In the city of Portland, there are now three radio stations offering full-time sports talk programming. Considering that the market’s population is just above two million people, and the commitment to programming has been filled largely by network shows, I was curious to see how the format was being supported by local fans.
While at first you may flinch and say “three stations offering full-time sports programming isn’t a lot“, keep in mind that large markets such as New York City, Chicago, Washington DC and Philadelphia don’t offer that many choices, and comparable markets such as Baltimore, St. Louis, and Tampa don’t either.
The city is known for its incredible passion and love for Trail Blazers basketball, and after experiencing it myself last season, I can tell you that the support is as strong as anywhere in the country. That same enthusiasm and interest is also felt on the college football circuit, as the Oregon Ducks and Oregon State Beavers not only occupy the headspace of Portland sports fans, but also the entire state of Oregon!
I wanted to take a look under the hood to see what is happening in the market, and whether or not the market’s appetite for sports, was enough to support three full-time sports talkers. As you’ll see in the examples below, there are many positives for each brand to hang their hat on, but there are also some challenges as well.
Led by programmer Jeff Austin, 1080 The Fan employs many of the biggest local names in the market. Isaac Ropp and “Big Suke” Jason Scukanek are a force locally, not only dominating afternoon drive on radio, but they’re also simulcast locally on television by Comcast Northwest.
Rounding out 1080’s local lineup are “Dirt & Sprague”, which features Anthony “Dirt” Johnson and Brandon Sprague, and “Dusty & Cam” which is hosted by Dusty Harrah and former NFL Tight End Cam Cleeland. The station also features Colin Cowherd in morning drive, a show that has even larger appeal in the market given Colin’s previous local success working for The Fan!
When you look at the other two local brands, 750 The Game (KXTG-AM) and Rip City Radio 620 (KPOJ-AM), it’s a much tighter battle, and there are different parts of the story that make it compelling.
In making the move back to AM, the station also elected to make some changes to its lineup. Currently the station features national talents Dan Patrick and Jim Rome, as well as local personalities John Canzano and Mike Ragz.
For Rip City Radio 620, they’re only one full year into the format, and clearly they’re banking on their association to the Trail Blazers, the market’s lone professional franchise, to help them drive larger ratings and revenue growth. Even the station’s moniker revolves around the team, which is smart, given the fan base’s affinity towards it.
It also provides the radio station with an opportunity to create strong marketing campaigns inside and outside of the Moda Center, with a brand name that people should recall.
In analyzing the ratings, I wanted to take a look at how the three stations matched up, and how each of their approaches were being received in the local market. The data you’re looking at is for the 2015 Spring Book (April-May-June) so the Blazers play by play advantage wasn’t as big of a factor, which means this is a time when it’s largely about the lineups, and to some extent, national and local topics. These are the Men 25-54 numbers, which is the demographic that sports radio stations covet most.
|1080 THE FAN (KFXX)||Mike & Mike 6a-7a; Colin Cowherd 7a-10a||3.7|
|750 THE GAME (KXTG)||Dan Patrick 6a-9a; Jim Rome 9a-10a||2.7|
|RIP CITY RADIO 620 (KPOJ)||Bunker & Danforth 6a-9a; Rich Eisen 9a-10a||1.2|
|1080 THE FAN (KFXX)||Dirt & Sprague; Dusty & Cam||1.7|
|750 THE GAME (KXTG)||Jim Rome 10a-12p; John Canzano 12p-3p||0.8|
|RIP CITY RADIO 620 (KPOJ)||Rich Eisen 10a-12p; Jay Mohr 12p-3p||1.2|
|1080 THE FAN (KFXX)||Primetime w/ Isaac & Suke||4.3|
|750 THE GAME (KXTG)||In The Huddle with Ragz||1.0|
|RIP CITY RADIO 620 (KPOJ)||Wheels at Work 3p-5p; JT The Brick 5p-7p||1.1|
|1080 THE FAN (KFXX)||ESPN Radio||2.6|
|750 THE GAME (KXTG)||NBC Sports Radio||1.3|
|RIP CITY RADIO 620 (KPOJ)||Fox Sports Radio; Trail Blazers Basketball||2.2|
|1080 THE FAN (KFXX)||Colin, Dirt/Sprague, Dusty/Cam, Isaac/Suke||3.1|
|750 THE GAME (KXTG)||DP, Rome, Canzano, Ragz||1.3|
|RIP CITY RADIO 620 (KPOJ)||Bunker/Danforth, Eisen, Mohr, Wheeler, JT||1.2|
|1080 THE FAN (KFXX)||All Shows, Ancillary Programs & Play by Play||2.6|
|750 THE GAME (KXTG)||All Shows, Ancillary Programs & Play by Play||1.2|
|RIP CITY RADIO 620 (KPOJ)||All Shows, Ancillary Programs & Play by Play||1.2|
As I mentioned above, 1080 The Fan clearly owns the market right now, and local fans are loyal, especially to brands who continue to do good things for a sustained period of time. Because The Fan has stayed true to their commitment, and continued to recruit and support strong local talent, the local audience has rewarded them.
