Sports Radio News
How Millennials Can Alter The Future of NYC Sports Radio
WFAN has occupied the penthouse in New York City for quite some time. For over a quarter of a century, Mike Francesa has been a dominant force, and he’s not expected to suffer ratings amnesia during his final eighteen months on the air either. In case you missed it, the WFAN ratings king announced he will leave his radio home at the end of his contract in 2017.
This begs the question, what will happen once Francesa’s gone? Will loyal FAN listeners stick with the radio station and support the next show that follows Mike? Will they jump ship and throw their support behind the Michael Kay Show on 98.7 FM ESPN New York? Or will they change their habits and listen to other alternatives?
Where the story becomes more intriguing is when you take into account WFAN’s wheelhouse. The station has an excellent connection with males 45-54. Those listeners have grown up with the Fan and pledged their allegiance to guys like Francesa, and Joe Beningo, who have hosted daily for over twenty years. Even the radio station’s morning show, Boomer and Carton, has been in morning drive for close to nine years.
We’ve been down this road before wondering if a shift in the market would take place. When Howard Stern left the New York City airwaves, stations tried many different tactics to reel in his listeners. When WFAN parted ways with Don Imus after the I-Man made controversial remarks about the Rutgers Women’s Basketball team, Boomer and Carton took over and proved that they could not only keep the existing audience, but bring in new listeners as well.
But losing Mike Francesa is unchartered territory. Imus didn’t talk sports daily. He wasn’t connected to Chris “Mad Dog” Russo for nineteen years, and viewed as the sports radio show of record in the nation’s top radio market. He was also lining up against a national sports morning show, not a strong legitimate local contender. One of the few things he had in common with Francesa was that each of their shows skewed older, and received strong support from that demographic.
That was then, and this is now. The habits of listeners have changed over the past decade. Loyalty isn’t as strong as it once was. Content options are greater than ever before. And younger listeners are consuming sports radio programming differently. What that means is that prior success doesn’t promise future success.
I was curious to see how younger listeners in New York City were listening to Francesa, and his competitor Michael Kay. In the key demo of Men 25-54, Francesa has long been the king, and that continued in May. Mike finished just under a 7 share. Kay meanwhile was in the top 10 and slightly below a 5 share.
But when you turn the attention to the younger end of the demo, you can see a shift starting to take place. In May, Men 18-34 listened more to Michael Kay’s program between 3p-7p than they did Francesa’s. Kay was a half point higher than Francesa. The two shows tied in April with Men 18-34, delivering shares in the low 3’s. If you turn the clock back twelve months ago, WFAN was doubling ESPN New York’s performance. That’s a pretty significant shift.
It’s even more impressive for ESPN New York when you analyze the hours of 4p-7p. That’s when Peter Rosenberg joins Kay, and Don LaGreca (he doesn’t appear during the first hour of the program). With Kay’s program operating at full strength during those three hours, they’ve beaten Francesa with Men 18-34 during every single month in 2016.
To be fair to Francesa, he hosts his show from 1p-6:30p. I’m focusing on the head to head matchup with Kay, not including the earlier hours when Mike is lined up against Hahn and Humpty. We’re also looking at the younger audience, not the key demo of Men 25-54.
Another factor to take into account is that Francesa’s reach hasn’t grown during the past few years. Kay’s has. The YES Network now airs Kay’s show instead of Francesa’s. That’s helped the ESPN New York host pick up an extra 200,000 viewers daily. Kay, LaGreca, and Rosenberg are also active on Twitter, and collectively have 550,000 followers. Francesa remains uninterested in being present in the space. I don’t have full details to each station’s podcast and streaming data but I’d be very surprised if ESPN New York was losing that battle.
