Mike Silva's New York Baseball Digest » Blog Archive » WFAN Should Fear ESPN New York

WFAN Should Fear ESPN New York

By Mike Silva ~ March 27th, 2010. Filed under: Sports Media Commentary.

No matter how successful a business is there always has to be a plan to stay #1. Unless there is congressional legislation to keep WFAN atop the ratings leader boards, there should be some uneasiness over at the offices of CBS. Knowing that ESPN New York is about to launch is less than two weeks should be at the top of worries for Mark Chernoff.

Using their Boston website as a template I like what I see. They combine news, audio, video, and team blogs dedicated to just the local teams. During a time where there is an overload of information it will be nice to have one a “one stop shop” of New York sports. Knowing the power of money and access, there is no doubt the folks at ESPN will take this regional web idea and make it work. They already have rumored to be bringing on respected local writers Ian O’ Connor and Adam Rubin, as well as Bonnie Bernstein. I am sure there is more to come and if I were the NY Post and Daily News I would start to find replacements for my top talent.

We all know ESPN Radio lags in this market. Right now the one show I enjoy is Brandon Tierney’s. As I said last summer, Tierney does a diverse show and has knowledge and passion that is largely lacking in modern day sports talk. Most hosts are about shtick (Craig Carton) and have very little to offer in terms of insight. The problem with ESPN is that Tierney is the only local guy that executes that kind of content. It’s very hard to give Michael Kay credibility as an overall sports talk show host when he is employed by the YES Network and bleeds Yankees pinstripes.

The majority of ESPN’s programming is national so it already puts itself behind its lone competitor (WFAN) in New York. Also, the station signal isn’t the greatest, as someone who lives out on Eastern Long Island there are plenty of places I have trouble getting it clean.

If they could fix the signal issues they might be on to something. ESPN New York obviously will have writers that provide insight and break news. As Neil Best points out Seth Everett will host a “New York Centric” show that will incorporate these personalities. I enjoy Seth on XM Radio and know he will knock this out of the park. This is something that is sorely lacking on WFAN. Right now, I can count on one hand the hosts at WFAN that truly have a handle on things outside of the basic talking points. Evan Roberts, their version of Tierney in my opinion, is not given enough air time. There is plenty of behind the scenes talent shackled by Mark Chernoff as well. They have started to dip their toe into new media, but I don’t get the sense there is a true commitment from above. What does that tell you? WFAN is more interested in managing corporate politics and gimmicks (again Craig Carton) then working towards a better future. Why change when you’re #1? Ask Xerox how that worked out for them.

It’s no surprise that Mike Francesa, one of the stalest personalities in New York, dismissed ESPN saying “they are not winning anytime soon” as if breaking into the radio game is something that should happen instantaneously. Francesa, of course, should know since WFAN had to overcome so many obstacles to break into an industry where there was no other game in town. Next I am wondering if we should start to give the Saudi’s credit for drilling all that oil. Funny, ESPN is so lousy, yet they scored StubHub, Anheuser-Busch and Audi as sponsors. Don’t see any Kars4Kids or ads for ED in that scenario. I would say the Mets are the one thing that may be saving the station’s lunch as the team signed an agreement to extend their partnership back in 2008.

The time has come for ESPN to “put up or shut up” in this market. I still think they only are getting it half right by not converting the station to a better version of WFAN. If they did that not only would they win, but I bet they could steal all the top talent (sans Francesa) right under the nose of Chernoff. I wish I had the numbers, but I would bet WFAN scores way better with the 54 crowd than the 25 portion of it. ESPN needs to study the New York blogosphere and incorporate that kind of content into their programming. That, along with the established ways of doing radio, would be a home run. Remember you already have the present, but need to win by selling the future on your brand. I almost should charge for this kind of advice.

ESPN New York is a great start. Not only should WFAN be afraid, but the local papers as well. We are about to see a flood of top talent go to the “sports leader” and perhaps combine new media and radio. Mr. Francesa, you can go from the penthouse to the outhouse very quickly. As someone who has worked for a company that started out small and became a “conglomerate” I would know. I have studied the history of this type of stuff and know the kind of work ethic and vision that goes into staying #1. You and the suits at WFAN quite simply do not have it. Right now you have an advantage because, as ESPN Program Director Dave Roberts puts it, you are a “heritage station,” but that could change very quickly. I believe we are on the cusps of seeing that happen here in New York.

