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Sports Radio’s 2018 Fall Book Report

“The sports radio format closed out 2018 with a number of strong ratings performances.”

Jason Barrett

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In the sports radio business, the months of January and February usually represent a slowing down period. The opposite is true for BSM.

What makes these months chaotic is that we introduce our annual BSM Top 20 series during the week of the Super Bowl. While that’s a key focus, so too is finalizing details for the 2019 BSM Summit. In between those two gigantic projects is finding time to continue listening and providing support to radio clients, writing content, editing podcasts for upcoming releases, and traveling for work related business.

That’s an easy way of saying, we’ve been so damn busy that the fall book report is being released later than I had hoped it would be. Given the interest of industry folks and sports radio fanatics in knowing how brands across the format have performed, I trust this piece will still be of value.

With apologies for the delay, let’s dive into the markets we have data on to see who stood out in the final quarter of 2018.

ATLANTA:

92.9 The Game continued to enjoy success as a Top 5 rated brand in the market among Men 25-54. Atlanta’s top rated sports station finished 5th with a 6.3 share.

 The best performance this quarter came from Dukes and Bell who turned in a 2nd place showing with a 7.5. John Fricke and Hugh Douglas locked up 5th place in mornings with a 6.0. Rick Kamla and John Michaels also placed 5th in middays with a 5 share.

Dickey Broadcasting’s 680 The Fan doesn’t subscribe to the Nielsen ratings but according to the data, the station’s top performing show for the quarter was the morning show led by Steak Shapiro, Brian Finneran, and Sandra Golden.

BALTIMORE:

105.7 The Fan finished the fall book with Men 25-54 in 3rd place, but what really made it special was their overall performance for the full year. The Fan finished 2018 (Jan-Dec) with a 9.4, good enough to occupy the top spot in the market with Men 25-54. Congrats to Chuck Sapienza and his team on a tremendous accomplishment.

For the quarter, the Big Bad Morning Show came in 2nd with Men 25-54 and 5th with Persons 25-54. For the year they recorded a 2nd place overall finish.

Vinny and Haynie meanwhile closed out the fall book with a 2nd place showing with Men 25-54. They were #1 overall with double digit shares for the entire year in middays.

In afternoons, it was a similar story, with Scott and Jeremy wrapping up the quarter and full year in 2nd place. Their shares were also in the double digits for the full twelve month stretch.

BIRMINGHAM:

The new WJOX lineup debuted during the fall of 2018.  Listeners responded favorably to the station’s programming changes as JOX gained 18% in the M-F 6a-7p demo among Men 25-54, finishing #1 overall in the market. Their share increased from a 9 to 10.6. A similar story happened with Persons 25-54 as JOX placed 2nd with a 6 share, up 20% from a 5 share one year earlier. #2  (20% 5.0 to 6.0) year to year 6a-7p. 

The JOX Roundtable which moved to mornings from Middays in March, also experienced growth book to book. The show was #1 with an 11.4 in its first fall in the daypart. That was up from a 7.2 one year earlier.

Three Man Front, which features Cole Cubelic, Aaron Suttles, and Landrum Roberts, also topped the ratings charts at #1 with Men 25-54. In just their 2nd full book together, the show recorded a 9.9 share.

Rounding things out, Paul Finebaum continued to dominate in the market, popping a 10.3 with Men 25-54 to also register a 1st place showing.

BOSTON:

The city of Boston was once again the hotbed for sports talk radio in 2018. 98.5 The Sports Hub closed out 2018 with a strong showing in the fall book, earning a 1st place finish in weekday prime (M-F 6a-7p) among Men 25-54 thanks to an impressive 10.8. WEEI was strong as well holding down the 2nd position with a 7.8. Both stations enjoyed solid increases from summer to fall.

The battle was closer in mornings where Toucher and Rich finished ahead of WEEI’s Mut and Callahan 10.5 to 10.2. Former morning host Kirk Minihane left WEEI’s morning show during the fall (mid-November) to build his own show for Radio.com. Minihane missed most of the quarter, taking a leave of absence in September to focus on getting treatment for mental health issues.

In middays, Zolak and Bertrand secured a 1st place victory with a 10.5. WEEI’s Dale and Keefe were strong too, finishing just 1 point behind with a 9.4, good enough for 2nd place.

Where The Hub did their most damage was in afternoons. The team of Felger and Massarotti finished 1st with a market leading 15.3. WEEI’s OMF claimed the 2nd spot with a 7.2.

Not to be ignored, evenings belonged to The Hub’s mixture of Adam Jones and Bruins and Celtics play by play. They locked up the top spot with a 10.4 share, ahead of WEEI’s combo of night time programming, and Red Sox baseball which reeled in a 7.7.

CHARLOTTE:

Over the past six months, WFNZ has gained significant traction, improving from a 1.6 (18th) in July to a 3.8 (10th) in December. Clearly football season matters in the Queen City.

Starting with morning drive, The Mac Attack finished the book with a 3.4. Their best month was December where they recorded a 3.6. The show is up a full two points between July and December.

