in July I’ll be 86, so let’s face it, my time has come.”

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John Sterling Retiring from New York Yankees Radio Broadcasts

A press conference is tentatively scheduled for Saturday from Yankee Stadium.

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John Sterling
Courtesy: Jim McIsaac, Newsday

Longtime New York Yankees radio play-by-play announcer John Sterling is stepping away from the broadcast booth, retiring from the role effective immediately. After 65 years behind the microphone, he will be taking part in a press conference scheduled for this Saturday at Yankee Stadium where he will officially call it a career. The team has announced that it will honor Sterling during a pregame ceremony taking place on Saturday, April 19. Additionally, Sterling will visit the WFAN Yankees radio booth during the 1:05 p.m. EST game against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Prior to the season, Sterling was on the team’s opening road trip to Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas and Chase Field in Phoenix, Ariz. and was behind the microphone for the team’s opening homestand. Suzyn Waldman has continued to work on the broadcasts throughout the year with play-by-play announcers Emmanuel Berbari and Justin Shackil. It is unknown who will take over as the full-time play-by-play announcer for the team if one ends up being named this season.

“I am a very blessed human being,” Sterling said in a statement. “I have been able to do what I wanted, broadcasting for 64 years. As a little boy growing up in New York as a Yankees fan, I was able to broadcast the Yankees for 36 years. It’s all to my benefit, and I leave very, very happy. I look forward to seeing everyone again on Saturday.”

Over the years on the air, Sterling has been the voice behind several iconic moments, including the team winning four World Series championships in five years. He has various signature calls that are customized for each player when they hit a home run, along with a prominent crescendo every time the team wins a ballgame. Sterling previously had a broadcasting streak of 5,060 consecutive games over 30 years and has established himself as a distinct hallmark of Yankees baseball. Throughout his time on the air, he called 5,420 regular-season Yankees games and 211 postseason games spanning from 1989 to 2024.

“Yankees radio will never quite sound the same without the signature voice, wit and humor of John Sterling,” WFAN said in a statement. “To generations of Bronx Bombers fans, he was a beloved companion that when you heard John, you knew it was time for baseball. Though he never wore the pinstripes, except of course for his fine tailored suits, he was one of the most colorful personalities in Yankees history and in all of New York City radio. All of us at WFAN tip our cap and salute our colleague and friend on a truly iconic career.”

Before Sterling was named the Yankees radio play-by-play announcer, he worked as a play-by-play announcer across various sports where he broadcast games for the New York Nets, New York Islanders and New York Raiders. Additionally, Sterling hosted a talk show on WMCA for seven years and also contributed to Yankees coverage as a studio pregame host on WMCA and WINS. He then spent time in Atlanta, Ga. as the host of a sports talk radio show on WSB Radio while also calling the Atlanta Hawks and Atlanta Braves for Turner Sports.

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Jessica Smetana: A Number of People are Unhappy Stugotz Didn’t Take WFAN Job

“…I’m not saying they would call it the ‘Taylor and Tony Show,’ but I am saying that there are a number of people that are very unhappy about this development.”

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Jon "Stugotz" Weiner
Courtesy: Audacy

Audacy announced on Monday morning that Ryan Hurley is joining the company as the brand manager of WFAN and Infinity Sports Network, news that came after speculation regarding the position continued to grow last week. Upon the revelation that Jon “Stugotz” Weiner turned down the job, he explained the situation on both The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz and Boomer & Gio. Upon the announcement of Hurley as the new hire at Audacy though, there was additional discussion surrounding his candidacy.

Meadowlark media program co-host Dan Le Batard revealed on Monday that there were people writing in over the weekend claiming that Audacy ultimately turned down Jon “Stugotz” Weiner rather than it being the other way around. Weiner expressed that it did not matter, stating that an offer was made and that he declined. Furthermore, he added that morning show co-host Gregg Giannotti was begging him to take the role, leading Le Batard to reminisce about Weiner’s days leading 790 The Ticket before it took the air.

“Who are these guys who are going to be celebrated here in our new – this would have been some of the guys that you would have fired upon getting to WFAN if you had taken the job,” Le Batard said. “Look man, did you not see what he did when he was program director here? He immediately put himself in drive time; he was not going to sit around.”

Weiner proceeded to explain the situation, remembering that Le Batard called a week before the station took the air and stated that he did not want to host the program alone. As a result, Weiner moved into afternoon drive with Le Batard and hired Craig Minervini to take over the midday slot with Joe Rose in the mornings. There was anticipation surrounding Weiner potentially returning to New York to have oversight over WFAN and Infinity Sports Network programming though as explained by Meadowlark Media host Jessica Smetana.

“There are a number of people – I won’t name names – who are very bummed that Stugotz didn’t get this job because they believed Stugotz would have taken them with him and given them the morning slot on WFAN,” Smetana said. “And I’m not saying they would call it the Taylor and Tony Show, but I am saying that there are a number of people that are very unhappy about this development.”

Smetana was referring to Meadowlark Media video producer Taylor Vippolis and multimedia producer Anthony Calatayud, both of whom were then displayed on camera. The show then revealed that it gave its “Gasbag of the Week” award to WFAN midday host Sal Licata after he criticized Juan Soto for going to the plate looking for a walk. Soto was at bat with two outs in the ninth inning and two runners on base as the Yankees were down 5-2 to the Miami Marlins. After he walked, the bases were loaded with Aaron Judge at the plate, but he ended up flying out at center field to end the game.

“Juan Soto has some of the best plate discipline in the history of the sport,” Le Batard said. “The pitch that he’s asking him to swing at is practically in the dirt, but if that’s not sports radio, I don’t know what is. ‘Don’t take a walk; do some damage.’”

“The Yankees are 12-4,” Weiner added. “I mean, honestly, how can I improve that show?”

Show producer Billy Gil contributed to the discussion and said that the midday show should be renamed, “Sal and something or another.” He then divulged an observation he made while watching the video clip of Licata host the midday program – which is called The Brandon Tierney and Sal Licata Show – alongside WFAN co-host Brandon Tierney.

“Honestly, I’m not saying this to cause a riot, I thought it was the same person arguing with himself and then just put on glasses,” Gil said. “I didn’t realize it was two people at the beginning.”

“Alright, let me see it again,” Le Batard replied. “Let me see it again and let me see if I see what Billy sees. You should do that bit incidentally. You should do Billy arguing with evil Billy where you just put on your glasses and argue the other side.”

As the show presented the clip again, there was a cacophony of laughter as the camera shot switched from Tierney to Licata. Once the clip ended, Le Batard asked Jeremy Taché how many times Soto has led Major League Baseball in walks. Taché discovered that Soto has been at the top of the league three times in walks and is just 25 years old, underscoring the widespread reputation he has garnered as one of the most talented hitters in the sport.

“Soto failed because he left the bases loaded for [Aaron] Judge,” Le Batard recapitulated. “I don’t think the Yankees don’t want to be in bases-loaded situations for Judge.”

“Taylor and Tony would have done a much better job,” Smetana replied. 

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