In the sports radio industry, the fall book carries great significance. It’s that time of year when the NFL and College Football are in full swing, the MLB Playoffs and World Series take place, the NBA, NHL and College Basketball seasons begin, and the interest in sports radio listening peaks for most major markets. To assure the year ends on a high note, many brand managers install a no vacation policy for their top personalities between September-early December in order to try and capitalize on listening opportunities.
It’s during this period that advertisers determine which brands they’ll buy and how much they’ll spend in the following year. Each station makes their case for why they should receive a larger chunk of the advertising pie, gathering and sharing as much positive evidence as they can with clients to increase their confidence in purchasing time on their radio station’s airwaves.
Although some markets and stations perform higher than others, if you look across the nation, most brands are outperforming their prior results. That’s a great sign of growth for the sports format. There are also a few cities where multiple sports stations are thriving and building a case for ad dollars to be increased – Boston, Chicago and Dallas immediately come to mind.
It’s common for observers to compare the production of a market’s local sports talkers and determine a winner and loser but there are tons of stations not airing sports programming who are also reeling in listeners from the M25-54 demo. That leaves the total shares and ad dollars for sports brands lower which is a much bigger challenge for the format. Fortunately sports radio has been growing and making an impact which further confirms why advertisers should be investing in it.
On that note, here’s what we learned from 15 markets in the 2017 Fall book!
- It’s beginning to sound like a broken record because it happens quarter after quarter, but there is no hotter sports radio market right now than Boston. WEEI and 98.5 The Sports Hub are engaged in a battle where the next quarter hour of listening could determine who wins the week. The talent levels on both stations are strong, the market’s teams are winning and creating nonstop storylines for audiences to sink their teeth into and the local competition remains a fascinating follow to those on the outside looking in. For the fall, WEEI earned huge wins in mornings and middays, while The Hub retained its advantage in afternoons, evenings and full week. Singling out some of those matchups, Kirk & Callahan turned in a 13 share to beat Toucher & Rich by eight tenths of a point. The duo have won the ratings in 10 of the past 12 months and have won three straight quarters against The Hub. Also earning a victory in the fall was the trio of Glenn Ordway, Lou Merloni and Christian Fauria who finished ahead of The Hub’s Scott Zolak and Marc Bertrand with a low 10 share to high 9 share. The Hub reversed the trend in afternoons with Felger & Massarotti delivering a 1st place finish thanks to a mid 14 share. WEEI’s Dale & Holley with Keefe was 2nd with a low 10 share. The Hub won the full week M-SU 6a-Mid with a low 11 share. WEEI was 2nd with a low 9 share. There’s some confusion in the market due to The Hub using a different streaming strategy which helps elevate some of their show numbers. WEEI also stands to benefit from additional listening courtesy of a Providence affiliate which delivers a number in the market, but regardless of the way you slice it up, both of these stations are kicking ass and a must buy for any local advertiser looking to reach a 25-54 male in the Boston area.
- The 4th quarter in the windy city belonged to 670 The Score who were 2nd for the full week (M-SU 6a-Mid) with a low 5 share, missing 1st place by a tenth of a point. The station was also 2nd in weekday prime (M-F 6a-7p) with a mid 5 share, once again losing out on 1st place by one tenth of a point. ESPN 1000 finished 5th in prime with a 5 share and 6th for the full week with a low 4 share. In the weekday dayparts, Mully & Hanley were 2nd in mornings with a mid 7 share, just missing 1st by one tenth of a point. ESPN 1000 , which features ESPN Radio‘s morning show (Mike & Mike/Wingo & Golic) was 7th in mornings with a low 4 share. In middays, Spiegel & Parkins earned a ratings win over Kap & Company and Carmen & Jurko. The Score’s midday team, which airs 9a-1p CT, was tied for 5th with a high 4 share. ESPN 1000 during those hours was 7th with a 4 share. One thing to be aware of, 1000 runs their shows during different hours so when you highlight them in their own timeslots of 9a-12p (Kaplan) and 12p-2p (C&J) they were 7th and 5th compared to The Score which was 5th and 3rd. Turning to afternoons, ESPN 1000 continued to receive a strong showing from Waddle & Silvy who finished 1st in the market with just under a 7 share between the hours of 2p-6p. The Score during those hours was tied for 3rd with a 5 share. Since though The Score’s afternoon show of Bernstein & Goff airs from 1p-6p I examined that window too. B&G remained in 3rd with a 5, where as 1000 lost a few tenth of their share but remained in 1st. Those hours for 1000 consist of 1-hour of C&J and 3 hours of W&S. Overall, a few more wins for The Score but a great story to share on both sides especially in a market as big and competitive as Chicago.
- One news item learned Friday evening, 92.3 The Fan finished the fall book in 1st place in afternoon drive with Men 25-54. The station’s afternoon team of Adam The Bull and Dustin Fox became the first sports show in the market to hit #1 since Mike Trivisonno of WTAM did it back when he hosted a sports program.