Despite being relatively new to the market, WFNZ’s new midday show featuring Nick Wilson and Josh Parcell cracked the Top 8 in the fall book. The entertaining duo registered a 3.8 during their timeslot, the best number on the station for the 4th quarter.

In afternoons, Kyle Bailey and Frank Garcia held steady with a 3.6. Their best month during the book was December when the show produced a 4.1. Garcia though is no longer with the station.

One encouraging note for WFNZ, the station is on a 4 month streak of delivering Top 3 TSL. The brand was 1st overall in September and November, and 3rd in October and December.

CHICAGO:

670 The Score finished up the year in front of local competitor ESPN 1000. For the full week (M-SU 6a-Mid) The Score placed 5th with a 5.2. ESPN 1000 recorded a 2.8. Weekday prime (M-F 6a-7p) saw a similar story with The Score finishing 4th with a 5.8 and 1000 generating a 3.1.

The story of the book for The Score occurred in mornings. The combination of Mully and Haugh popped an impressive 8.5 during the hours of 5a-9a to finish 1st overall.

Unfortunately the morning show’s momentum didn’t fully carry over to the midday show, but Bernstein and McKnight were still good enough to deliver a Top 5 finish at just under a 5 share.

Wrapping things up for The Score was the team of McNeil and Parkins who came in 4th in afternoon drive with a 5.2.

On ESPN 1000’s side, Kap and Company was lower than usual with just under a 2 share. Carmen and Jurko experienced the same fate with a share slightly under a 2 and a half. Waddle and Silvy though remained competitive in afternoons, tying for 6th with a 4.3.

From the outside looking in it appears that 1000 has lost a meter or two. Their talent and shows remain top notch but their numbers aren’t where they’ve been before. Here’s to hoping 2019 brings some extra meter support and a fierce battle between these two great brands.

DALLAS:

One of the most underrated markets in sports radio is Dallas. When you look at the combined performances of The Ticket and The Fan (not to mention the 3rd option ESPN 103.3), they’re competitive with Boston and Philadelphia, and larger in market size, but for whatever reason, the trades don’t put as much focus on what this market delivers.

Well, let’s change that.

The market’s two leading brands, Sports Radio 96.7/1310 The Ticket and 105.3 The Fan occupied two of the top 4 positions in weekday prime with Men 25-54. The Ticket was #1 with an 8 share, and The Fan was 4th with a 5.3. If you add streaming into the mix, The Ticket gains another point, and The Fan picks up an extra two tenths. ESPN 103.3 was further back in 18th with a 2.3.

Moving to morning drive, The Musers claimed the top spot with an 8.5. They pick up another 1.9 points if you factor in streaming. The Fan’s Shan and RJ were also in healthy shape with a 5.2, earning them a Top 5 finish. With the addition of streaming they gain another two tenths of a point. ESPN 103.3 pulled a 2.4 to come in 14th.

Middays is where the tightest competition occurs. Norm Hitzges and Donovan Lewis finished 1st for The Ticket with a 6.5. GBag Nation on The Fan secured 4th place with a 6.1. The Ticket gains another nine tenths, and The Fan picks up three tenths if you add streaming into the mix. ESPN 103.3 turned in a 19th place finish with just under a 2 share.

On the drive home, The Hard Line produced The Ticket’s best overall radio rating with an 8.9, which placed them 1st. The Fan’s Ben and Skin locked up the 5th spot with a 4.6. Both brands pick up a few extra tenths of a point with the added benefit of streaming. ESPN 103.3 recorded its best share during this daypart, generating a 2.6 which put them 18th.

The Fan gained bragging rights during the evening, finishing 4th with a 5.2. The Ticket was 13th at a 3.5. Once again both brands gain a little bit extra with streaming. ESPN 103.3 comes in 16th at night with a 2.3.

To summarize, The Ticket and The Fan account for the majority of sports radio consumption in the market. If you add ESPN 103.3 to the mix, the three stations combine to generate a 15-18 share. That’s outstanding.

Any city which has sports radio stations pulling in those type of numbers is one that advertisers should be looking to attach their clients and dollars to, and media outlets should be paying more attention to.

DENVER:

The fall book was successful once again for Sports Radio 104.3 The Fan. With Men 25-54, The Fan finished 1st overall M-F 6a-7p with an 8.5 share.

Turning to the weekday shows, Schlereth and Evans were strong again in mornings with a 10.5 share from 6a-9a. Big Al and DMac garnered a 9.3 in afternoons between 3p-6p.

Another positive for the brand was the performance of the midday show featuring Brandon Stokley and Zach Bye. The program produced its highest ratings yet at #2 with a 7.5 share.

DETROIT:

The fall book in the motor city couldn’t have been better for  97.1 The Ticket. The radio station finished #1 in Adults 25-54 for the full week (6a-Mid / Mon-Sun) with a 7.5 share. It was also #1 with Men 25-54 with a 12.2 share. That was the best overall performance we received notification about for the sports radio format this fall.

In the individual shows, Jamie & Stoney were dominant in mornings, finishing 2nd with Men 25-54 with a 12.3. They were also 2nd with Adults 25-54 with a 7.6 share. 

The tandem of Karsch & Anderson were even more impressive in middays, recording 1st place finishes with both Men 25-54 (14.5) and Adults 25-54 (9.1).

