Michael Kay Show tops Carton & Roberts in fall ratings battle

Upon HIS comeback to WFAN, when Craig Carton first drew some ratings blood, beating ESPN New York’s “The Michael Kay Show,” Carton had a memorable rant, emphasizing that there are “winners” and “losers.”

With Carton, it’s always a little personal — real or imagined. That’s how he does radio.

Carton quickly got to crow, as he and his partner, Evan Roberts, beat Kay in his first full ratings book back last winter.

By the end of last spring, it appeared as if it might be time to call the fight with “Carton & Roberts” again having the belts strapped around their waists.

But, after a month of the Nielsen Audio fall book, it is ESPN New York’s “The Michael Kay Show” that is suddenly and decisively on top. This is four rounds into a 12-round fall bout, but it is Carton and Roberts searching for their mouthpieces.

Kay and his partners, Don La Greca and Peter Rosenberg, had a September 5.8 share of men 25-54, the traditional metric the stations use. It was good for fourth in the market.

“Carton & Roberts” was at a 3.7 share (10th in market), according to data from Nielsen Audio that includes both stations’ radio and streaming numbers. The time period these numbers represent are for 3-6:30 p.m., when both shows are scheduled against each other.

If you look at 3-7 p.m., both stations do slightly worse with ESPN (5.5/5th) still up on WFAN (3.6/11th).

Figuring out why the ratings have changed so suddenly is mostly a fool’s errand. They always seem somewhat whimsical.

However you look at it, the fifth major sport in New York — FAN vs. ESPN NY afternoon ratings — is back. Though, enjoy it while it lasts because with ESPN’s partnership with Good Karma in the offing, it could end soon as Good Karma is known to downplay the ratings.

“The Michael Kay Show” has been encouraged since the summer ratings — a not-as-important period, which is why we are just first mentioning it now. The “Kay Show” beat “C&R” in the summer, which is not a usual metric because it is when hosts take much of their vacation.

The Kay program, for good or bad, has its show down after all these years. Like them or not, you know what you are getting. They are hanging out, making fun of each other and mixing in sports.

“Carton & Roberts,” about to turn a year old, is still evolving. Roberts has bent the knee to Carton, ceding control to him after Carton’s three-year hiatus due to his trouble with the law and prison sentence.

Carton provokes conflict. That is his top move. He’s good at it, if you like to listen to that type of thing. He knows how to do radio.

What the FAN afternoon show lacks is any “You have to listen” feel on actual sports topics. Roberts is knowledgeable, but lacks depth beyond what he reads and observes. He has the enthusiasm of a 12-year-old for his teams, a good trait for a host.

Carton likes to needle Roberts and, as opposed to an ex-athlete, Roberts only gives Carton dorkiness to pick apart. Making fun of a former NFL MVP in Boomer Esiason feels better than it does with Roberts.

To his credit, Carton is a student of the game and will keep working to make it flow more. We would have made the likeable Chris Lopresti a full-time update guy, as he gave the show some segments of easy listening.

Michael Kay catches as Ken Singleton throws out the first pitch
Michael Kay, seen here catching Ken Singleton’s ceremonial first pitch, has some local radio competition on Craig Carton.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Carton is not that interested in nuts-and-bolts sports talk, which is what Roberts did with his old partner, Joe Benigno. Carton is correct that, in this digital age, you can’t just debate middle relievers. But, in the afternoon, the FAN does need to be the place you turn to when a big story breaks.

The winners-and-losers rant was a good one. Carton has made the competition with Kay very personal. This fall, it is a fight again, and the first four rounds have all been 10-8 to Kay.

The rest of the first month ratings

“Boomer & Gio” (6.1 share/3rd in market) are still leading in the mornings from 6-10 a.m. ESPN NY’s “DiPietro & Rothenberg” had a nice showing from 5-8 (5.4/4th). From 8-10, “Keyshawn, JWill and Max” were 16th (2.3 share). From 10-2, “Moose & Maggie” earned a 3.8 share/8th in market, while the combination of “Greeny and whomever-is-filling-in-for-Greeny” and the first hour of “Bart and Hahn” was at 2.6/14th in market. When “Bart and Hahn” went one-on-one from 2-3 p.m. with “Carton & Roberts,” FAN won with a 5.0 share (6th) to 2.6 (15th). This means the Kay show opens its program from behind when it comes on the air at 3 p.m.


Christin Hakim

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