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WFAN's Mike Francesa edges ESPN's Michael Kay in spring radio ratings

This composite image shows WFAN's Mike Francesa, left,

This composite image shows WFAN's Mike Francesa, left, and ESPN New York's Michael Kay. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke, AP

Mike Francesa of WFAN finished first overall in the New York-area radio ratings for the quarterly spring “book,” which covers March 28 to June 19, edging ESPN New York’s Michael Kay in another close race between the afternoon shows.

From 3 to 6:30 p.m., Francesa averaged 6.6 percent of the audience among men ages 25-54, a demographic both stations primarily use, according to data from Nielsen Audio. Kay averaged 6.4 and was second overall in the market.

The above figures include both over-the-air and streaming audiences.

It appeared two months into the ratings period that Francesa would win comfortably, but Kay had a better June, narrowing the gap to an even closer finish than in the winter, when Francesa led, 6.2 to 5.9. Last autumn, Francesa finished ahead of Kay, 6.4 to 5.8.

The close, complicated winter race led to a contentious on-air back-and-forth between the hosts and stations, with both declaring victory and Francesa calling ESPN New York’s general manager, Tim McCarthy “the Stump Merrill of local radio.”

ESPN believed Kay had won because without WFAN’s streaming audience, he would have finished ahead of Francesa.

Kay said that day in April, “I’m going to tell you one thing, Mike, you’ve had an iconic career and now you’re embarrassing yourself. People in the industry are laughing at you...I feel pity for you.”

Unlike WFAN, ESPN uses the same ads over the air and online, so Nielsen reports its ratings as one number. ESPN has declined to break down how much of its rating comes from streaming, so a clear comparison is not possible.

Egos aside, both shows are ratings successes, outperforming all other New York stations in the key demographic regardless of genre. And Kay’s show is by far the most popular on his station. WFAN crushed ESPN every other time of day.

The ratings data both stations use presents an incomplete picture of their audiences. It does not count men 55 and over, nor any women, nor other audiences such as Kay’s YES Network simulcast.

Francesa led the spring book comfortably after two months, 7.3 to 6.5, but Kay won June, 6.3 to 5.2.

Kay is off the air until next month after undergoing vocal cord surgery this week.

Francesa suggested last October he might leave WFAN to focus on his app, but in recent months he has had little to say about his near future.

Regardless, the station is approaching key decisions, because it is paying eight hosts from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

The contracts of Chris Carlin, Maggie Gray and Bart Scott are up at the end of the year, and the future of their show is uncertain.

Elsewhere for the spring book, WFAN’s Boomer Esiason and Gregg Giannotti finished first overall with 6.3 percent of the audience to ESPN’s 4.2 and 10th place.

From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts finished first at 7.2 compared to ESPN’s 10th and 3.4.

From 1 to 3 p.m., Carlin, Gray and Scott finished second at 6.7 compared to ESPN’s 11th and 3.4.

New York Sports