Let’s take a deeper look though into what all of these numbers mean, and how each station can use them to their benefit.
While that isn’t known yet, I’m assuming they’ll maintain the relationship and continue to offer Colin’s Fox show on the station, considering that Colin is making an in-market appearance later this month to promote his new beer, which just so happens to be brewed in Oregon.
Not far behind Colin though is Dan Patrick, who delivers the highest performance on The Game, and the third best overall ratings performance in the market. That’s a very good story for The Game to use to their advantage. It also demonstrates Dan’s lasting power in the Portland market.
If they’re performing this way in 12-18 months, then Rip City Radio executives will probably have a deeper conversation, but this is a brand new product, in a crowded marketplace, and it takes time for people to find a show, listen to it, and become loyal to it. It also takes time for the talent to gel, and build the identity of their program. Making it even harder is the fact that the audience hasn’t had a local option in morning drive for the past few years.
If you’re at 1080 The Fan, you’re loving the fact that you own morning drive, and you’re focused on retaining a successful partnership with Colin Cowherd. For The Game, you’re thrilled with Dan Patrick, and looking at ways to capitalize during the rest of the day.
For Rip City Radio, you now have actual data to measure your morning show, and you now need to further support them, coach them, and market them. The upcoming NBA season will tell you a lot about the local audience, and if they’re willing to adjust their listening patterns in morning drive.
When you shift to the mid-days, you can see that the overall listening goes down, but once again, 1080 The Fan has a solid lead. There are though a few interesting items to focus on.
If you’re at Rip City Radio, you’ve got to like the consistency between mornings and middays, especially when you take into account that you’re switching from local programming into national content. One way to spin this is by analyzing it from a business point of view.
While people on the programming end live for the ratings to justify their success and connection to the local market, there is also a business side to examine. Along that line of thinking, what makes more sense, spending a ton on money on local talent to be a half of a ratings point better, or coming in a half point lower, yet having no expenses due to using national programming? That’s what Rip City Radio can use to their advantage in this daypart.
For The Fan, they’re in front once again, but they too are only one full book into their new mid-day offerings. That means it’s way too early to analyze the impact of their strategy, but if you’re in their shoes, you’ve got to feel good about coming out of the gate in front. The challenge now is to build on it, and grow that lead even higher, because right now, Rip City is not far behind. When you take into account the strong number Colin Cowherd is providing as a lead-in during morning drive, there’s room for improvement.
For The Game and Rip City in afternoons, they’re in a dead heat, but what’s worth looking at is the fact that Rip City has the advantage of utilizing Blazers Play by Play man Brian Wheeler in afternoons, however he’s only working half of the daypart. That means the other half belongs to national programming courtesy of JT The Brick.
On the positive side, Wheeler’s name value should continue to help Rip City Radio make some inroads, especially when the Blazers return. On the negative side, that momentum gained between 3p-5p will be cancelled out if JT isn’t on topics that have local appeal. I’d love to see how the Game and Rip City would rate if they were going head to head locally for the entire daypart but right now that’s not an option.
The downside of it is that while the show’s numbers are equal to Rip City, you’ve had a longer period of time operating the format, and building a connection in the market. Your competitor is also producing half local programming and half network programming, which means you have an advantage in building local connectivity due to offering four hours of local content.
In both The Game and Rip City’s cases in afternoons, the numbers are very low, and unless they can cut into Isaac and Suke’s lead, it’s going to be a rough road ahead. There is more money to be earned from advertisers in afternoons, but you need the numbers to be higher to justify getting your fair share.
For our final look we head to evenings, which for the most part were filled by three national networks. Rip City did gain some help due to the Blazers playing during the early part of the book, and it’s possible some national play by play offerings were provided by one or two of the brands, but in any case, The Fan has the lead, and they use ESPN Radio programming, while their competitors offer Fox and NBC.
