WFAN began its 28th year on the air this fall with one of its strongest ratings quarters in recent memory, averaging more than seven percent of the audience among men ages 25-54 for its three key shows from Sept. 11 through Dec. 3.

The most pleasant surprise for the station was the performance of the midday show featuring Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts, which averaged a 7.6 share and ranked first in the New York market for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. - a WFAN first.

After long stretches during which that slot featured an assortment of hosts, Benigno and Roberts have been together nearly eight years.

Mark Chernoff, the station's operations manager, praised the team for being "on target" with their discussions, and also credited popular regular football guests such as Antrel Rolle, Muhammad Wilkerson, Terry Bradshaw and Michael Irvin.

"They are the stars of this book," the station's afternoon host, Mike Francesa, said of Benigno and Roberts.

WFAN's morning team of Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton averaged a 7.9 share, second in the market to Z-100 and nearly double the 4.0 for ESPN's national show featuring Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg.

Benigno and Roberts more than doubled the 3.1 for ESPN New York's programming between 10 and 1.

Francesa finished first in his 1 to 6:30 p.m. slot with a 7.2 share, well ahead of ESPN's 3.8 during that time period.

Between 1 and 3 p.m. Francesa averaged a 7.5, tripling the 2.5 for ESPN New York, which since late September has had Mike Lupica in that time slot.

Michael Kay fared far better than that on ESPN from 3 to 6:30 p.m., when he is head-to-head against Francesa.

Francesa ranked first in the market at 7.1 during that period and Kay ranked seventh at 4.6.

WFAN also did well in the evenings and on weekends, ranking first in the market among men ages 25-54 overall from Monday through Sunday, 6 a.m. through midnight. (WFAN ratings include both its AM and FM outlets.)

"I'm extremely pleased," Chernoff said.

Said Francesa: "For the station to run straight 7s from 6 in the morning to afternoon drive is a tremendous showing."

Francesa has expressed frustration in recent months with the infrequency of his simulcast on Fox Sports 1 and also has admitted to tensions between him and management at CBS Radio, which owns WFAN.

Asked for an update on his relationship with CBS Radio, Francesa said, "No comment. Merry Christmas to all!"