The Ticket’s homerun hitter in PM drive Mike Valenti took it even one step further, securing 1st place finishes with Men 25-54 (16.2) and Adults 25-54 (9.7).

Simply stated, if you’re an advertiser looking to connect with audiences in Detroit, there’s no way you can afford to not have your message reaching The Ticket’s audience.

LOS ANGELES:

The arrival of LeBron James may be great for ticket and merchandise sales, sponsorship opportunities, and TV viewership, but on the radio it didn’t immediately lead to a massive ratings surge. ESPN LA 710 (which has the rights to the Lakers) did see modest improvement year to year at night, but weekday prime has room for growth. The station did prevail over AM 570 LA Sports (KLAC) by three tenths of a point for the quarter with Men 25-54, however one thing worth noting, ESPN includes their streaming performance in their overall number. iHeart, which owns 570, does not. 

The individual success stories for 710 took place in both mornings and middays. The afternoons though belonged to 570’s Petros and Money. The Los Angeles Dodgers may have helped drive a few tune ins for 570 due to advancing to the World Series and playing a number of drive time games during two of the three months, but 710 also had the national broadcast of the MLB Playoffs and World Series, and an undefeated Rams team boosting its numbers.

L.A. may not produce the massive shares that you see in other sports radio cities, but when you consider it’s position as the nation’s 2nd largest market, and factor in that more than 11 million people reside in the area, a tenth of a point in L.A. can be worth more than in other regions.

MEMPHIS:

Memphis sports radio fans continue to reward the market’s leading station 92.9 ESPN, lifting the brand to a 3rd place finish M-F 6a-7p with Men 25-54 at just under a 9 share.

Looking at the individual shows, Golic and Wingo provided a respectable 6th place finish with a mid 6 share.

From 9a-11a Geoff Calkins produced even greater impact, elevating the ratings by over 4 full points to turn in just under an 11 share, good enough for 2nd place.

Jason and John took the baton from there and grew the audience another half of a point, delivering an 11.3, making them the top rated show in the market during the hours of 11a-2p. They were also the best rated show on the entire station for the quarter.

Eric Hasseltine was next, generating a 7.3 between 2p-4p to claim the 6th spot during his timeslot.

And to wrap things up, Gary Parrish took listeners home in strong fashion, producing a mid 9 share and 2nd place overall finish.

When you add it all up, 92.9 ESPN was Top 3 for the quarter with Men 25-54, had two shows deliver double digit ratings, and three programs finish in the Top 2 including one finishing 1st. That’s a pretty great way for Brad Carson and his team to close out an impressive 2018.

MILWAUKEE:

105.7 The Fan closed out 2018 by remaining the market’s top rated sports radio brand. The radio station finished just outside the Top 10 with a 3 share among Men 25-54 for M-F 6a-7p. The Fan picked up five tenths of a point year over year, and six tenths of a point from summer to fall.

Local competitors The Big 920 and ESPN 540 were both under a 1 share, however Good Karma Brands acquired E.W Scripps’ Milwaukee properties, flipping to FM sports in the market on November 1st. iHeart also took the plunge into FM sports by introducing 97.3 The Game in late November. The Winter book will paint a better picture of how the three FM sports talkers are received by local listeners.

One notable item to relay from the individual shows for the quarter was the performance of Chuck and Winkler. The Fan’s morning show registered a 3.4 to register a tie for 10th. Their ratings increased by 1.2 points book to book and 1.6 points year over year.

NASHVILLE:

104.5 The Zone brought the year to a close with a top notch ratings performance for the fall book. Nashville’s top rated sports station was #1 with Men 25-54 in weekday prime (M-F 6a-7p), and 5th overall with Adults 25-54 during weekday prime and the full week (M-SU 6a-Mid).

The Zone also saw its three main weekday shows finish 1st or 2nd in each of their respective dayparts.

Data for 102.5 The Game was unavailable this quarter.

NEW YORK:

The battle in weekday prime (M-F 6a-7p) once again belonged to WFAN. The Big Apple’s top rated sports station turned in a 2nd place finish with a 5.7. ESPN NY finished in 10th with a 4.3. If you add streaming numbers to the equation The Fan moves up to 1st.

Most of the hype for the fall book revolved around a close finish between Mike Francesa and Michael Kay. At one point it looked like Kay might finally catch the NYC afternoon ratings king, but when the dust settled, Francesa remained on top. If you look solely at the radio ratings for the fall book with Men 25-54, Francesa prevailed by a tenth of a point, beating Kay’s show 5.9 to 5.8.

The contest wasn’t as close in mornings where Boomer and Gio finished comfortably ahead of Golic and Wingo 5.6 to 3.8. Middays saw Joe & Evan retain bragging rights over Humpty & Canty with Rothenberg 5.5 to 3.3. CMB enjoyed similar success cruising past Stephen A. Smith 6.0 to 3.3. Carlin, Bart and Maggie’s share was best of The Fan’s weekday shows for the quarter.