- It was another big quarter for 97.1 The Fan, the market’s leading sports station. The Fan finished 1st with Men 25-54 and 3rd with Adults 25-54. This is a market where Mike and Mike were extremely successful. The ESPN Radio morning show which has seen been replaced by Wingo and Golic closed out the year with a 1st place finishing in morning drive, 3rd with Adults. Also performing strongly for the quarter were Tim and Beanie who turned in a 3rd place finish in middays. The Fan did experience a slight decline in NFL play by play listening but given the rest of the station’s performance I’m sure program director Jay Taylor and his weekday crew will live with the results. What will be interesting to monitor in 2018 is if Trey and Golic can sustain Mike and Mike’s numbers and if 107.5 The Zone can make any type of dent on The Fan’s dominant run.
- As has been the case for the past couple of years, both Sports Radio 1310/96.7 The Ticket and 105.3 The Fan continued to excel. The Ticket wrapped up an impressive 2017 by winning the head to head matchup and remaining 1st with Men 25-54. Leading the way for The Ticket in their respective dayparts were The Musers, The Hardline, Norm & Donovan and Bad Radio. However, The Fan had much to celebrate too as Shan & RJ recorded their best showing to date, finishing 4th in morning drive. Ben & Skin produced the same finish for the station in afternoons. GBag Nation which airs 10a-3p was 7th in middays. Overall the station placed inside the Top 5 and has seen strong growth with Men 18-34, beating The Ticket for the past 5 months. Entering 2018 it’ll be interesting to see if The Fan can make up ground on The Ticket, one of the nation’s best rated sports radio brands.
- It was a big 4th quarter for the market’s leading sports brand 104.3 The Fan. The station closed out the year by finishing 1st overall in weekday prime (6a-7p) with Men 25-54 with just above an 8 and a half share. Paving the way for The Fan were the morning team of Mike Evans & Mark Schlereth who produced high 9 shares which was good enough for 1st. The afternoon team of Alfred Williams & Darren “DMac” McKee also came in 1st in PM drive with a high 8 share. Both drive time shows had a full point to two point advantage over 2nd place. The market’s other local sports stations Altitude Sports 950, Orange and Blue 760 and Mile High Sports were far behind in the ratings picture.
- A job well done by the crew at 92.9 FM ESPN. The radio station closed out December by finishing 1st in weekday prime (M-F 6a-7p) with Men 25-54 delivering slightly above a 10 share. Details for the full quarter were not available. Nonetheless, congrats to Dan Barron, Brad Carson and the Entercom Memphis team.
- KFAN continued it’s dominant run, finishing #1 with Men 25-54, #1 with Adults 25-54 and 2nd with the P6 demo. The station’s M-F 6a-7p with M25-54 was just under a 14 and a half and M-SU 6a-Mid was also above a 14 share which is insane. As a result, KFAN‘s local weekday shows led the way. Congrats to program director Chad Aboott and his weekday shows The Power Trip, Paul Allen, The Common Man and Dan Barreiro on a remarkable quarter.
- The headline most will latch onto is ‘Numbah One’ finishing ‘Numbah Two’ but the bigger story was WFAN overcoming a number of challenges to remain atop the local ratings. Despite cutting ties with Craig Carton after a high profile arrest, going thru transition in morning drive to find a new partner for Boomer Esiason, and preparing for longtime afternoon ratings winner Mike Francesa to exit the radio station, The Fan saw the quarter end with a 1st place finish in mornings, a 5th place showing in middays, and a 2nd place result in afternoons. Francesa’s show didn’t operate under normal M-F 3p-7p afternoon hours so when you look at that particular 3-7 window and his 1p-6:30p program, both times saw 2nd place finishes with the share fluctuating between a mid 6 and low 7 share for the two windows. Meanwhile, 98.7 ESPN New York received great news too. The Michael Kay Show delivered its best performance to date, tying for 3rd in afternoons with a 5 share. To only trail The Fan by a point and a half in the heart of drive time during a time when all were caught up in Francesa-Fever is impressive and should give the show momentum entering 2018. The one challenge 98.7 ESPN NY has is to find a way to elevate the performance of mornings and middays which were both in 12th with low 3 shares. One person that specifically deserves recognition during this quarter is Jerry Recco. The WFAN morning update anchor was pressed into emergency duty working alongside Esiason during a time when many expected The Fan to stumble as they searched for a permanent replacement for Carton. When the final report card shows a 1st place finish in the nation’s largest market despite all of the uncertainty around the radio station and morning show, that’s a testament to Recco doing an exceptional job and for that he deserves a tip of the cap.
