Two months into his final ratings book with WFAN, Mike Francesa is trailing The Michael Kay Show. Benefiting from a 14-year head start, WFAN regularly beat ESPN Radio’s New York affiliate since it launched in 2001, but in terms of afternoon drive, ESPN caught FAN.
Ratings for Mike Francesa and The Michael Kay Show have been neck and neck for over a year, as the two shows quarrel about whether or not to include their digital stream when determining a winner. After already beating Francesa in the first month of the current book, The Michael Kay Show beat him again in the second month, 7.5 to 6.9 with the stream included. In the final book before stepping down from his afternoon post on WFAN for the second time, it looks as if Francesa might finally have to admit defeat.
Remains to be seen is what’s next for Francesa, who will be without his daily afternoon show and no longer has an innovative app idea to promote. While the sports radio icon won’t be captaining WFAN’s weekday schedule in 2020, he did sign a three-year contract with their parent-company Entercom. A presence on their RADIO.COM app is expected, but details of how Francesa will contribute have not been shared.
During Francesa’s first retirement in 2018, The Michael Kay Show beat WFAN’s afternoon show Carlin, Maggie and Bart, 4.4 – 4.2, a far cry from the 6’s and 7’s both stations are currently pulling in. While The Kay Show eliminated their ratings gap with WFAN, the rest of 98.7 FM ESPN New York still has work to do.
In the 10am – 1pm timeslot, ESPN New York’s Humpty, Canty and Rothenberg trailed WFAN’s Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts by nearly three points, 5.1 to 8. Joe and Evan have the benefit of the market’s top-rated morning show as a local lead in, Boomer Esiason and Gregg Giannotti, who are currently number 1 even without their streaming audience. On ESPN New York, Humpty, Canty and Rothenberg follow the nationally syndicated Golic and Wingo which finished 12th in the market.
From 1 – 3pm, WFAN’s Maggie Gray and Bart Scott beat Stephen A. Smith’s national ESPN show 7.0 to 5.3.
In an attempt to narrow the ratings gap during their shows not featuring Michael Kay, ESPN New York is preparing to add two local hours and two hosts from WFAN to their lineup.
According to Andrew Marchand of The New York Post, ESPN is set to acquire Bart Scott from WFAN when his contract expires at the end of the year. The appeal of continuing to do local radio, while adding multiple TV opportunities on ESPN has Scott ready to depart WFAN for their rival station.
Marchand also reports ESPN New York is likely to go local from 1 – 3pm, potentially pairing Scott with current evening host Alan Hahn in the timeslot. Hahn previously worked on ESPN’s 10am – 1pm show until he was replaced by Dave Rothenberg in 2017. Hahn departed the midday show to focus on his Knicks television work with MSG. The 1 – 3pm hours might be more manageable for Hahn and his MSG work than the 10am – 1pm show.
If Hahn does move back to a weekday radio show, it frees up ESPN’s evening timeslot. Insert former WFAN host number two. According to Marchand, the evening hours on ESPN New York could be filled by Scott’s ex-WFAN partner, Chris Carlin.
The New York sports radio jostling is somewhat unprecedented, especially for WFAN which remained stagnant from 2008 until Craig Carton’s arrest in 2017. Even with WFAN’s recent lineup shuffling, the stations have rarely exchanged hosts from their weekday lineup. Now ESPN could be set to nab two recent WFAN talkers in Scott and Carlin, while the Fan looks to fill their own gaps.
Joe and Evan could move into WFAN’s afternoon timeslot, although it’s unlikely they’ll be there for long with Benigno planning to retire after next year. Maggie Gray, the soon to be last person standing from the CMB experiment, will likely takeover WFAN’s midday show with a co-host. WFAN nighttime host John Jastremski and CBS Sports Radio’s Marc Malusis appear to be leading candidates for the gig.
With WFAN needing to overhaul their lineup again, jockeying between the two New York sports radio stations will continue. But this time, WFAN might be unequivocally chasing ESPN New York’s afternoon ratings.
NESN’s Dave O’Brien Says National Networks “Blew It” By Not Hiring Dennis Eckersley
“I don’t know how they blew it as badly as they did but Dennis Eckersley should have been a national icon… they made a mistake on that. I hope somebody regrets it.”
On Monday, Dennis Eckersley decided to make it known that this season would be his last with NESN in the booth. He mentioned that after 50 years in baseball, it was time to go be with the grandchildren in San Diego.