OKLAHOMA CITY:

The Sports Animal had a monster fall book to close out the 2018 campaign. Oklahoma City’s top rated sports talker was 1st overall with Men 25-54 in weekday prime (M-F 6a-7p) with a 10.8, and 1st again with a 10.7 when you size up their full day programming schedule from 5a-8p. 107.7 The Franchise was 7th in both weekday prime and during the full day of 5a-8p.

Helping WWLS set the tone were The Morning Animals who produced a dominant 12.2 to claim the top spot in AM drive. The Franchise placed 10th between 5a-9a.

Turning to middays, Craig Humphreys and the Monsters of the Middays were both #1 during their timeslots. Both shows delivered double digit shares. Humphreys was just above a mid 11 share. Monsters was just under an 11 share. The Franchise’s combination of Dylan Buckingham with Todd Lisenbee and The Franchise Players produced a tie for 10th during the midday demo of 10a-3p.

For the drive home, the numbers were strong again for Jim Traber. The afternoon host finished 1st for the fall with a 9.3. When Al Eschback is added to the mix the numbers dip slightly from 4p-8p to 6.8 but they’re still strong enough to retain 1st place. The Franchise meanwhile sees their best success in PM drive. MMM Ranch and the first hour of The Franchise Drive combined to deliver better than a 5 share, good enough to register in the Top 5.

PHILADELPHIA:

There’s no brotherly love in Philadelphia between WIP and 97.5 The Fanatic. The station’s are very competitive and not satisfied with anything less than victory. For the quarter, it was WIP who got to do most of the celebrating, although The Fanatic remained strong in one key daypart.

For starters, WIP was 2nd with Men 25-54 with a little above a mid 8 share. The Fanatic earned a 5th place finish with just under a mid 5 share.

Head to head, Angelo Cataldi continued his dominance in mornings with a 9.1 which placed him 2nd. The Fanatic was tied for 5th with a 5.2.

In middays, The Fanatic closed the gap a little, but it didn’t stop WIP from winning the overall matchup. The team of Joe DeCamara and Jon Ritchie were 3rd with a mid 7 share, nearly two full points above The Fanatic who placed 5th.

The tide turned in afternoons in The Fanatic’s direction with Mike Missanelli besting the team of Jon Marks and Ike Reese 8.5 to 7.9 with Men 25-54. Missanelli owned the 2nd spot, Marks and Reese were 3rd.

At night, the 76ers, Flyers and Fanatic’s evening programming wasn’t enough to stop Joe Giglio. WIP’s evening host captured the 3rd spot for the quarter with a 6.7. The Fanatic during this period was 8th with just under a 5 share.

A few other interesting tidbits to pass along from the quarter which sometimes get overlooked when focusing solely on Men 25-54.

Beginning with WIP, the station was Top 4 with Persons 6+ and 25-54, which is impressive, but I want to draw attention to their Men 18+ numbers because they were more than 5 and a half points higher than The Fanatic.

This is important to point out because although WIP is the heritage brand that came first in the market, that can sometimes create a perception that the brand skews older. Not only was WIP 1st overall in that demo, but Cataldi was 2nd with double digit ratings, DeCamara and Ritchie were 4th just under a 9 share, and Marks and Reese were 1st at an 8.7. That’s a pretty compelling story for Spike Eskin’s brand.

On the other hand, if you don’t know the ins and outs of how the business works when it comes to ratings, it can be easy to look at WIP’s story and think that The Fanatic is screwed. To steal a line from Lee Corso, not so fast my friend.

Not only did Missanelli continue to win in the important PM drive window, but placing in the Top 5 in mornings and middays is going to result in your sales department generating strong interest from advertisers. I’m sure Joe Bell and Eric Johnson want more, but know they’re in a solid position.

Keep in mind, The Fanatic during this period introduced a new morning show led by Marc Farzetta and Tra Thomas, and shifted Anthony Gargano to middays, losing Harry Mayes in that process. Changes often take time to connect with audiences, so to be in a Top 5 situation while the brand gets its legs under it is a pretty good place to be.

In closing, you’ve got two strong radio stations in a great sports radio market providing a combined 13-16 share, Top 5 finishes with the male 25-54 demographic, and making noise with Adults 25-54. That should be enough to excite advertisers and listeners, and keep both brands hungry.

PITTSBURGH:

The Fall book represented the first full quarterly performance of 93.7 The Fan’s newly shuffled lineup. And the early returns were very positive.

Overall, The Fan ranked 3rd for the week with Men 25-54.  In mornings, The Fan Morning Show with Colin Dunlap, Jim Colony and the newly added Chris Mack registered a 2nd place finish with Men 25-54 and a 5th place showing with Persons 25-54.

In middays, The Cook and Joe Show with Ron Cook and Joe Starkey produced the station’s highest share at 9.4. That placed them third with Men 25-54 and fifth with Persons 25-54.  Those weekly Tuesday visits from Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger appear to be good for business.

To round things out, Poni and Mueller (Andrew Fillipponi and Chris Mueller) finished 4th for the fall book with Men 25-54 in afternoon drive. 