- The fall book ended with Sports Radio 94 WIP cruising to a 2nd place finish with Men 25-54 with just above a 8 and a half share. Local competitor 97.5 The Fanatic finished 7th. Leading the way for WIP was Angelo Cataldi who produced a 10 share to come in 2nd. The Fanatic’s Anthony Gargano came in 7th. Another positive sign for WIP came in middays where Joe DeCamara & Jon Ritchie remained strong in 3rd place with just under a 7 and a half share. The Fanatic’s Harry Mayes & Jason Myrtetus turned in a 6th place performance in their first book together. The one area where 97.5 The Fanatic remains in front of WIP is in afternoons where Mike Missanelli was 2nd to WIP‘s combination of Jon Marks–Chris Carlin–Ike Reese who were 3rd. The big question entering 2018 in afternoons will be whether Marks & Reese can build on what Carlin & Reese started and surge past Missanelli. One other item worth sharing, WIP finished the fall book in 2nd place with the 6+ demo with just above a 7 share. Angelo Cataldi was #1 with 6+ in morning drive for the quarter.
- The fall produced some positive news for 1080 The Fan as the station remained the local sports ratings leader. The station was led by Isaac & Suke who delivered better than a 7 share. Dusty & Cam were above a 6 share in mornings. But there was also positive news for 102.9/750 The Game who saw the Dan Patrick Show produce a little better than a 5 share in mornings, which was less than a point behind The Fan. John Canzano‘s midday show also gained a half point year to year and more than doubled local competitor Rip City Radio although it lost the head to head battle against The Fan’s Dirt and Sprague. One positive for Rip City Radio 620 were evenings where the Portland Trail Blazers helped the station finish ahead of all other local sports stations.
- KNBR wrapped up a successful 2017 with another strong quarter. The Bay Area’s sports leader finished 2nd with Men 25-54 in both the M-F 6a-7p and M-SU 6a-Mid categories. The station’s highest finishes were recorded in middays where Gary & Larry and Fitz & Brooks both came in 1st. Tom Tolbert & John Lund ended the fall in 2nd in afternoon drive and Murph & Mac turned in a 3rd place finish in mornings. 2018 should be even more interesting with the Golden State Warriors expected to make a run towards another NBA championship and flagship station 95.7 The Game adding a new PD in Matt Nahigian. How that will shape the local rivalry going forward remains to be seen, but for now, KNBR remains comfortably in front.
- December was a down month compared to October and November but that didn’t stop 710 ESPN from leading the market once again. The station received Top 10 performances with Men 25-54 from all four of its weekday shows. The afternoon show, Danny, Dave and Moore, was ranked between 7th and 9th October-December. Overall the station was in the Top 10 M-F 6a-7p and M-Su 6a-Mid ahead of local competitor Sports Radio KJR.
- 101 ESPN closed out the year the same way they started it, crushing the competition. Leading the way was The Fast Lane which was just under a 12 share and finished 1st overall with Men 25-54. The show was also 2nd with Adults 25-54 and wrapped up 2017 finishing 1st overall in 9 out of 12 books, the other 3 months they were either 2nd or 3rd. Middays and mornings were also huge wins for the station as The Turn with Anthony Stalter & Chris Duncan and Kevin Wheeler came in 2nd and Bernie Miklasz placed 4th. The market’s second sports station KFNS hovered around a 1 share with Men 25-54.
- After dropping Mike and Mike in August to go local in morning drive with Ronnie & TKras, sports leader WDAE gained ground in the timeslot with Men 25-54. The new morning show moved into 9th which was up from 15th in the summer when the station featured national programming. They also experienced growth with the 18-34 demo. In middays, the Dan Patrick Show remained steady too. DP delivered a Top 10 finish with Men 25-54 which was a pleasant surprise given that national shows don’t usually rate high. The challenge for WDAE entering 2018 is to maintain the early day consistency and improve the ratings production in the remaining timeslots.
- Politics remained a dominant player in the nation’s capital but sports wasn’t far behind. 106.7 The Fan produced an impressive book, closing out 2017 with a 3rd place finish with Men 25-54 in both M-F 6a-7p and M-SU 6a-Mid. The station was led by the Sports Junkies who were 3rd with just under an 8 share. Grant and Danny were also ranked 3rd in middays, delivering just above a 7 share, and Chad Dukes came in 4th in afternoons with just under a 6 and a half share. Local competitor ESPN 980 also received good news, finishing 6th M-F 6a-7p and 9th M-SU 6a-Mid. The station was 6th in mornings (6a-10a) with just over a 4 and a half share, 5h in middays (10a-2p) with just over a 5 share, and 6th in afternoons with a mid 4 share. One thing to point out, 980’s weekday schedule is different than The Fan’s so some of those hours include a spilling over of shows. 980’s lineup includes Al Galdi 5a-7a, Cooley & Kevin 7a-11a, Bram Weinstein 11a-1p, Inside The Locker Room 1p-4p and Steve Czaban 4p-7p.