ESPN New York Radio will move off of FM radio...

ESPN New York Radio will move off of FM radio this summer. Credit: Getty Images/Astrid Stawiarz

The New York sports talk radio ratings war as we have known it is over – literally. That is because one team no longer is on the traditional scoreboard.

As of Jan. 1, ESPN New York does not subscribe to Nielsen Audio, the company that tracks ratings data and was the longtime basis for listenership comparisons between ESPN and WFAN. The move by Good Karma Brands, which controls ESPN New York, does not come as a surprise.

Craig Karmazin, CEO of Good Karma, told Newsday that dropping Nielsen is part of a company-wide strategy across the country.

He said he does not question Nielsen’s accuracy or methodology, but said his company now focuses more on other measurements, such as podcasts, to gauge its stations’ reach beyond the customary men ages 25-54 radio data.

“It’s outdated to use one form of media to measure a show, especially one that doesn’t reflect the entire listening audience and viewing audience across all the different ways we distribute our media now,” he said. “It’s just not a number that we use.”

The move comes as Good Karma is set to give up ESPN New York’s 98.7-FM signal late this summer. The station will focus on digital distribution while moving its radio content to the 1050-AM signal.

The Jets have announced they will leave ESPN New York for the coming season. The Rangers and Knicks plan to stay next season even without the FM platform.

Chris Oliviero, market president for Audacy New York, which owns WFAN, said he understands Good Karma’s approach, but that he cherishes still having an FM outlet for WFAN.

“They're very smart people at Good Karma,” he said. “They have a business plan that involves AM and digital. I'm sure they're ready to roll it out.

“But if you said to me, ‘Hey Chris, do you want an FM and AM and digital versus an AM and digital?’ Absolutely.”

In recent years WFAN has dominated the ratings, up to and including the autumn 2023 book.

For the past two decades, the quarterly data for the stations has been a source of keen competition and attention, especially when Mike Francesa of WFAN and Michael Kay of ESPN New York were battling in afternoon drive time.

Kay surpassed Francesa for the first time in the autumn of 2019, but in recent years has fallen behind Francesa’s successors in that time slot.

Karmazin said the decision to leave Nielsen had nothing to do with the move off of FM radio, and nothing to do with ESPN’s recent ratings results relative to WFAN. He said Good Karma made the same decision for its top-rated station in Milwaukee.

“It’s not like, ‘Oh, we lost the battle in New York,’” he said. “It’s just a company decision.”

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