The full effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on local sports radio hit home on Tuesday with the release of the quarterly spring ratings.
To no one’s surprise, numbers were down across the board, given the lack of sports this spring and the fact fewer people were commuting to work and listening in their cars to WFAN and ESPN New York.
In the stations’ target demographic of men ages 25-54, WFAN’s Boomer Esiason and Gregg Giannotti finished fourth among all New York-area stations from 6 to 10 a.m. with an average of 5.5% of the audience, and ESPN was a distant 20th at 1.4.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., WFAN’s Maggie Gray and Marc Malusis finished eighth at 3.4% and ESPN 10th at 3.1.
From 2 to 6 p.m., ESPN finished fourth at 5.0% and WFAN 10th at 3.6.
From 3 to 6 p.m., when ESPN’s “The Michael Kay Show” competes head-to-head with WFAN’s Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts, ESPN was fourth at 5.2% and WFAN 13th at 3.2.
The spring book covered the period March 26 through June 17.
In mid-June, Chris Oliviero, market manager for Entercom New York, said of Benigno and Roberts, "They have a long track record of ratings success [in midday], so to me it is unfair to judge them solely on the last two months.
“Are the numbers where we want them to be? No. Are they lower than Joe and Evan ever thought they would be? Of course they are. Joe and Evan would be the first to tell you that. But again, this is not like a panic mode where it’s like, ‘Oh, my.’ There is a reason we can point to and say there’s an issue.”
ESPN, which long has struggled in the morning in New York with its national programming, will revamp its radio lineup effective Aug. 17, notably with former Jet Keyshawn Johnson, Jay Williams and Zubin Mehenti replacing Trey Wingo and Mike Golic in the morning.
The rest of the daytime lineup, which is not heard on ESPN New York, will feature Dan Le Batard from 10 a.m. to noon, Mike Greenberg from noon to 2 p.m., Max Kellerman from 2 to 4 p.m. and Chiney Ogwumike and Mike Golic Jr. from 4 to 7 p.m.
WFAN unveiled a new lineup for midday and afternoon drive time on Jan. 2, with Gray and Malusis in middays and Benigno and Roberts from 2 to 6 p.m.
In the winter, most of which was pre-COVID-19, WFAN finished first from 6 to 10 a.m. with an average of 6.7% of the audience in the key demo, ahead of ESPN’s 2.9.
From 3 to 6 p.m. in the winter, Kay finished first at 7.3% and WFAN tied for third at 5.3.
All the above data includes both over-the-air and live stream audiences.
Chris Oliviero assumed oversight of New York stations for Entercom, WFAN’s parent company, in June. It is not clear what his plans for the near-term future are amid the ratings and revenue slump since the virus hit.
The X-factor could be former morning co-host Craig Carton, who was released from prison in June after serving one year of a 42-month sentence for running a fraudulent business to pay off gambling debts.
Mike Francesa has been appearing from 6 to 7 p.m. daily on the station, like Benigno and Roberts rating well behind ESPN. It is not clear how much longer he will continue in that limited role.
What about baseball, Suzyn?
On the live baseball front, Entercom is mapping out its coverage of Yankees and Mets games on WFAN and WCBS for the shortened MLB season.
While nothing is finalized, the most likely plan is for John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman to call both home and road Yankees games from Yankee Stadium, and for Howie Rose and Wayne Randazzo to call both home and road Mets games from Citi Field. The announcers probably will work in separate booths.
The road games would be called from a monitor, obviously.
Having announcers call road games from the stadiums would allow for being outdoors in a centrally located, controlled environment rather than working from an indoor studio.
MLB protocols allow for local radio broadcasters to travel to road games, but that does not appear to be in the cards, other than perhaps for Yankees announcers to visit Citi Field and vice versa for Subway Series games.