New York Yankees play-by-play man Michael Kay

New York Yankees play-by-play man Michael Kay Credit: NEWSDAY/Getty Images

What might be the final radio ratings battle between Mike Francesa and Michael Kay in afternoon drive time appears to be headed for a dramatic finish.

Data for the first of the three months in the autumn ratings book came out on Monday, and it showed Kay in first place among all stations in the market for men ages 25-54 with an average of 7.4 percent of the audience.

Francesa ranked second at 6.0.

The month reflected figures from Sept. 12 through Oct. 9. The full book ends on Dec. 4, but the final numbers for the quarter will not be reported until Dec. 23.

WFAN has not announced plans for its lineup beyond December, but it has been planning for life after Francesa, who could leave afternoon drive time shortly after the end of the book.

If he does, he still is expected to remain with Entercom, WFAN’s parent company, in the form of a presence on its digital arm,

The ratings above include over-the-air and live streaming, a relatively recent calculation that has been a source of confusion and controversy in the ratings wars.

Kay has been hugely successful in building his ratings in recent books, especially relative to the rest of the station’s programming. But he still has not beaten Francesa for a full book if one includes streaming data for both shows.

In other parts of the day, WFAN handily topped ESPN for the month. Its morning show was first with a 6.6 share and ESPN was eighth at 4.7. From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., it was first at 8.0, with ESPN fourth at 5.8.

From 1 to 3 p.m. WFAN was tied for second at 6.0 and ESPN was tied for sixth at 4.9.

Radio ratings debates are complicated, and offer a limited picture of the audience, starting with the fact no women are included, nor are men who are under 25 or over 54.

They also do not reflect total consumption in the case of Kay, whose show is simulcast on the YES Network. But television uses a different ratings system, making apples-to-apples comparisons difficult.

Finally, there is other noise in the data. For example, WFAN was hurt by a low-rated Yankees-Tigers game on the first day of the book. But next month it likely will be helped by the Yankees-Astros ALCS game that was played in late afternoon.

The most contentious debate has centered on whether streaming should count.

Nielsen measures that audience the same way it does for over the air, but it reports WFAN’s separately because the station uses different advertising online. ESPN gets one combined number because its ads are the same on both platforms.

In an interview with Newsday in June, Entercom’s regional president, Susan Larkin, said that given the rise of listening on devices other than traditional, terrestrial radio, it makes sense to include those listeners.

“As we look at our audiences and say, how do we count, we have to count all of it and not look at it separately,” she said. “Why all of it should be counted is that it is all counted. So Nielsen looks at it that way and they count both audiences, and it’s up to the individual companies on how it’s reported.”

She added, “It is this simple: It is measured exactly the same, separately. It is reported the way each individual company chooses to report it. If we only were looking at the over-the-air audience and not the digital audience, even if ESPN were reporting it separately, it would be such an antiquated way. It’s not how people are consuming audio.”

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