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Mike Francesa finishes second in afternoon drive for final full ratings period at WFAN

Francesa finishes behind WLTW, ahead of rival Michael Kay in last full ratings book.

Mike Francesa helped revolutionized sports talk radio at WFAN with Chris "Mad Dog" Russo. Nine years since they split up, Francesa remains the top-rated host in New York. After 30 years at WFAN, 2017 is his last. Watch his final year unfold as Francesa's fans, colleagues and athletes from the New York area spoke about what it will be like to no longer have this icon on the air. (Credit: Newsday staff) (Photo Credit: ESPN, WFAN)

WFAN ranked second in afternoon drive time for the last full ratings book of the Mike Francesa era, according to data released Tuesday by Nielsen Audio that covered Sept. 14 through Dec. 6.

From 3 to 7 p.m., WFAN averaged 6.6 percent of the audience in the key demographic of men ages 25-54. That trailed only WLTW, also known as “Lite FM,” at 7.1, helped as usual by its holiday music format, which this year began on Nov. 20.

Michael Kay’s ESPN New York afternoon program ranked fourth at 5.0, in keeping with recent strong showings for Kay compared to other programs on that channel.

For the entirety of Francesa’s actual time slot of 1 to 6:30 p.m., he finished second in the fall book to WLTW, 7.2 to 6.7. ESPN New York was seventh during that period at 4.6.

With Francesa to be replaced next week by “The Afternoon Drive” with Chris Carlin, Bart Scott and Maggie Gray, Kay presumably will be in position to beat WFAN for the first time.

Kay declined to comment about that or more generally about the changing landscape of New York sports radio.

There will be intense scrutiny around the winter ratings. Asked earlier this month when it will be fair to assess the new show’s ratings, Mark Chernoff, WFAN’s vice president of programming, said, “I don’t know if there’s a real timetable. Everybody who knows me, I obsess on a daily basis.

“The expectation is I want the show to sound good, and it will develop as it moves along. Will I look at the ratings? Yes. But my expectations, I keep to myself. I want the radio station and show to do very well, but not to put a number on it or an expectation, other than: What’s the eventual goal? We want to be the best one in New York.”

Francesa’s ratings do not include his heavily publicized last week at WFAN, culminating with his finale on Dec. 15.

WFAN maintained its ratings success in morning drive time from 6 to 10 a.m., even after the resignation of morning co-host Craig Carton on Sept. 13.

With Jerry Recco filling in for Carton opposite Boomer Esiason through most of that period, WFAN finished first among men 25-54 with an average rating of 7.7. WLTW was second at 6.7. ESPN was 12th at 3.4.

Gregg Giannotti will become the permanent morning co-host on Jan. 2.

WFAN’s midday show with Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts finished fifth with a 5.5 percent share of men 25-54 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., with ESPN New York coming in 12th at 3.1 for that time slot.

WLTW was first at 8.0.

Starting Tuesday Benigno and Roberts will be heard from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

New York Sports