The reason this story interests me, is because we know Francesa plans to leave. Tomorrow’s Men 25-54 audience is starting to turn to Kay, and that hasn’t been the case in the past. Millennials do change their habits frequently, so assuming that these trends can’t be reversed would be a mistake, especially when a permanent replacement for Francesa has yet to be named. But, if you’re Kay, LaGreca, Rosenberg, and ESPN New York’s management, you have to feel optimistic about the way younger audiences are responding.
When you add it all up, here’s what it means. Francesa remains the king of the Men 25-54 competition, but in a radio market as competitive as New York City, Kay is doing quite well. WFAN reaps the benefits of a bigger radio cume. ESPN New York has the advantage of a larger total audience. I don’t see a massive change occurring during the next 18 months unless something unplanned takes place, but given the inconsistencies of radio ratings measurement that’s also not a guarantee.
What is clear though is that younger listeners are tuning in more frequently to ESPN New York. The addition of Rosenberg has paid dividends, and when WFAN moves on without Francesa after 2017, the person or persons they put in afternoon drive will need to have an ability to reach the younger end of the demo.
Nielsen is taking steps to make digital listening a bigger part of the ratings story which will further help ESPN New York’s narrative. It’s still WFAN’s turf until proven otherwise, but yesterday’s fortunes don’t promise tomorrow’s riches. If the FAN stumbles during the next 18 months or replaces Francesa with someone who doesn’t appeal to the younger end of the demo, we could see a shift in the market. That’s a story few thought was possible.
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Sports Radio News
Jay Williams Calls Listener, Forces Him To Pay Their $1000 Lakers Bet
“Don’t get me on national TV and radio and then not pick up the phone when I call.”
If you owe Jay Williams money, he is going to find you. Just ask Rob, a listener in Orlando who bet the ESPN Radio morning man that the Lakers would advance to the NBA Finals.
Last week, Rob called Keyshawn, JWill and Max and bet Williams $1000 the Lakers would eliminate the Denver Nuggets. Williams said if that happened, he would pay Rob $1500.
Obviously, that is not the way things played out. On Tuesday morning, Jay Williams called Rob demanding payment.
“He owes me my money,” he said. “So you know what we do? We got Detective Pat on the call today. Pat, let’s give this man a call. See if this guy picks up, trying to run away from giving me my money.”
The show’s associate producer Patrick Costello called the number Rob left last week. On the first attempt, the listener did not pick up. Williams vowed to keep up the pressure on social media and national radio and television until he got paid.
“Don’t get me on national TV and radio and then not pick up the phone when I call.”
“You know, getting that money is a wrap, Jay,” Keyshawn Johnson said through laughter. “I told you that.”
The show made one more attempt to connect with Rob before having to turn things over to Greeny. This time, the Lakers fan picked up and acknowledged that he had to pay. He offered to make a donation in Williams’s name.
“I’ll send you my bank account here privately, and then I will send it to the charity of my choice,” Williams agreed.
Rob agreed to the arrangement. Williams asked him if he wanted to apologize for doubting the basketball analyst’s prediction of the Lakers’ demise.
“Apologize? I need the Lakers to apologize to me after that performance,” Rob said. “Because Jesus Christ, that was horrible. That was bad.”
Sports Radio News
Stoney & Jansen on LeBron James Retirement Talk: ‘NBA Needs Offseason Stories’
“I think we pick and choose with him. I think I’ve been too hard on him and I’m kind of realizing that.”
As the Los Angeles Lakers exited the court after being swept by the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals on Monday night, a grim reality set in across the basketball world regarding the future of forward LeBron James. Widely regarded as one of the best players to ever suit up, James is the NBA’s all-time scoring leader, a 19-time All Star selection, four-time MVP, and four-time NBA champion.
During his postgame media availability on Monday, he stated that he had to seriously think about his future, undoubtedly referencing retirement. James just completed his 20th season in the Association and continues to play at a high level, but is going to think about walking away from the game after falling short of the NBA Finals this year.
