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The February Sports Radio Ratings in Dallas

The February ratings are in for Dallas, and overall it was a really strong month for The Ticket. The Fan has undergone some post-football struggles, but when you look at the way the radio station has performed year to year, they’re delivering at a higher clip than they were previously. ESPN 103.3 meanwhile continues to sit in third place, but continues to have some momentum with their national programming.

Let’s kick things off by looking at the overall performance M-SU 6a-Mid with Men 25-54.

  • The Ticket = 6.3 (2nd)
  • The Fan = 2.8 (tied for 11th)
  • ESPN 103.3 = 2.3 (20th)

*** The Ticket gained a point from January to February, and grew from 3rd to 2nd. It’s clear that their content outside of football season is a major attraction. Interesting enough, they’re up almost two points from the fall, and nearly double year to year. That indicates that they could’ve gained a new meter or two. Whatever the case may be, they’re on fire right now…..for The Fan, it’s clear that the Fall is their high point of the year, the spring and summer see a lift too due to the return of baseball, and the winter is a slower period. That’s consistent with a lot of stations in the format….ESPN 103.3 meanwhile has been consistent the past year, and this is the closest they’ve been to catching The Fan, but that’s more due to The Fan’s dip, not 103.3 rising.

Next up, M-F 6a-7p – when each station’s prime time lineups go head to head.

  • The Ticket = 8.2 (1st)
  • The Fan = 2.9 (10th)
  • ESPN 103.3 = 2.4 (tied for 15th)

*** It’s supposed to be the slower period of the year and a time when the numbers decline, but for The Ticket that’s not the case. They go up nearly two points from their M-SU 6a-Mid to M-F 6a-7p which tells you that their key shows are carrying the radio station. Month to month they were up a point and a half. That’s extremely impressive given that the period after the Super Bowl is usually a tougher one for sports talkers….as for The Fan, they dropped a point, which again, is what happens in many markets. When baseball returns you’ll likely see them pick up momentum once again and make it a tighter race. For now though, The Ticket is comfortably ahead.

Now, let’s dive into the individual dayparts. First up, morning drive M-F 6a-10a.

  • The Ticket = 10.1 (1st)
  • ESPN 103.3 = 3.9 (5th)
  • The Fan = 3.0 (tied for 8th)

*** Before we dissect this daypart, a tip of the cap to The Musers. They’ve been #1 for ten of the past eleven months, and continue to perform like one of the best sports talk shows in the country. The only time they weren’t #1 recently was during the Holiday book, and even then they were 2nd. They are operating on a different level than every show in the market…..For ESPN 103.3 this is a great story. They’ve been in the Top 5 in back to back months. Mornings has been the best performing daypart on the radio station…..for The Fan, they’re inside the Top 10 which is the highest ranking for any of the station’s key dayparts but they’re still paying the price for the winter months. Shan and RJ are a very good show and should reverse this trend in the coming months, but for now, they’re dealing with a short-term setback.

From mornings we shift to middays M-F 10a-3p

  • The Ticket = 6.6 (3rd)
  • The Fan = 2.5 (14th)
  • ESPN 103.3 = 1.5 (24th)

*** The Ticket has seen middays growing strongly over the past few months. They’re up over a point from January, up two points from December, and up three points from November. If there’s one thing for Program Director Jeff Catlin to feel really good about, it’s that this timeslot has been experiencing improvement ever since Donovan Lewis was permanently added to the mix alongside Norm Hitzges. The station’s one concern is that at this point last year, they were turning in high two’s and low to mid three’s, so the focus going forward has to be on maintaining the recent surge, and not losing big momentum when baseball season begins….for The Fan, once again they’re experiencing post-football fatigue, and out of the top 10 for the first time in six months, but the positive is that in one month’s time, they should start to see a bigger lift. At this point last year, the station grew by nearly two points between February and April….for 103.3, this is the weakest performing daypart on the radio station.

To wrap up the weekday prime shows, we focus on afternoon drive M-F 3p-7p.

  • The Ticket = 8.1 (1st)
  • The Fan = 3.2 (tied for 10th)
  • ESPN 103.3 = 2.3 (20th)

*** Once again, another big showing for The Ticket, this time from “The Hardline”. The show gained two points month to month and has improved by almost five points year to year. That’s incredible. However, just as I cautioned not to celebrate early to the midday shows, the same holds true for afternoons. At this point last year, they were in 11th and turning in a 3 share. The key is to keep those meters engaged and not tuning out once baseball season returns….for the Fan, Ben and Skin are in the Top 10 but did lose a little more than a point once football season expired. The challenge going forward is to bring back those people who have taken a timeout from the radio station during the dead zone of February. When the Rangers games start hitting the airwaves, the afternoon show should see a lift. The slot grew between one and two points last year but based on recent performances, the fall is when the boys produce their highest totals. …for 103.3, they’re pretty consistent in the low to mid two shares, and barring any changes, that should continue going forward.

Overall, when you evaluate a sports radio station’s success, you don’t do it on a monthly basis. You try to look at each quarter, the full year’s performance, and you make sure your advertiser’s understand why it pays to stick with the brand through all of its highs and lows. 103.3 doesn’t change a lot over the span of twelve months but in the case of The Ticket and The Fan, they both have peaks and valleys.

For example, in the Fall book, The Fan had a stretch of three months in a row where they either tied or beat The Ticket M-SU 6a-Mid. That’s huge for them. Now though, The Ticket is back in control and experiencing a surge that’s going to be hard to stop until baseball rolls around and The Fan adds Texas Rangers cume onto the radio station.

What stands out again is the dominance of The Musers. Their performance propels The Ticket to the top of the ratings conversation time after time and when you finish #1 nearly every month for the past year, that speaks to the consistent quality of the show and the audience’s trust and admiration for what the program offers on a daily basis. Congrats to all involved with the show on a job well done.

Not to be ignored is how The Hardline delivered an 8 share and the midday programs on The Ticket continue their turnaround. If you’re inside the building at The Ticket, you’re telling everyone who will listen that when play by play isn’t a focus, the shows you provide perform on a much different level than your competitor.

That said, you can’t fault The Fan for wanting to offer Cowboys and Rangers games because they’re a destination for the local audience and a huge draw for advertisers. Any of the three stations would love to have their games on their airwaves.

If you’re at The Fan, you tip your cap to The Ticket this month, and direct your energy into creating a strong baseball strategy to fuel your growth over the next couple of months. You also remind people (clients) that it’s a marathon not a sprint, and the winter is when you slow down a little. If the numbers come up again in the spring/summer as they have in the past, this will be a speed bump, and the two horse race will become tighter again come the fall. If though the Rangers are bad, and/or the shows don’t create some tune-in appointments for the audience during the baseball season, then it’s going to be a challenge to overtake The Ticket.

One positive The Fan has going for themselves is that when you look at their M-F 6a-7p performance on a year to year basis, despite February being a slower period, they’ve gone up in each of the past three years. They were 18th in 2014, 15th in 2015, and 10th in 2016. That’s something to remind clients about. It speaks to the way the station continues to grow, even though month to month they stumbled.

Last but not least, for 103.3 you continue to reinforce to the buying community why Mike and Mike should be on their radar. Top 5 in the market in mornings, likely at a lower rate, is something the radio station can use to help its bottom line. If the station can figure out a way to elevate the afternoon show’s performance to a Top 10 finish, that could really make a difference for their narrative and ability to increase revenue.

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