Tuesday, April 16, 2019

NYC Radio: Mike Francesa Goes Off On Michael Kay

New York’s afternoon sports talk radio war erupted on Monday with one of its most contentious on-air back-and-forths yet, reports Newsday.

In the wake of a close, complicated winter report, Mike Francesa of WFAN 660 AM / 101.9 FM and Michael Kay of WEPN ESPN New York 98.7 FM offered their own conflicting interpretations of the results in harsh terms.

After ESPN celebrated what it considered a victory in the quarterly book, which covered Jan. 3 through March 27, Francesa said on the air, “I have nothing but sadness and pity for you that you would actually claim a victory that wasn’t real.”

Francesa called the station’s general manager, Tim McCarthy “the Stump Merill of local radio,” and later added, “You’re ESPN, and you get beat like a rented mule for 20 years, it’s got to hurt.”

McCarthy declined to respond to Francesa’s comments when asked by Newsday. But when Kay got wind of Francesa’s remarks via social media and a caller asked about them, he answered Francesa by saying, “Whichever metric you want to use here, we kick your [expletive].”

He added, “We won. We celebrated. We had cake. We had a little champagne. We laughed, because finally the peashooters won. You can spin it whatever way you want. The industry knows you lost this book.”

Data from Nielsen Audio showed Francesa edging Kay among men ages 25-54, the demographic both stations focus on, if one includes both over-the-air and live streaming, which is WFAN’s preferred method, an average of 6.2 percent of the listening audience to 5.9.

Without WFAN’s stream, Kay had the edge, 5.9 to 5.5, but ESPN’s figure includes both over-the-air and streaming numbers, because unlike WFAN, it carries the same ads on both platforms.

ESPN declines to separate the two, making an apples-to-apples comparison impossible, arguing that because its ads are the same on both and are sold to advertisers as one number, they properly should be counted together against WFAN’s over-the-air number.

Francesa’s show does better than Kay’s among older men, but Kay’s show presumably has a larger audience on the YES Network than Francesa does on his app.

A fuller picture of the stations’ audiences can be gleaned from data for all people ages 12 and over. That number, including streaming, shows Francesa at 3.7 and Kay at 3.2.

Kay has been gaining on Francesa for years, and his show is the most successful at ESPN relative to WFAN. Their ratings race has generated extraordinary interest, as well as intricate strategizing. On the final day of the winter book, Kay had Francesa’s old partner, Chris Russo, on as a guest.

In addition to commenting on ratings, Francesa said that WFAN management asked him to do an interview with former morning host Craig Carton last week after Carton was sentenced to 42 months in prison, but that Francesa refused. Carton went on with Kay instead.

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