SBJ/March 6 - 12, 2006/This Weeks News

ESPN Radio’s NYC station gets boost from Smith

ESPN Radio might finally have a breakout star in New York, and the network’s owned-and-operated stations showed gains in Dallas and Los Angeles in the fall Arbitron ratings book.

Ratings for Stephen A. Smith’s show on
WEPN doubled the year-ago number.
In New York, WEPN’s Stephen A. Smith drew a 2.3 rating among men 25-54 for his noon-2 p.m. shift, almost double the 1.2 that the ESPN station earned a year ago. Smith, who began his show in April 2005, is the station’s most popular host and is especially resonating among African-American audiences, according to ESPN Radio general manager Bruce Gilbert.

The gains did not come at the expense of dominant sports station WFAN, which remained in fourth place among all New York radio stations in the men 25-54 demographic with a 4.9 share, up 4 percent from a year ago and 2 percent from the summer. WEPN is 22nd in the demo, having averaged a 1.5 share, 7 percent better than fall 2005 and 36 percent above its summer showing.

“He’s bringing a lot of new people to the format,” Gilbert said of Smith, who is black. “Stations have to recognize that fans are diverse.”

In Dallas, ESPN grew by 44 percent among men 25-54 from fall 2005, reaching a 3.6 share, as sports radio leader Susquehanna’s KTCK fell 14 percent, to a 4.6.

Gilbert cited three reasons for the big move: regular volatility caused by Arbitron’s diary ratings method, the improvement of KESN-FM’s local talent and young men switching to a “familiar” brand.

KTCK executives did not return a call seeking comment.

In Los Angeles, sports radio is about as popular as earthquakes, but ESPN’s KSPN moved from 29th to 20th among the key male demo by increasing its share 60 percent from fall 2005, to a 2.0. But the gains didn’t come at the expense of Clear Channel’s KLAC, a Fox Sports Radio affiliate, which almost doubled its share to a 1.3. Sporting News Radio’s KMPC audience was too small to register a rating.

The fall ratings book covered Sept. 22-Dec. 14, and all the figures are for 7 a.m. to midnight.

Andrew Grossman is a writer in New York.

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