Hey, it only took 20 years.
ESPN Radio New York is finally going to go local. The station is reworking its daily lineup starting in January in an effort to better challenge WFAN and narrow the massive ratings gap. And by reworking, it is making one change — albeit a notable one.
BREAKING NEWS: NEW LINEUP, SAME TEAM.
STARTING JANUARY 3RD! pic.twitter.com/znA4Wabfis
— 98.7FM ESPN New York (@ESPNNY98_7FM) December 1, 2022
The only thing that will be different is the morning show. Rick DiPietro and Dave Rothenberg boast ESPN’s strongest ratings at the moment and have done well in their 5-8 a.m. window. But then they go off the air and ESPN picks up the national morning show helmed by Keyshawn Johnson, Max Kellerman and Jay Williams, which rates about as well as test patterns when up against WFAN’s Boomer Esiason and Gregg Giannotti.
It makes a great deal of sense to have DiPietro and Rothenberg adjust and expand their timeslot to 6-10 a.m. They do not have a prayer to come anywhere close to competing with Esiason and Giannotti. But they will likely do a heck of a lot better than the national show was.
Keeping Mike Greenberg’s national show on the schedule from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. helps no one. One, Greenberg rarely actually hosts “Greeny.” And two, whatever new ratings momentum DiPietro and Rothenberg generate from 8-10 a.m. is just going to be lost. The midday duo of Alan Hahn and Bart Scott is sticking in a 12-3 p.m. timeslot and will not get any benefit of an improved lead-in. Which is headscratching because we would argue WFAN is most vulnerable in middays. Tiki Barber and Brandon Tierney do a good job, but their ratings are proportionally similar to what Maggie Gray and Marc Malusis were pulling in before that show was scuttled.
ESPN is not going anywhere as long as The Michael Kay Show remains in freefall. The entire operation revolves around afternoon drive. And ESPN has a complete dumpster fire on its hands. It’s not that Kay is losing to WFAN. Kay has spent an entire radio career, save a few books, losing to WFAN. It’s that he is getting boatraced by them to an astonishing extent. Craig Carton and Evan Roberts tripled Kay’s audience in the second month of the fall book. And this was supposed to be Kay’s get-well season. Carton and Roberts battled back from losing the book last fall to get control, Kay took the entire summer off and then he returned to what has been a sports-heavy few months with Aaron Judge and the Yankees, the Mets and two surprise NFL playoff contenders in the Giants and Jets. And yet things have gotten worse going up against WFAN’s guy talk.
The big story in 2023 is going to be Kay’s future. He has said his contract is up next year. Does he want to keep doing the show and getting blown out by Carton (who he clearly cannot stand) and Roberts? And does ESPN want to keep rolling him out there? The blockbuster move would be to swing for the fences and somehow poach Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo from Sirius XM. That would change everything in town. But we would argue carrying ESPN’s national afternoon duo of former WFAN host Chris Carlin and former Giants lineman Chris Canty might be preferable to Kay’s show at this point. Or they could build a show around Don La Greca. There are options available if Kay steps off the stage.
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James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]