Mike Silva is a freelance writer and radio host since March of 2007. This website is his own personal "digest" of New York Baseball He's also hosts NYBD Radio on Blog Talk Radio and 1240 AM WGBB. Check out his sports media commentary at www.sportsmediawatchdog.com. Check out his official website, www.mikesilvamedia.com
Mike Silva
View all posts by Mike Silva
Mikes website

Post to Twitter Post to Yahoo Buzz Post to Delicious Post to Digg Post to Facebook

16 Responses to WFAN Should Fear ESPN New York

  1. kranepool

    Mike your right on about WFAN and the staleness of the station. Where 1PM was a must listen time on 660 it’s no longer in fact the dinosaur they have from 1-6 is so far behind the times the only prople who do listen to him still have a rotary phone and use a typewriter. And by the way can someone tell the Sports Pope that the “car phone” went out with bell bottoms and Cabbage Patch Kids?

    I also agree that ESPN New York will hurt the newspapers in this town as well as the WWL has the resources to pay the talent more than the strictly print outlets can . By the way I heard Ian O’Connor on 1050 last week and he was very good on the radio.

    The 1050 signal sucks especially here on Staten Island where I get station CHUM an oldies station from Toronto on that frequency . Maybe it’s time to switch to the FM dial .

    Besides who needs WFAN or WEPN when you have better sports talk shows on Blog Talk Radio !

  2. GravediggerHebner

    Francesa has become impossible to listen to in anything but very short bursts since his ego has gone unchecked without a co-host. Even his interviews, which in my opinion were his strong suit, have suffered as evidenced by that recent insanity about Mickey Mantle while interviewing the author of a book about Willie Mays.

    I am in my mid-40′s so at least in theory I should be the demographic with which Francesa as “heritage radio” has a strong foothold. I admit I still turn to 660-AM out of old habit. That habit is dying hard, but it’s dying.

    I enjoy Evan Roberts best when he’s solo, often on Saturday mornings. His guests and resulting interviews with them are often refreshing, especially without Benigno’s “talk about that” interview style. I am not a fan of many of Tierney’s opinions but I do appreciate that he allows other opinions fair time during his show. I am REALLY no fan of Michael Kay but his stable of co-hosts make his show palatable. When he takes a day off, his show ironically becomes must-listen for me.

    I agree with you that Francesa should not sit smugly in his ivory tower, flicking off the mosquitoes of opposition, because in case he hasn’t noticed those mosquitoes are getting bigger, stronger and more bloodthirsty.

    Perhaps the most important thing for WEPN to do is what you point out - they must increase their signal. I live and work roughly 70 miles north-northwest of NYC and during the day the signal is intermittent, and when the sun goes down it takes their signal with it. If they rectify that, they may finally drain the blood from the rambling monster that is WFAN.

  3. Liz

    I agree. I listen to WFAN but I DON’T listen before 10a or after 1p during the day unless there’s a ballgame. Like Boomer but can’t stand Carton- especially after he made all those comments about Reyes and HGH- as if he knows better than Jose’s doctors. I don’t listen to francesa- he’s pompus and condesending,and intolerant of any opinion but his own. I do most of my listening at night and can tell you that Tony Paige is among the best. Polite, knowledgable and always willing to listen to well thought-out opposing points of view. Like you, I really enjoy Evan, and Joe captures the dispair of all Mets fans with his ” Oh the pain”. I’m looking forwad to Adam Rubin on ESPN- hopefully they’ll stream it live on the computer- as stated,1050′s signal sucks. WFAN may be winning the battle now- but if they don’t join the 21st century, they’ll lose the war.

  4. sometime fan

    I got to say, I find myself liking Roberts, too. For one, he’s probably the only guy at that station who uses email. As the years tick on, I can’t see WFAN sustaining its audience if it refuses to recognize younger fans (without resorting to gimmicks like Craig Carton’s despicable misogyny). In recent weeks I’ve heard Beningo proudly talk about his ignorance of Sabermetrics, Francessa laughably reveal his ignorance about Twitter and Sommers unaware of a story that was all over the blogs the day before…

    There’s definitely a lot of charm to the old-guy, New Yawk schtick of so many of the hosts, but as a younger listener, I can tell a lot generational dust is starting to collect at that station.

  5. Iris Heyes

    I couldn’t believe they went with Carton when it happened, totally unlistenable, not that I listened to WFAN during that time slot with the previous host (also unlistenable). Francessa can be painful, sure, but I think he’d be good at the 10 to 1 slot, he just can’t pull off five and a half hours by himself without tedious vamping and unsuccessfully trying to hold down his lunch (dispepsia is not what I listen for). The problem with ESPN has always been their use of clones, the smarmy guy with ADHD went out with Olberman and Patrick. With the addition of local knowledgeable talent they have a chance. Rubin and O’Connor will automatically get me to give them a shot. And since you brought up the Kars 4 Kids, don’t you just feel like calling Child Protective Services when you hear that? Someone please rescue that kid!