SAN FRANCISCO:

95.7 The Game afternoon host Damon Bruce prides himself on being right. But this is one time where I’m sure he’s glad to be wrong. Bruce used to say it was impossible to beat KNBR in the ratings for a full book. Well, that’s no longer the case as 95.7 The Game defeated the sports leader for the first time in the 2018 fall book.

For the full week with Men 25-54 (M-SU 6a-12a) The Game finished 4th with just under a 5 share, seven tenths of a point in front of KNBR who was 6th. The lead widened M-F 6a-7p with 95.7 finishing 3rd at just below a 6 share, a full point and two tenths above KNBR who once again were 6th.

In the individual matchups, The Game’s ‘Joe, Lo and Dibs’ emerged victorious over Murph and Mac. The Game was one point and seven tenths better, coming in 3rd while KNBR placed 6th.

Shifting to middays, Matt Steinmetz and ‘The Guru’ Daryle Johnson were just under a 6 share, coming in 3rd between the hours of 10a-12p. That was two full points higher than Gary and Larry who were 7th. The lead increased even higher when Greg Papa took the air, as ‘The Godfather’ and Bonta Hill produced a strong 2nd place finish with a 6.2, doubling up 1-hour of Gary and Larry, and the entirety of Fitz and Brooks.

Where KNBR bounced back was in afternoon drive. The tandem of Tom Tolbert and John Lund scored a victory for the leader with an impressive 6.2, good enough to finish 2nd. Damon Bruce was also strong, coming in 4th with just above a 5 share.

It took The Game almost 8 years to reach the top of the mountain in the nation’s 4th largest radio market. That said, unseating a great brand like KNBR is a gigantic challenge, and not one that happens quickly. Congrats to Matt Nahigian and his team on their first major victory.

What will be interesting to follow going forward, is whether or not The Game can maintain their success. KNBR isn’t familiar with finishing 2nd so you better believe they’re going to be pushing hard to prove The Game was a one-hit wonder.

With 95.7 having the added benefit of Warriors basketball during the winter months, and Giants regular season baseball games not back on KNBR’s airwaves until April, the winter book is as good of an opportunity for The Game to string together back to back full book wins.

May both stations continue to excel, and enjoy a spirited competition.

ST. LOUIS:

101 ESPN has started 2019 by celebrating its 10 year anniversary, but it closed out 2018 by dominating the market once again.

For the full week (M-Su 6a-Mid) the station produced a 3rd place finish with Men 25-54 thanks to a mid 6 share. That number rose above a 7 share for M-F 6a-7p.

For the individual shows, Bernie Miklasz continued leading the station to a Top 3 finish in morning drive with a low 6 share.

Kevin Wheeler lifted the brand even higher during his timeslot, generating a 3rd place finish courtesy of a 7.4. The Turn featuring Anthony Stalter put the bow in middays by occupying the 4th spot with a 6.7 share.

Where the station saw its biggest success is in afternoon drive. The Fast Lane crushed yet again with a 10 share, just enough to lock up the 2nd spot. Even more impressive for Randy Karraker, Brad Thompson, and Chris Rongey was that they finished 1st overall in the market for the full year.

TAMPA:

No major surprises this quarter, but the market’s leading sports brand WDAE did have each of their programs finish in the Top 10  with Men 25-54. That’s especially positive considering that none of the local shows registered Top 10 performances at the same time last year.

It’s safe to say that football season had a strong impact, lifting WDAE’s ratings 42% from the Summer. The brand climbed 7 ratings positions M-F 6a-7p, moving from 17th to 10th.

The best growth for the station took place during the hours of 12p-6p. WDAE gained 1.5 shares during those hours, good enough to finish 7th.

WASHINGTON DC:

It was a big 4th quarter for 106.7 The Fan. Washington DC’s leading sports station finished #1 with Men 25-54 in weekday prime (excluding non-commercial WAMU) with a strong 9.0. Team 980 was further back just under a 2 share.

The Sports Junkies remained top performers in the competitive morning drive daypart, finishing 2nd (excluding non-commercial WAMU) with a 10.1, one tenth of a point behind WTOP.

The top ranked show on The Fan was once again Grant and Danny. The midday team finished 1st for the fall book with a 10.9. Even more impressive was the 2-3 point lead they held on their next closest competitors WAMU (non-commercial) and WMAL.

PM drive saw Chad Dukes lock down a 2nd place (excluding WAMU) finish with Men 25-54. Dukes finished the quarter with a 7.1.

A few other noteworthy numbers to share, The Fan finished the quarter #1 with Men 18-49 in Full week, Prime, mornings, middays, and afternoons. They were also 5th in Prime and Middays, and 3rd in mornings with Adults 25-54. That should get some advertisers who don’t buy the Men 25-54 demo looking in their direction.

BONUS COVERAGE:

Burlington, Vermont’s sports station 101.3 The Game saw significant growth in afternoon drive during the fall book. ‘The Huddle’, which features Arnie Spanier, Rich Haskell and Brady Farkas, climbed from a 2.8 to 4.7 with Men 25-54. The show saw even bigger gains among Men 18-49, Men 25-49, and Men 35-64.

Sports Radio News

The Michael Kay Show Celebrates 20 Years of New York Sports Radio Excellence

“When we started, I thought it was going to be a short-term gig. 20 years – it’s really hard to fathom; it really is.”

