Down goes Francesa. Down goes Francesa. Down goes Francesa.
Ok, maybe a win in the New York ratings book doesn’t capture the world’s attention the way Muhammad Ali did when he knocked out Smokin’ Joe Frazier. However, when a sports radio icon dominates the ratings the way Mike Francesa has on WFAN, and points out frequently how strong the show’s performance has been, and then suffers a head to head defeat against a local sports radio competitor for the first time ever, it’s a big deal.
For the June book (May 25-June 21), the Michael Kay Show on 98.7FM ESPN New York beat Francesa between the hours of 3p-6:30p ET. Kay finished with a 5.2 to 5.1 advantage among Men 25-54. Francesa was not on vacation during this time and WFAN did have the benefit of airing New York Yankees baseball.
Another impressive note worth pointing out, over the past 12 months, Kay’s show has gained ground in the ratings. The program has added seven tenths of a ratings point and three ratings positions. Francesa’s program during that time has declined by eight tenths while slipping from second to fourth. The separation in daily cume between the two stations was also very minimal for June (6,600). It’s usually 20-30 thousand higher in favor of WFAN.
The June ratings win marks the first head to head victory for the Kay Show since it began airing on 98.7FM ESPN New York in 2002. The show has consistently rated in the top 10 but hadn’t been able to unseat WFAN’s afternoon ratings king.
Making the accomplishment even more interesting is the timing. Earlier this week Kay talked to Bob Klapisch of The Record. When asked about his program and how it measured up to Francesa’s he said, ““Our show is quantifiably better than Mike’s. It’s funny, not one guy bloviating. It’s three guys (along with Don La Greca and Peter Rosenberg) and laughing, having a good time. We don’t dread it and that comes across to our listeners. We’ve made unbelievable inroads. People are noticing.”
Kay continued, “I used to listen to Mike and Mad Dog all the time. It was innovative and fun; you had to listen. But I defy anyone who listens to our show to say it’s not better. There’s no way that if Mike started today, he would be No. 1 in the market.”
Although Kay has reason to celebrate June, the news wasn’t all bad for Francesa, In fact, his show did finish ahead for the spring book (April-May-June). During that three month stretch, WFAN generated a 5.7 between the hours of 3p-6:30p which was good enough for 4th place. Kay registered a 4.9, placing 6th.
The latest ratings news have to be concerning for WFAN officials because it’s a position they’re unfamiliar being in. They may point to Mike’s show remaining strong from 1p-6:30p, which is when it airs in its entirety, but never before have they finished behind Kay during the heart of afternoon drive.
With Francesa exiting in the next few months it’s natural to wonder how long the audience will stay faithful when they sense the end of the show is near. The timing is also problematic because Francesa is off for the majority of the summer for vacation. That provides Kay with an opportunity to steal a few meters and build on his recent momentum.
Given the latest developments, the pressure CBS Radio New York executives are under will only intensify. They’re tasked with finding a dynamic afternoon show that has the potential to replace Francesa, and excite New York sports radio listeners in 2018 and beyond. Adding to the challenge is undergoing a massive lineup change while the competition rides the highest wave of their broadcasting existence.
For now, Michael Kay, Don LaGreca and Peter Rosenberg have earned their moment in the sun. June was a memorable book for the talented trio. Now it’s their job to stay there a while and prove it wasn’t a one month fluke. In the words of Jim Ross, business is about to pick up!