In the latest spring ratings book in New York both WFAN and 98.7 ESPN NY had reason to feel optimistic. For WFAN, they once again took care of business in the coveted Men 25-54 demographic. ‘Boomer and Carton’ and ‘Beningo and Roberts’ won their respective dayparts, and ratings king Mike Francesa stayed in front of ESPN NY’s combo of ‘Hahn and Humpty’ and Michael Kay from 1p-6:30p with a 6.7 to 3.6 advantage.
However, not all was lost for ESPN NY. In fact, quite the opposite. The brand experienced growth year to year and quarter to quarter with each of their weekday shows. What I want to show you are some signs that I noticed that show the radio station trending upward unlike where they were 12-18 months ago.
For example, Mike and Mike, finished in the Top 10 with Men 25-54 for the spring book. They were 13th at the same time last year. Dan Le Batard who signed on last September, performed higher this spring than Colin Cowherd did last spring. Hahn and Humpty which replaced Mike Lupica last August, finished 12th. That was the best showing in their time slot in over 3 years (they’re up over a half of a point in the past 12 months). And Michael Kay’s show, which added Peter Rosenberg last September, came in 9th. The show was 11th last spring.
The spring book also represented the first time in the history of the Michael Kay Show where the program beat Mike Francesa head to head with Men 18-34. From 3p-6:30p Kay’s program did a 3.1 to Francesa’s 2.9. The difference is even better from 4p-6:30p when Rosenberg enters the mix. Kay’s show during that 2.5 hour block was ahead of Francesa 3.4 to 3.0.
To be fair, Men 18-34 aren’t the money demo that Men 25-54 is, but it shows that the younger listening audience isn’t as loyal to WFAN as others before them have been. That’s an opening that I’m sure Traug Keller, Tim McCarthy and Justin Craig at ESPN New York are looking to take advantage of. It’s an area that I’m sure Mark Chernoff and Chris Olivero at CBS will look closer at next year when figuring out who makes the most sense to replace Francesa.
For now, WFAN’s executives and programming team have to feel quite pleased with their performance. Their sales team should continue to prosper from the station’s powerful performance with Men and Adults 25-54, and their talent are likely enjoying a nice quarterly bonus. The only complaint has to be a dud of a season courtesy of the New York Yankees.
But while things may appear comfortable right now, change is inevitable. With Francesa’s departure less than 18 months away, that has to give CBS officials cause for concern. Replacing Mike’s ratings and revenues are no easy task, especially as the competition continues to gain momentum.
For ESPN New York, they know all about change. They were forced to make a number of moves last summer/fall to improve the station’s performance, and they’re starting to see evidence that those decisions have been viewed favorably by local listeners. The real question is, will more of them be needed? Or will improvements from their current lineup, the Knicks, Jets and Rangers, and Francesa’s departure be enough to cause a drastic shift in the marketplace?
We will learn a lot about the future of both of these brands over the next 18 months. It’s a battle that figures to be very interesting.