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Neil Best leaves no stone unturned in the world of sports media.

WFAN still rules ratings race

I wrote two short, somewhat related stories for my Friday features/analysis page, this one about the coming launch of ESPNNewYork.com, and this one about the state of 1050 ESPN Radio's long battle to wrest listeners from WFAN.

I gave both interesting subjects short shrift, especially the latter, but it is what it is. Space is limited and there is a lot going on in the New York sports world. We do our best.

The 8.5-year quest of 1050 ESPN to make significant ratings progress against WFAN is a fascinating saga.

One of the first stories I wrote on the media beat in the fall of 2005 was on that topic, and not much has changed since - other than WFAN losing Don Imus and Chris Russo and still not missing a beat.

There is no question 1050 ESPN suffers from its less reliable signal. ESPN has flirted with acquiring an FM station, which could be a game-changer, but until it does it must live with the reality of not being a "clear channel."

Beyond that, though, there isn't much of an excuse.

The station does many things well, including sports news reporting, aided by ESPN's trove of journalists and personalities, none of whom are allowed to appear on WFAN.

Still, the numbers are stuck. One particularly interesting period was January, when the Jets didn't make their players available to WFAN's Mike Francesa, yet he handily beat the team's flagship radio station.

The addition of Bonnie Bernstein to Michael Kay's afternoon show hasn't helped, and has created some awkward verbal traffic jams involving Kay, Bernstein and Don La Greca.

I asked Dave Roberts, 1050's new general manager, about the chemistry on the Kay show. He said this:

"Overall we are pleased with the Michael Kay show, and the reason why we're pleased with it is when you have someone the strength of Michael Kay, it's pretty easy to build a team around him.

"The key to the Michael Kay show is Michael Kay. The fact you can pair him with Don La Greca and you can bring in someone with the experience that Bonnie Bernstein brings to the table, you have the ingredients of potential success.

"Like everything in our operation, we're a work in progress, and we look forward to seeing the progress continue."

Here are some ratings numbers, which measure the percentage of the audience among men ages 25 to 54 for each station in mornings, midday and afternoons in recent months:

Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 10 a.m.:

WFAN: 5.7 percent in February, 7.4 in January, 6.4 in December.

WEPN (1050's official call letters): 1.7, 2.5, 2.5

Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.:

WFAN: 5.5 percent in February, 6.6 in January, 6.2 in December

WEPN: 1.5, 2.0, 2.1

Monday through Friday, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.:

WFAN: 5.7 percent in February, 7.1 in January, 6.4 in December

WEPN: 2.3, 2.8, 3.1

Tags: ESPN , WFAN

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