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Kay yearns to out-rate Francesa

Yankee broadcaster and 1050 ESPN talk show host,

Yankee broadcaster and 1050 ESPN talk show host, Michael Kay, waves to crowd during the Yankee tickey day parade. (Nov. 6, 2009) Credit: James Carbone

Michael Kay has been fighting a losing ratings battle with WFAN for six years in afternoon drive time, a fact that gnaws at him even as 1050 ESPN executives express confidence in the direction of his show.

"I'm happy they're happy," Kay said. "But I always look at the guy who does the same thing as me. Mike [Francesa] is iconic in that slot. I'd like to one day be able to beat him. I'd like to one day be able to have the tools to beat him."

That last line was a reference to 1050 having a less clear signal than WFAN, particularly outside the city and after sunset. ESPN long has been in the market for an FM outlet for the station.

"It is totally frustrating," Kay said. "The best way I can put it -- this is not a knock on Mike, because Mike is the guy who pretty much set the standard -- but it is like we have a home run-hitting contest and Mike gets 700 swings and I get like 500 and they say, go hit the same amount of home runs. It's hard. We reach fewer people."

Francesa's response? "Utter nonsense," he said. "They're not close in the ratings. They are so far away you can't even see them, OK?"

He said of the signal disparity, "I hate to say it: That's a cop-out."

Kay said he never has felt better about the content of his show, which in previous years he considered overly formatted. "It's a lot more fun than it was," he said.

Dave Roberts, 1050's GM, also lauded the creative direction (and ratings trends) but, like Kay, he said merely being competitive is not the goal. "We're in this to win," he said. "That's the bottom line."

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