While there are a lot of developing stories, contract negotiations and potential lineup changes at both WFAN and ESPN New York, the afternoon ratings war is not much of a battle after one month.
Michael Kay’s show crushed Mike Francesa in the first month of the fall book. Kay finished No. 1 overall in the market with a 7.4 share of the audience, according to Nielsen. Francesa’s number was 5.6. If you include his stream, he moves to 6.0, which still forces him to crank his neck up to see Kay. Overall, Francesa finished third without the stream and in a virtual tie with 106.7 Lite FM for second with it. One month of the ratings book is comparable to three innings of a baseball game.
Francesa’s numbers are especially interesting as FAN’s “Boomer & Gio” and “Joe & Evan” both continue to surge to the top of the overall book. “Maggie & Bart,” with streaming numbers included, was second in the market. So among all of FAN’s daily programs, Francesa is doing the worst in what could be, as The Post reported last month, his final radio ratings book.
When the 65-year-old radio legend pulled out of his $8.99-permonth subscription app business plan, one idea was to have him spend most of his time on Radio.com. It is a company initiative for FAN’s parent company, Entercom, to build out the app.
The thought was that Francesa could move most of his content there with a sliver remaining on The FAN. If this happens, FAN would be forced to rearrange its schedule.
Boomer and Gio” would remain in the leadoff spot, though Gregg Giannotti is still unsigned for next year. The two sides are expected to agree to terms, but haven’t yet. Since Francesa’s return from his faux retirement, his ratings were propped up by “Carlin, Maggie and Bart” (CMB) from 1-3, which gave him a big lead-in compared to Kay’s audience from Stephen A. Smith’s national program.
FAN dumped Chris Carlin last month, leaving Maggie Gray and Bart Scott as a duo. FAN looks at MB’s ratings more fondly than the traditional method as it has strong streaming numbers. With the stream, MB is second (6.0), while without, it is fifth (5.3). Still, Francesa could only maintain and not build on that 6.0.
FAN already has picked up the last year of Gray’s contract that runs through 2020, and it wants to keep Scott. Scott is unsigned for next year and has had talks with ESPN. Entercom values Scott, according to sources, not only for what he brings on-air, but he is the second-most requested host for appearances for advertisers. Boomer Esiason, Giannotti’s partner, is the most sought after. In the mid-morning on FAN, Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts continue to excel. But Benigno, 66, has repeatedly said he will retire soon. He does have one more year on his contract. FAN executives have talked about splitting up the longtime pair of Benigno and Roberts, according to sources, which could lead to new partners for Scott and Gray.
FAN does want to become younger, while Entercom is known throughout the industry as desiring to be cheaper. This makes up-and-coming overnight host John Jastremski a possibility. JJ, who is sort of like Chris (Mad Dog) Russo Lite, has potential. It is unknown, though, how he would do fully exposed during the day.
Meanwhile, at ESPN New York, The Post reported last week that Stephen A. Smith, as part of a new five-year extension, will exit his national radio show that airs from 1 to 3 p.m. Sources say there is a chance ESPN New York may be allowed to fill Smith’s spot with a local show. The decision will be made based on what it thinks could drive greater revenue. Carlin would be a candidate if a move were made to go local.
ESPN could try to placate national and local with Max Kellerman — who has had radio success in New York and Los Angeles — but it may ultimately be decided that his schedule with “First Take,” as well as boxing, is too busy. Will Cain, who does late afternoons on ESPN Radio, would likely be considered to slide up into Smith’s national spot, as well. ESPN is making strides against FAN with its local programming. In the middays, “Humpty and Canty with Rothenberg” had a strong month, finishing much higher than usual at fourth with a 5.8 share.
FAN’s biggest issue is Francesa. He needs to put on his rally cap, while trying to figure out his future. He is already losing in the ratings. If he mostly leaves FAN, the relevancy of his voice could be next.