Derek Futterman

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The appetite for sports in the New York metropolitan area has long been strong but the craving of sports radio conversation might even be stronger. The Michael Kay Show has treated fans to a surplus of memorable moments dating back to 2002 when the show began delivering informative and entertaining talk on 1050 ESPN, eventually moving to the FM dial on 98.7 ESPN, and adding a television simulcast on the YES Network in 2014.

On Friday, the program broadcast its 20th anniversary show live in front of a large, fervent crowd of New York listeners at The Palladium in Times Square. The three co-hosts were introduced by New York Knicks public address announcer and Fordham University alumnus Mike Walczewski to the roar of the crowd. Throughout the course of the live broadcast, the program welcomed several special guests and looked back at memorable moments from the past while also creating new memories.

“It’s kind of amazing,” Kay told Barrett Sports Media. “It’s hard to wrap your mind around it. 20 years is a long time. I’ve got to be honest – when we started, I thought it was going to be a short-term gig. 20 years – it’s really hard to fathom; it really is.”

Kay has co-hosted the eponymously-named program from its first day on the air, but the first voice on the station itself was actually none other than his co-host Don La Greca. Former ESPN New York executive and current President of the Broadcasters Foundation of America Tim McCarthy was responsible for pairing Kay and La Greca, but over the first three days of the show, Kay thought La Greca was there “in case the line dropped.” Once Kay received a phone call telling him he could start incorporating La Greca into the program, the dynamic of the show instantly changed. The program started utilizing its co-host rather than fully adopting a solo approach. Today, Kay calls him “the most important component” of the show and the personality who does a majority of the talking.

“It feels like it’s an appendage; it’s a part of my body [and] it’s a part of my life,” La Greca told Barrett Sports Media. “I’m 54 years old – I’ve been in the business [for] 30 years and 21 of them have been with ESPN and 20 of them have been with Michael Kay. It’s not anything that I take for granted and a day like this is really amazing; I’m so proud.”

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Mike Greenberg, current host of Get Up and NBA Countdown on ESPN, along with longtime host of #Greeny on ESPN Radio, joined the program in its first hour. While his appearance centered around discussing the New York Jets upcoming matchup against the New England Patriots this weekend in Foxborough, Mass., he recognized the magnitude of the moment and what differentiates The Michael Kay Show from other sports programs.

“There’s a reason why this show works,” said Greenberg. “Chemistry is something that is very difficult to predict, but to me it is very easy to define although people, particularly executives, have a hard time understanding this. If you didn’t have chemistry, the sum total of your show would be Michael-plus-Don-plus-Peter. Because you have chemistry, it’s Michael-times-Don-times-Peter.”

Peter Rosenberg, the third co-host of the show, concurred with the point made by Greenberg and recognizes his skillset and how he best complements those of Kay and La Greca. He joined the afternoon drive program in 2016 while simultaneously working morning drive in music radio, making him unique in that he works in both drivetime slots in two different formats in the nation’s largest market.

“We really are a different show when we’re together,” Rosenberg told Barrett Sports Media. “Each one of us brings a piece to the table that is different. It’s never the same show if we’re not all there.”

Four-time World Champion as manager of the New York Yankees Joe Torre appeared on stage to a thunderous applause. He was celebrating a 20-year anniversary with his charity, the Safe at Home Foundation, which provides services to end the cycle of violence that risks being fostered in children who have experienced traumatic events. The charity recently had an anniversary gala, an event which many former Yankees attended, and was excited to celebrate the overlap of both milestones.

“I’m happy to be here. You’ll always be special [to] me,” Torre said to Kay. “You were there during a very special time in my career and in my life, and I’ll never forget that.”

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Torre regaled the audience with a story delineating his mindset when he was trying to plan how to address the Yankees in his first spring training with the team in 1996. It was a task that was keeping him up at night, especially entering the job with a win-loss record significantly below .500. As he was working out one morning on a stairmaster machine, reading the top of a page in a motivational book by Bill Parcells gave him the answer he was looking for. “If you believe in what you do, stay with it,” Torre recalled the page saying.

“I said to the players, ‘First off, everybody on my coaching staff has been to a World Series – I haven’t. But I don’t want to win one; I want to win three in a row,’” Torre recalled. “I said that not to show off in any way, but just to let them know that if you win, it’s necessary to show people and show yourself that it wasn’t a fluke. Again, you have to have the right audience and I had some grownups in that clubhouse.”

Following Torre, New York Yankees rookie infielder Oswaldo Cabrera joined the show and discussed what it was like launching his major league career playing in the media capital of the world. Cabrera is familiar with Kay since he also serves as the television voice of the Yankees on the YES Network. As a congratulatory gift, he gifted him one of his lucky necklaces he wears during each game, along with a signed baseball card from Kay’s favorite childhood Yankee, Bobby Murcer.

