ESPN 98.7 Finds Positives in First Ratings Since Move to FM

The first Arbitron PPM ratings since the changes for WBLS and WEPN are out.

Inner City’s WBLS powered up the survey to number four. The Urban station leaped 2.2. It was the first full month since 98.7 was purchased by ESPN. Picking up the KISS/WRKS slack, ‘BLS added several personalities from 98.7.

As for ESPN, on the surface, it could be deemed a disappointment for the sports station still simulcasting on 1050 AM. The 98.7 frequency with KISS ended with an overall 4.0, while WEPN only managed a 1.8. WFAN increased slightly to a 3.2.

The cume (listenership) dropped from just shy of 2 million in April as an R&B station, to 1.4 million as ESPN Radio’s flagship.

“That’s because they [KISS] probably … [had] a lot of women listeners, which is typical of an Urban format,” Dave Roberts, ESPN New York GM, tells FishbowlNY.

That cume, though, has nearly doubled from a year ago among the people 12+ category.

“That’s a nice foundation [on which] to build new, loyal listeners,” Roberts says.

Roberts found many other silver linings. Using the men 25 to 54 yardstick, for instance, his 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco show, is tops at WEPN. It leaps from 19th to 8th place with a 4.5 rating.

Roberts says the Smith/Ruocco tandem is closing the gap with WFAN’s towering presence in the afternoon.

“That’s probably as close as anybody’s ever been to [Mike] Francesa,” Roberts says.

He adds that among men 18 to 34, Smith and Ruocco actually catch Mike Francesa (5.4/4.3).

The second portion of the afternoon belongs to Michael Kay, the YES Network’s Yankees lead play-by-play man. citing “multiple sources close to the situation at ESPN” says Kay could be gone by the end of 2012.

“It’s totally not true,” Roberts tells FishbowlNY. “Michael Kay is part of a very talented team of hosts.”

WEPN’s entire daytime lineup, including Kay’s show, is among the Top 10 month-to-month among men 25 to 54.

Putting the focus back on May 2012 and the move to FM stereo, Roberts says the New York Rangers Stanley Cup Playoff run all were Top 10 performers.

“Which never happened on an AM,” Roberts says. “We were lucky to get a .1.”

Roberts has a simple take-away from the May numbers.

“New York can obviously support two sports talk stations [on] a level playing field,” Roberts says.

Although he admits it is too early to draw any conclusions about WEPN against WFAN.

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and we’re in this for the long haul,” Roberts says.