WFAN has long been the undisputed sports talk radio champion in the New York market. In the early 1990s it faced token opposition from WSNR, which broadcast on low-wattage 620 on the AM dial and featured national talk programming from the schlocky Sporting News Radio. Sporting News eventually sold the station to a consortium that changed the format to Russian language programming.
In 2003, the FAN got more formidable competition when the “Worldwide Leader in Sports,” ESPN, bought the 1050 AM frequency from WEVD and turned it into all-sports WEPN. It wasn’t much of a ratings contest until ESPN purchased the 98.7 FM frequency and began to draw within striking distance of WFAN, which would obtain the 101.9 position on the FM dial so it could simulcast as well.
Now ESPN Radio New York appears to be in its strongest position ever. Its afternoon drivetime show helmed by Michael Kay finally beat WFAN icon Mike Francesa in the Arbitron ratings for the first time in their 16 years of battling. Clearly, there was backlash to Francesa coming out of retirement just months after his big 2018 farewell tour. He has given up most of his on-air work, save for a daily half-hour show.
With Francesa having a minimal afternoon presence longtime WFAN programming director Mark Chernoff has moved the team of Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts from the midday shift to afternoon drivetime. Longtime FAN mainstays Marc Malusis and Maggie Gray will take over their old time slot.
After leaving Sports Illustrated, Gray was part of a triumvirate that replaced Francesa when he retired. Her partners were former Jets linebacker Bart Scott and local radio and TV veteran Chris Carlin. They won critical praise and did OK in the ratings but were jettisoned to the 1 to 3 p.m. slot when Francesa couldn’t handle retirement. In a cost-saving move, WFAN gave Carlin his walking papers. He’ll be heard on ESPN New York during evenings when the station is not airing Knicks or Rangers games.
FAN management wanted to retain Scott but their parent corporation, Entercom, doesn’t have a national TV network. Two years ago Scott was on CBS’s “NFL Today” panel and now he is part of SNY’s Jets pre- and postgame shows. He was looking to return to national TV and ESPN was glad to extend that opportunity.
The one area where WFAN enjoys an insurmountable listenership lead is in the mornings ; when its “Boomer & Gio Show” (Boomer Esiason and Greg Giannotti) competes with ESPN’s national morning sports team of Mike Golic and Trey Wingo. New York listeners only respond to local sports shows in which their favorite teams are discussed first and foremost.