After the show announced New York Jets cornerback and rookie phenom Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner was running late, the show adjusted by bringing fans a live “Daily Don” of the most-talked about sports figures on the air over the duration of the show. Kay and Rosenberg both took their turns trying to guess the order of the list, taking suggestions from the audience. The panel quickly guessed Álex Rodríguez as the most-talked about sports personality over the time of the show. Former New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning ranked second, and rounding out the top three was Carmelo Anthony due to his stint with the New York Knicks from 2010 to 2016. Completing the top five were former New York Jets head coach and current ESPN analyst Rex Ryan at four and Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving at five.

Shortly thereafter, Kay, La Greca and Rosenberg spent time discussing New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge winning the American League Most Valuable Player award, before welcoming Kay’s YES Network booth partner David Cone. The former Yankees and Mets all-star pitcher also occupies the same role nationally on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball. Cone talked with the show about a number of New York baseball topics before congratulating the crew on twenty years and saying goodbye.

Following Cone’s appearance, WWE superstar Seth Rollins hit the stage in entertaining fashion, taking part in ENN with Peter Rosenberg. Rollins shared how becoming a wrestler was always his plan and there never was a Plan B before tackling a few current news and events items with the hosts. One of those stories was the arrest of Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Todd Downing for drunk driving in Nashville, Tenn. following the team’s win against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisc.

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“He was in Lambeau, they win the game, he gets back on the jet, and at some point he decides: ‘It’s midnight. It’s still early. Let’s go party,’” Rollins said.

“When the Yankees travel, if they’re flying anywhere into New York, there is no liquor served anywhere on the plane,” Kay added. “When you’re going into another town and going on a bus, then you may have some liquor.”

Since it was Friday, Rosenberg closed out the segment by making viewers aware of the announcing duos on the local and national NFL games of the week. He noted how both the Jets and the Giants play at 1pm, a scheduling decision that makes it difficult for New York sports fans to watch their football teams that both have a chance to qualify for the NFL playoffs.

Up next was New York Jets rookie sensation Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner. The star defensive back joined the show to discuss his first year in the NFL, becoming a New York fan favorite, and securing a partnership with Buffalo Wild Wings which included the creation of his own custom hot sauce, playing off of his signature nickname. Gardner talked about managing pressure through practice and preparation, and the upcoming AFC East showdown with the New England Patriots.

As the live broadcast ended, The Michael Kay Show thanked all of its listeners both in-person and listening from afar, concluding the program receiving a standing ovation. Kay brought Joey Salvia on stage, an original member of the program who performed the program’s theme song in its first year, along with 98.7 ESPN New York Program Director Ryan Hurley.

“The only way that you could last on the air in any city is if people listen to you, and that’s what you people have done,” Kay told the audience. “You’ve allowed us to come into your home and your car for these last 20 years, [and] we can’t thank you enough. We love you like family. We can’t believe that you came out on this Friday night. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Who knows if there’s going to be a 30th or a 40th, but let’s aim for it.”

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Once the radio show concluded, the lights were dimmed for Michael Kay Unplugged, a two-hour program referred to as the “bacchanal” containing roasts and a “Reverse Centerstage” panel reflecting on the show’s run and its future. Good Karma Brands CEO Craig Karmazin addressed the room before the event started, thanking the show for being great teammates. Along with Good Karma’s executive vice president Debbie Brown, and president Steve Politziner, the management team presented Don, Michael and Peter with custom hand-painted commemorative plates to commemorate twenty years of on-air success.

Karmazin then pitched to a prerecorded video message from Turner Sports and MLB Network commentator Bob Costas to kick things off before ESPN New York hosts Dave Rothenberg, Chris Carlin and Rick DiPietro took the stage. Once the trio of New York sports talkers grabbed hold of live microphones, the jokes and ribbing began. Rothenberg and Carlin hypothesized about what La Greca would be like if he held other types of jobs. They then took aim at Rosenberg’s music album and compared his gift-giving ability to Tim Tebow’s quarterback talent before turning their attention to Kay and busting his chops for being too sensitive while labeling him the “Gary Cohen” of talk show hosts.

Carlin then got serious and told the audience how special The Michael Kay Show is. In addition to being good friends, Carlin shared how they have the ability to make you feel like you’re home no matter where you’re listening from. He spoke about radio as a medium for cultivating and maintaining a community and thanked the station’s listeners for continuing to support the brand through changes in media dissemination and consumption.

“The word that just comes to mind listening to you guys is joy,” Carlin said. “I think we can all agree we have not experienced a ton of joy over the last few years. I listen to these guys, and immediately I’m smiling, I’m laughing; I’m having a good time.”

Rothenberg echoed that sentiment by reminiscing on how through his radio career, there have been many professionals in the industry who are “awful people.” He feels fortunate to be at a station with a congenial atmosphere and longevity, bringing New York sports fans informative and entertaining talk about their favorite teams.

“I think of everyone at the station,” Rothenberg said. “We have an amazing camaraderie here.”

Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo then made a guest appearance hosting a reverse CenterStage, referencing the YES Network interview show Kay hosts, and asking the co-hosts of The Michael Kay Show questions about their careers and what such longevity has meant to them. Russo famously co-hosted Mike and the Mad Dog with Mike Francesa on WFAN from 1989 to 2008, a 19-year run. Both afternoon drive shows battled it out in the ratings and understood the perspectives they brought to New York sports fans, satisfying their hunger for live and local content.