  6. Benny


    Not only is the Morning show #1 with Men on 25-54 crowd it is also #1 on the 18-34 men crowd. So you are wrong on how they skew to the demographics. You may be entitled to your opinion but you can not change the facts. In addition, Bonnie Bernstein is getting Marginalized (see NY Daily News) and you will find ESPN still not getting their act together. Lets see Also WFAN’s advertisers: Chevrolet, Fidelity,BMW (if you want times I will be happy to provide them to you). In general Radio is dying (no doubt about that) but if I have a choice as a advertiser right now for the male demographic, my money is on WFAN in the short term and long term. Until ESPN picks up a baseball team to pick since Yankees are tied up for the next five years on WCBS,Mets tied up for couple more years, 1050 WEPN will not move at all.

  7. Gutty Francesa

    Love when Benny says it. Blogs certainly allow for bias but Mr. Silva takes it to another level.

  8. National Site

    WFAN has nothing to fear because ESPN “New York” isn’t a local site. The traffic to ESPN’s other “local” sites isn’t local, it’s national. Check with the web analytics companies, search on Compete.com for their sites. It’s a national site.

  9. Mike Silva

    National Site, with all due respect, you should change your handle to “rational site” as in rationalization.

    Tell Chernoff and company when you go back to the FanCave to look up great companies that lost their market share by implementing the same arrogant strategy you outlined.

  10. Benny


    Again, You have a great Baseball blog but I have to tell you the strategy of WFAN is the correct one. The problem started with the implementation of Arbitron in the use of PPM’s (Personal People Meters). I have my own doubts on these devices as do many minority owned broadcasting companies, but on the radio side FAN is following the correct strategy. If you look at the ratings (not just overall but specific targeted demographic data) which many people and companies subscribe to, you will see that having live sporting events is the reason both FAN and WCBS 880 are among the stations that get high billings. FAN paid for Mets and Giants therefore they get to collect the revenue while Nets and Devils pay FAN a fee. 1050 follows the same strategy. Again if the goal of 1050 ESPN is to make money of their website than good for them, but they are not going to make money of their radio station with this type of strategy. I heard Mr.Kay announce the radio stations new schedule and again it does not give an asset like Brandon Tierney a good platform (pairing him with Jody McDonald in my opinion is a mistake). Time will tell but over the next calender year in the Arbitron ratings 1050 will still be behind WFAN

  11. NJ Nyets


    How could you write a column like that and not even mention actual numbers from Arbitron ratings even once? Is that because if you did, your readers would see that ESPN, as Francesa said, has a VERY long way to go before they’re even competitive? But why let ratings get in the way for a good audition for ESPN New York?

    For the record, WFAN beats ESPN Radio 3.1 to 1.4. That’s easily more than double for those scoring at home. In radio terms, that kind of margin is impossible to overcome in even five years. But you’re right…Francesa has no clue what he’s talking about.

  12. Mike Silva

    NJ Nyets

    I don’t really believe in the ratings, that is why I don’t mention them.

    With the money and branding of ESPN they should be able to make a dent. So what if it takes 10 years? WFAN plans to be in business a long time right? Also, what about the listeners that aren’t even listening to either? What about starting to compete with the internet? ESPN will put together a radio/internet package that WFAN is forensically incapable of doing due to their myopic management.

    Watch Howard Stern’s movie (I did again) and you will see all that is wrong with radio - no vision, and they do their best to keep the status quo and destroy new ideas in the guise of “ratings”

    If corporations can rig the book, I think ratings can be rigged. I also believe the “heritage concept” is happening.

    They are ill prepared for the next wave of 25-54 IMO

  13. Mike

    Mike- You might not believe in ratings, but the rest of the world does.

  14. Mike Silva

    Ratings don’t tell you how you are building your brand

  15. Dave

    Yes, they do. Radio lives and dies with ratings. Ratings tell them how much to charge for ads. That’s how radio makes money. The fact that you don’t believe in ratings makes you sound like a clueless blogger. WFAN will always kill ESPN. And I dislike WFAN.

  16. Mike Silva

    Companies and general advertisers have no idea what these ratings mean. All they know is that its been used for a long time - big deal! WFAN and the industry needs to sell advertising so they make things bigger than they are. Again, their brand is suffering and is ill prepared to compete in the internet age. Tomorrow I will be listening to BT in the PM. Hopefully this is the beginning of someone who can compete with Francesa - this city needs it.

Leave a Reply