For The Game, they have something strong in mornings with Dan Patrick, but their other dayparts need higher performances. Adding Colin Cowherd would be excellent, and instantly create some local audience shifting, but it doesn’t look like they’ll be able to make that happen. That means they’re going to need to take a deeper look to figure out how they can build off their mornings, and deliver stronger in mid-days and afternoons.
For The Fan, right now it’s about protecting your turf, and that starts with retaining Colin Cowherd. You’re also looking to further develop your midday shows, let Isaac and Big Suke continue their ratings dominance, and utilize some play by play, network shows and additional local content to keep the brand on track.
Barring a major slip up by The Fan, the results should remain similar in upcoming months in the Portland market. The challenge for 750 The Game and Rip City Radio 620 is to figure out a way to make sure they aren’t.
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.
Andrew Fillipponi: Peter Burns Made ‘Innocuous Joke’ To Ben Watson
“So wait a minute? Because you believe in Jesus Christ you care about your wife more than other people? What are you talking about?”
The on-air spat between SEC Network host Peter Burns and analyst Ben Watson continues to be bandied about in sports media circles, with 93.7 The Fan hosts Andrew Fillipponi and Chris Mueller discussing the topic Tuesday.
“I’m on Team Burns,” Fillipponi said.
“Forget who’s team you’re on,” Chris Mueller said. “I think you’ve do have to keep the wives and children out of this.”
“What are you talking about, keep the wives and out of it?!,” Fillipponi asked.
“Do we believe this is work or shoot here?,” Mueller wondered.
“Oh, I think this is real,” Fillpponi added, which Mueller agreed.
“Do you think a close fist from Ben Watson hit Peter Burns?,” Mueller asked.
“No, I think he picked him up by the lapels,” Fillipponi said.
When the subject of Watson’s religion was brought up, Fillipponi then pointed out the absurdity of the situation.
“So wait a minute? Because you believe in Jesus Christ you care about your wife more than other people? What are you talking about?”
“I think he might have a shorter fuse and not taking in humor that Peter Burns was giving out,” Mueller said.
“It was an innocuous joke!,” Fillipponi stated. “It wasn’t a joke! Why is it in bad taste?”
Mueller then added the idea of Watson’s wife texting Burns insinuates there’s an inappropriate relationship.
Craig Carton: Booger McFarland’s Zach Wilson Analysis ‘An Embarrasment’
ESPN NFL analyst Booger McFarland raised eyebrows on Monday Night Countdown this week by saying New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson has never been held accountable for his actions because he was a “young man who grew up with a lot of money”. WFAN afternoon host Craig Carton called out McFarland’s comments Tuesday as outlandish.
“It was an embarrasment,” Carton said. “Someone should ask Booger McFarland if his kids — who grew up with amazing wealth — have accountability in their lives or if having a little bit of money in your pocket immediately discounts the possibility to have accountability. He’s an idiot and we learned that last night.”
“It’s funny that Steve Young was on the other side of it,” Evan Roberts noted. “Because a long time ago, Steve Young criticized Chris Simms because he’s the son of a famous quarterback.”
“You don’t have to invent reasons for why Zach Wilson isn’t playing well,” added Carton. “Just watch his tape. He’s not playing well. Maybe he’s just not good!”
Carton later said NFL reporters “will try to make a name for themselves by putting out a story” about quarterbacks who take responsibility for their teams failures, while Wilson wouldn’t accept the blame.
Greg Hill: Ben Watson, Peter Burns Drama Was A Bit
“Be careful when you’re talking about somebody’s wife and their kids. ‘Cause not everybody jokes the same way.”
Peter Burns and Ben Watson shared an awkward exchange during the halftime show of an SEC Network football game over the weekend, and many are still debating whether Watson walking off the set was serious or not. Count part of the cast of The Greg Hill Show on WEEI as doubters.
“That was a a bit,” Courtney Cox said. “That was absolutely a bit.”
“Yeah, unlike the Chris Rock/Will Smith thing, I assume that was a bit,” Hill said. “I can’t believe that Ben Watson is really angry about that.”
“I dunno, man. There’s been a lot of speculation that it isn’t,” Jermaine Wiggins added. “There are people who are very sensitive about you clowning on them or joking with them. Especially with joking about their wife. Some people can’t handle jokes like that.”
After a back-and-forth with Cox about the legitimacy of the joke, Wiggins concluded by saying for some folks family is off limits.
“I’ve learned something in my 47 years on this Earth: be careful when you’re talking about somebody’s wife and their kids. ‘Cause not everybody jokes the same way.”