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“I grew up listening to you,” La Greca told Russo. “I grew up wanting to be in sports radio. I grew up listening to Steve Somers after the Mets games; calling the show to talk about my teams, dreaming I’d get a chance to do this. All I wanted to do was to do a talk show; that’s all I ever dreamt about doing.”

La Greca worked at WFAN while Francesa and Russo broadcast their hit program, but changed broadcast outlets after earning an opportunity to join the local ESPN radio station in New York. Before starting as a talk show host, Kay himself recalled asking Francesa and Russo for advice on being a radio host while he was doing pregame and postgame coverage for the New York Knicks on MSG Networks.

“Chris couldn’t have been nicer and he’s giving me all of this advice,” Kay recalled. “Mike goes, ‘Why would I give you advice? Who are you? You might be competition one day,’ and he walked away.”

Rosenberg joined the show in late 2015 and has brought his eclectic background and jocose personality to the airwaves. When he began matriculating at the University of Maryland, he met other students who were aggressive in their pursuit of a career in sports media, dissuading Rosenberg and forcing him to consider another way to get on the radio. He began hosting music programs, found his way to New York where he’s now a big part of the morning show on Hot 97, and is thankful that his path led him to being able to discuss his two biggest passions, sports and music.

“As much as I loved sports, I wanted to get on the radio,” Rosenberg said. “I simultaneously adored Funkmaster Flex and Bob Costas. The fact that I ended up here is just such a dream come true.”

After Don, Michael and Peter talked about their love for radio, and the different roads they took to get to ESPN New York, Russo mentioned the competitive battle in afternoon drive. Mike Francesa beat the show in the ratings for a long period of time on WFAN but eventually the tables turned. Kay told Mad Dog he could pinpoint exactly when the momentum shifted. He singled out Francesa traveling to Atlanta for Super Bowl week in 2019, a tradition that Mike and Chris started. Kay felt the show that year would be better served not making the trip and instead doing their normal program from their New York radio studio.

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As luck would have it, on January 31st of 2019, the Knicks traded Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks after it was widely reported that he asked to be moved. When Porzingis was dealt, the show went full steam ahead attacking the biggest New York sports story. Because Francesa was in Atlanta and swamped with Super Bowl guests, he wasn’t able to do the same. Kay called it a “watershed moment,” which allowed the show to gain additional listeners and eventually pass Francesa in the ratings.

Michael Kay, Don La Greca and Peter Rosenberg have developed a distinct sound and attracted large listenership for 98.7 ESPN New York in afternoon drive. Friday’s event was a reminder that there are people who are devoted listeners to the show who value the unique connection fostered by radio as a broadcast medium. While listeners are not usually present as the show is taking place, they are indeed a part of the experience no matter where they are and figure to keep listening as New York’s longest-tenured sports afternoon radio program continues its run.

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Sports Radio News

Former 590 The Fan Host Jay Randolph Jr. Dies

“He looked at me blank in the face and I said ‘Is it bad?’ He said ‘Real bad’.”

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Longtime 590 The Fan host Jay Randolph Jr. has died.

A fixture in St. Louis sports radio, Randolph Jr. shared he had been diagnosed with liver cancer late last month. He said on The Morning After last week he was given three-to-four months to live.

“It’s a shocker,” he said. “When you sit down in the chair with the (doctor), you’re thinking he’s going to say, ‘We can do this, we can do that, we can do chemo.’ He looked at me blank in the face and I said ‘Is it bad?’ He said ‘Real bad’.”

He jokingly then quipped “other than that, how was the play Mrs. Lincoln?”

In addition to his work at 590 The Fan, Randolph Jr. also spent time at SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio. His father, Jay Randolph, is a Hall of Fame sportscaster, working as the play-by-play announcer for the West Virginia Mountaineers, Dallas Cowboys, SMU Mustangs, St. Louis Cardinals, St. Louis Blues, Cincinnati Reds, and Florida Marlins, in addition to his work with NBC Sports.

A GoFundMe account was created after he announced his cancer diagnosis. It has currently raised more than $50,000.

He was 53 years old.

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Sports Radio News

Asheville Sports Radio Host Pat Ryan Dies

“Pat’s passion was infectious, his presence, professionalism, enthusiasm, and positive attitude were an inspiration to the lives he touched.”

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Longtime Asheville, North Carolina sports radio host Pat Ryan has died.

Ryan co-hosted The WISE Guys on 1310 WISE since it began in 2005. He also helped facilitate the station carrying UNC-Asheville women’s basketball.

“WISE Sports Radio and The Asheville Radio Group are deeply saddened by the passing of WISE Host Pat Ryan,” Asheville Radio Group Market President Tom Davis told The (Asheville) Citizen-Times. “Pat’s passion was infectious, his presence, professionalism, enthusiasm, and positive attitude were an inspiration to the lives he touched. The joyful and courageous way that he lived his life is an example for all of us. His smile and bright soul will shine forever in our hearts. Please put Pat’s wife Kathleen and his family in your thoughts and prayers.”

Ryan was diagnosed with cancer in 2018. He was 57.

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