ESPN New York’s Michael Kay left Mike Francesa screaming in the FAN hallways after the buzz Kay’s show created with his Craig Carton post-sentencing interview, according to sources.
Now the two sides will howl about who is really the king of the winter radio book. The ratings came out Monday, and Kay is atop what is equivalent to the electorate college, while Francesa could be considered the popular-vote winner.
Early Monday afternoon, both sides claimed victory, as Francesa tweeted while ESPN sent out a press release.
The truest story, no matter how either side spins the ratings, is this: What once was a blowout, with Francesa always beating Kay, is now a virtual tie.
And the old radio adage is the following: If you have to explain the ratings too much, it means you lost.
Here are the raw numbers, and then we will detail what both sides are saying, take you behind Francesa’s temper tantrum and hear from one of Francesa’s bosses.
In the initial winter book ratings from Nielsen Audio from 3 p.m.-6:30 p.m., Kay picked up a 5.9 rating, while Francesa had a 5.5 in the male 25-54 demographic that articles like this one have been using for years. This number has been the standard because it is what stations sell to the advertising community.
Under this calculation, Kay was second and Francesa fifth in the book, behind first-place WBLS.
Francesa has the advantage with two signals (FM and AM) to Kay’s one, but his number does not include streaming. If the streaming number is added, then Francesa noses ahead of Kay, 6.2-5.9, into second overall.
“The only way to compare apples to apples, us vs. ESPN, is to add the stream in, because that is the actual measurement,” Entercom regional president Susan Larkin told The Post during a 45-minute conversation Friday.
ESPN GM Tim McCarthy countered that FAN just started bringing this up as Francesa — who had never lost a ratings book to Kay until this disputed outcome — fell.
“All of a sudden, we are crossing swords,” McCarthy said. “We never had this conversation a year ago, six months ago, whatever. All of a sudden, we want to add in all these numbers. Seems strange.
“You can’t change the rules when you want them to work for you. If you want to sit and write an article who is more popular, Kay beats him handily because you have to include YES, too.”
If you add in TV and paid apps, you could make the argument that Kay’s program is more popular. Kay averages around 20,000 viewers a day on his YES simulcast.
Francesa, without any neutral verification, indicated toward the end of last year that he might have 1,000 paid app subscribers. Larkin said Francesa’s numbers are “good,” but didn’t offer statistics.
Kay’s show has had more of a buzz in recent weeks, though Francesa remains relevant on social media thanks largely to his Twitter biographer, @BackAftaThis, who has rounded up Francesa saying Virginia and Tiger Woods had no shot at their latest championships, among other things.
This has caused Francesa to falsely claim the anonymous man behind the feed “doctored” the video.
Without @BackAftaThis — who says he “hates” Francesa’s show and hopes his account is shut down — it is unclear if Francesa would be that relevant online.
The biggest buzz the stations have created in recent weeks belonged to Kay, with his show’s interviews of Knicks owner James Dolan, Lenny Dykstra and a post-sentencing sit-down with Carton. FAN morning show “Boomer & Gio” declined to have Carton, Boomer Esiason’s ex-partner, on.
While Francesa may have been able to land the Carton interview despite their longtime feud, he did not.
Following a tweet by “Boomer & Gio” about Carton’s interview on Kay, Francesa, 65, had a meltdown last week.
Francesa lambasted Larkin and VP Mark Chernoff in front of FAN newsroom observers, sources said. Larkin said all is good, declining to talk specifics.
“He’s amazing to work with,” Larkin said of Francesa. “And I’m not just saying that. I will tell you I came into this job a year ago, and one of the greatest things was the call from our CEO to say that Mike Francesa was coming back on this radio station. It was unbelievable news. From the first time I met him, which was a lunch, to every day working with him, I walk in the door so grateful for our relationship. He is not difficult to work with at all. Other people have different opinions. I can only speak to my relationship with him.”
Larkin added, “He doesn’t tell me how to do my job, and I don’t tell him how to do his job.”
“The Kay Show” lacks the off-air drama of Francesa, though adding Peter Rosenberg as the third wheel has created more passion, positively and negatively, for the program. While Rosenberg struggled in the Dolan and Carton interview, he often shoots up at Kay, adding to the program’s dynamic.
Don La Greca, Kay’s longtime sidekick, has never really consistently gone toe-to-toe on Kay’s quirks. La Greca is best when he rants, but as a rant purist who won’t overdo it, he will go weeks without unloading.
Kay is sometimes called a Yankees homer, but that is a lazy narrative. His play-by-play work does hold him back as a talker because that, combined with the restraints of Disney and ESPN, make him lack the outrageousness that, rightly or wrongly, usually separates opinionists these days.
Kay is much more knowledgeable than Francesa, but Francesa remains more fascinating.
To emphasize Francesa’s popularity, Larkin said that if you invited everyone in the tri-state area to see Francesa or Kay, you would need a bigger room for Francesa. She may be right. The problem is: How many at this point are rubberneckers?
Francesa is erratic. He is still being paid, but has yet to sign a contract since he returned nearly a year ago. He has lamented the possibility of adding a sidekick, debated quitting his radio show and doesn’t know if the app can coexist with FAN. He originally said he only came back to FAN to begin the app.
His radio show still brings in advertisers, and Larkin thinks Francesa is staying.
“Yeah, my expectation is that,” Larkin said.
In other parts of the day: In the mornings, “Boomer & Gio,” without the stream, finished eighth at 4.7 and with the stream were fifth at 5.3. “Golic and Wingo” were 11th with a 3.6. In mid-mornings, “Joe & Evan” finished third (6.2/7.2 with the stream), while “Humpty, Canty with Rothenberg” were 13th (2.8). In early afternoons, “Carlin, Maggie and Bart” had a 5.9 (fifth) without streaming and a 6.8 (third) with streaming. Stephen A. Smith was 12th at 3.1.