“He’s been a pretty good soldier for the game,” said Tom Milikan, morning show producer and assistant program director at 97.1 The Ticket. “There’s been some things I haven’t agreed with him [on] that he’s liked or tweeted or whatever. I think he’s had some ignorance, but I think that applies to every single athlete out there that’s great.”
Throughout his NBA career, James has been the subject of criticism. The ESPN special he participated in titled The Decision saw him reveal he would be leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Miami Heat. He is also a frequent subject across the network’s programming, including on Get Up, First Take and NBA Today.
“I think we pick and choose with him,” Millikan said. “I think I’ve been too hard on him and I’m kind of realizing that.”
Show co-host Mike Stone read messages from the 97.1 The Ticket text line during the show, many of which criticized James for being a “flopping” player desperate for any semblance of attention since he will not be in the NBA Finals. One text suggested his revelation of weighing retirement was done intentionally, surmising that he has a film documentary crew around him and coming back stronger than ever would make for a great story.
“The league needs some offseason stories,” Millikan said. “From what I know, the free agency class is not all that great this year – and one of the big names is Kyrie Irving, and that’s toxic. It’s sort of like, ‘Hey, maybe they’re generating buzz or trying to do the whole Brady thing.’ So be it – I’ve seen it 15 times in my life.”
Stone recognized that athletes like James are genuinely once-in-a-generation type talents, and that his time in the NBA has been defined by more than what he has done on the court. James has also been an immense advocate for greater causes, including social issues, youth education and community affairs. Whenever he decides to call it a career though, fans should rest assured that James has truly given the game everything he has.
“I want to see the best that they have for as long as possible,” show co-host Jon Jansen said of star athletes. “If they end up playing too long, so be it. I don’t care. Then I know I’ve [seen] it all.”
Sports Radio News
Danny Parkins: NFL Teams ‘Don’t Really Care About Your In-Stadium Experience’
“In one year of Al Michaels complaining about the games, they’ve changed two huge rules around it.”
On Monday at the NFL Owners’ Meetings, flex scheduling for Amazon Prime Video’s presentation of Thursday Night Football was approved 24-8. Games can only be flexed between Weeks 13 and 17 with 28 days notice required. Additionally, a maximum of two games can be flexed per season, with the entire operation being on “a trial basis.”
“In one year of Al Michaels complaining about the games, they’ve changed two huge rules around it,” said Danny Parkins on 670 The Score as the news broke Monday. “[The] first rule already happened, and the Bears are one of the teams that either benefit or are victimized by the rule depending on your interpretation. You can play on multiple Thursdays this year. You can’t play multiple road Thursdays, but the Bears have two Thursday night games – in Washington and home against Carolina.”
In an effort to broadcast compelling action on a national stage, the National Football League did not give all of its 32 teams at least one game on national television this season. Conversely, the New York Jets, complete with star quarterback Aaron Rodgers, will be featured on national television for the maximum of six times, including two matchups on Thursday Night Football. The Jets, along with the Chicago Bears, dissented from voting in favor of flexible scheduling, but Parkins assumes it has nothing to do with the fans.
“My guess is [it is] because they already have two Thursday night games,” Parkins said. “Maybe they’re just altruistic and they care about fans and travel and all that, but I bet you that they said, ‘Well, we’re playing in Week 5 in Washington and Week 10 at home against Carolina. We don’t want to risk Bears-Browns or Bears-Falcons being flexed into Thursday Night Football later in the season and end up with three Thursday night games.’”
Many football fans and media professionals have pushed back on granting the property any type of flex scheduling because of the negative impact it has on injury prevention, something that is not as pronounced with other properties solely because of the day of the week. Sunday Night Football on NBC was previously the only property with flex scheduling ability, and Monday Night Football on ESPN is being granted that ability between Weeks 12 and 17 with at least 12 days notice.
“They don’t really care about your in-stadium experience – they don’t,” Parkins said of the league. “As long as you watch on TV, they’re thrilled because that’s where they make a huge, ungodly percentage of their money – more so than any of the other sports.”