His broadcast partner for a lot of those years in the NESN booth was Dave O’Brien. On the latest Sports Media Mayhem podcast, O’Brien joined show host Alex Reimer to talk about the retirement of Eckersley. Reimer pointed out that it took awhile before Eckersley became the main color analyst for the team. O’Brien remembered the time well.
“When he started, he was pre- and post- and he did that most of his career at NESN,” said O’Brien. “It was really, only the last six or seven years that he really started to get on as a game analyst.”
O’Brien was named the lead play-by-play announcer for NESN’s Red Sox coverage in 2016 which is about the same time Eckersley slid into the role of game analyst. In the time since, O’Brien has seen the work of Eckersley up close and is floored that he was working for a regional sports network and not somewhere more nationally prominent.
“I think the national people totally blew it on Dennis Eckersley,” blurted O’Brien. “And that includes Turner. They had an opportunity, I can say that because a lot of those people there now didn’t make the decision. He should have been the lead analyst doing national games. He should have been on ESPN on Sunday Night Baseball or FOX. I don’t know how they blew it as badly as they did but Dennis Eckersley should have been a national icon… they made a mistake on that. I hope somebody regrets it.”
Sal Paolantonio Not Interested In Trying Ayahuasca To Better Understand Aaron Rodgers
“Halucinagenics have been at the center of a lot of conversations about Aaron Rodgers lately.”
Dan Patrick is a very good interviewer. He asks the questions he knows his audience wants answered. He also makes a habit out of throwing out questions to his guests that they never see coming. That was the case on Tuesday for ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio.
Paolantonio joined the Dan Patrick Show to discuss Pro Football Hall of Fame voting and the new NFL season. That is not what the host hit him with out of the gate.
The first question from Patrick to Paolantonio was “Just to relate to Aaron Rodgers, would you be willing to try ayahuasca?”.
Paolantonio was left speechless. All he could do was laugh and say “you got me on that one, Dan.”
Halucinagenics have been at the center of a lot of conversations about Aaron Rodgers lately. The Green Bay quarterback recently said on a podcast that experimenting with ayahuasca opened him up to be ready to succeed both on the field and as a leader. He credits the experience with laying the foundation for his 2021 MVP season.
Patrick pushed the issue challenging Paolantonio to beat Andrea Kremer to the experience.
“My money is on the fearless Andrea Kremer,” Paolantonio shot back.
For the record, Kremer responded to the challenge on Twitter.
Paul Finebaum: ESPN, FOX Have Power To Tank EA Sports College Football Video Game
“Paul Finebaum had high praise for what the video game has meant to college football.”
The power brokers in college football now are the media. In particular, it is ESPN, who is set to take over the SEC’s media rights and FOX, who controls the Big Ten’s media rights. Paul Finebaum said recently on the Dynasty Mode podcast that those relationships give the two networks major control over college football.
Dynasty Mode is a podcast about EA Sports’ popular college football video game series hosted by BSM writers Arky Shea and Demetri Ravanos. Finebaum told the pair that if either ESPN and FOX or the Big Ten and the SEC don’t want to work together, the video game, which will return to store shelves in 2023 after a ten-year absence from the market, could be doomed.
“We’re a year removed from an absolute certainty, that was a 12 school playoff for the CFP, getting shot down for the very same reason,” he said. “So if they can shoot down the most important entity in college sports, I think they can shoot down this.”
Paul Finebaum had high praise for what the video game has meant to college football. He told Shea and Ravanos that he hopes power brokers at schools and networks realize that.
“I think it’s been very important and I don’t know how many people that are in those power five seats think about stuff like that.”
In the early 2000s, Tony Bruno brought a fictionalized version of his radio show to EA Sports’ Madden NFL series. Finebaum said he had not been approached yet by EA to do something similar for the new college football video game.
“I’m really surprised they haven’t because it would be a big money-making operation, at least for me. I don’t know about for them, but I am happy to participate,” Finebaum joked.
He added that the real value to EA Sports would be his audience. They could give the game a level of authenticity that many fans have missed as college football becomes a more corporate entity.
“You can replace me, but you can’t replace the callers. They are the most unique, and I think it takes a lot of work to nurture callers like that. I’m not campaigning for EA because I have people to do that for me,” he said. “Point being, what makes college sports what it is? It’s the fans. It’s not the fat cats that buy the one million or two million dollar suites. It’s not the people sitting with the president. It’s the rank and file that probably never get to campus.”