Michael Kay and Craig Carton have first salvo in new ratings war

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It is an Opening Day victory, nothing more, nothing less. Long-term, it may not foretell anything. But it is the first salvo.

And it went to “The Michael Kay Show.”

In Craig Carton’s return to FAN, ESPN New York’s Kay Show beat “Carton & Roberts” in his opening three days among men 25-54, according to Nielsen Audio. Depending how you view streaming, Kay either won the first three days or took two of three. 

On Monday (Nov. 9) from 3-7 p.m. when the programs go head-to-head, Kay won 8.6-6.9 with FAN’s streaming included. Two days later, Kay won 9.2-4.3, again with streaming. On Tuesday (Nov. 10) Kay won, 6.1-5.6, in the traditional way Nielsen present its numbers, but when you add in FAN’s streaming — which is already baked into ESPN New York’s share — then “C&R” comes back for a 8.1-6.1 advantage.

Any way you look at it, this is just for the first three days so, in the burgeoning afternoon radio rating war, it is a blip, an opening blip, but a blip.  

The real sample size is three months, not three days.

In four weeks, appropriately enough, near Christmas, the first month will be available. This will still be an incomplete portrait, though, more telling.

The winter book that begins after the New Year will be the truest, no-excuses first measure if the Carton-led FAN can take the afternoon crown that Kay swiped off Mike Francesa before he went into retirement.

Radio still uses Nielsen Audio’s antiquated system that doesn’t even have the two stations measured on the same streaming metrics. The system is so clunky that it was only Wednesday that we found out the ratings for Carton’s first three shows, Nov. 9-11.

WFAN executives were already emphasizing that Carton won total audience (among all listeners, not the traditional 25-54 male metric) for these three days. In other words, the fight between the two stations is back on.

The traditional battle, right or wrong, has been where radio sells its advertising, which is men 25-54. This may be the electoral college of radio, but it is how it has been tallied.If you use the total audience method, ESPN could counter that Kay’s YES audience should then be included.

As for the content, Carton’s style doesn’t seem to have changed much after his three years away from FAN that included a year in a minimum security prison due to a fraud conviction. 

Carton loves to talk about Carton. It is why it is a divisive listen, because it is more about him than sports.

On Tuesday, there was a caller-inspired bit where Roberts said he would let Francesa give him a hot oil massage for a Jets Super Bowl win. Carton proceeded to do a whole routine, playing it out with Francesa impersonations and voice drops of old Francesa clips, pretending Francesa was putting his “hairy” knuckles on Roberts’ “bird boned” body. 

It was either hilarious or gross, depending on your point of view. What it wasn’t was that classic “Mike & the Mad Dog” FAN afternoon sound. Carton and Roberts do mix a little sports in sometimes.

Kay, with his sidekicks Don La Greca and Peter Rosenberg, is not an all-sports show either. They are on a winning streak after taking down Francesa. The trio got the initial “W”against Carton, but it should be lowercase.

Quick clicks

CBS’ All-Access Champions League “The Golazo Show” is awesome. It is NFL Red Zone for club soccer’s biggest tournament. The idea of NFL Red Zone emanated from Europe so this is full circle. What wasn’t excellent was the all-access app crashing for a period of time on Wednesday for some users … ESPN’s play-by-player Dan Shulman was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, which is a good excuse for me to say that Shulman should be considered one of the greatest baseball play-by-players of all-time. … ESPN play-by-player Jason Benetti has been on the radar for a while now, but his skills have been showing up again this week during his college hoops broadcasts with Bill Walton. Walton is just all over the place, overwhelming the broadcast, which is entertaining if you are a more casual fan of the teams playing. Benetti’s rejoinders are the show-stealer. For example, Walton said a first year-player was playing the best he has ever seen. Benetti quickly pointed out it was the players’ second game of his career.

Clicker books

Papa Clicker is ready to start your gift season with a book recommendation. “The Spencer Haywood Rule: Battles, Basketball  and the Making of an American Iconoclast” by Marc J. Spears and Gary Washburn is the fascinating story of a son of widow sharecropper, the first star of the ABA and a player who changed the hardship rule in the NBA before nearly being destroyed by a drug addiction. He turned his life around and became an NBA Hall-of-Famer. The book receives a very fine 4.4 clickers out of 5.

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