The Sports Talk format has been strong and competitive for decades now – and that’s why it’s become so successful. In many major markets, the Sports format is now heard loud and clear on the FM dial, and these days there could be several stations battling it out for the ears of rabid and outspoken local sports fans. Add in the enthusiasm Entercom has for the format and the company’s recent pickup of many of the great CBS Radio Sports stations across the country, and this format is surely about to get even more competitive. Sports is so important to Entercom that the company brought on former San Diego Padres and Miami Dolphins President and Boston Red Sox COO Mike Dee to head up Entercom Sports.
We started recognizing the great local sports talent across the country six years ago. And one of the things we clearly recognized — something you don’t see in many music formats — is that this format has a farm system. There are still smaller-market stations where hosts get a chance to learn the skills they need, whether it’s doing playby- play sports for the local high school or hosting a local show. This is one format not dominated by national hosts, so we set out to recognize the great local talent in markets large and small.
We start our process of searching for the Best Local Sports Talkers in America by taking nominations online months before the issue goes to print. Companies, co-workers, peers, and even listeners can nominate their favorite host or team (no syndicated shows!). Then we talk to program directors. We interview market managers, experts in the Sports Talk format, and radio executives in specific markets. And, of course, we consider ratings, revenue the host or team has driven to the station, and how much commitment they have to the local community and charities.
Despite the extensive research and interviews we conduct, this is admittedly not an exact science. There’s no clear way to determine how or why a successful host in New York is slightly better than a successful host in Boston or Chicago or LaCrosse, WI. But, doing this year after year, we certainly see patterns develop and names that consistently come up that have garnered industry respect. And so we have put all that data together, mulled it over for weeks, and produced what we believe is the definitive list of The Top Local Sports Talkers in America for 2017.
We’d like to extend a special thank you here to the top industry expert in the format, Jason Barrett, who monitors many of these Sports stations and helped us tremendously with this list.
#1. MIKE FRANCESA
1-6:30 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
WFAN’s Mike Francesa has been the number one local sports talker on our list every year the list has been published. His final day on the air at WFAN was December 15, when he finished on top after years of ratings domination, and he ends his run on our list on top, right where he started in 2012.
After seeing the final list on December 18, Mike Francesa sent this note to Radio Ink: “Being named No. 1 in the Radio Ink poll once again is enormously gratifying. That I close out this part of my journey having been voted Number One in every Radio Ink poll means a great deal. My thanks to Ed Ryan and his staff and I eagerly await what lies ahead for all of us.”
Francesa tells Radio Ink that working at WFAN for the past three decades has been a dream come true. “To hold down the best piece of sports real estate in the media capital of the world has been a privilege,” he says. “It has been challenging, thrilling, and incredibly enjoyable. There have been so many big sports moments: the Rangers in ’94, the Yanks in ’96, and the Giants knocking off the unbeaten Pats. But also the moments when real life has intersected sports, from Magic Johnson to 9/11 to Tiger Woods.”
Mark Chernoff, VP of programming for WFAN and Entercom Radio New York, tells Radio Ink, “We will all miss Mike as he leaves WFAN after 30 amazing years at the station, including over 28 in afternoon drive, dominating the time slot, first as one half of Mike and the Mad Dog and continuing solo since 2008. Mike has always been a ground-breaker and innovator in Sports Talk, as well as a multiple Marconi Award winner, and I’m sure he’ll be successful in whatever he chooses to do post-WFAN.”
Francesa says being on the radio has been very special. “Radio allows you a uniquely close relationship with the listeners. As I leave The Fan, it is easy to highlight what I will miss most. I will miss the big news day, when I travel to the studio knowing the audience is waiting for me at 1 o’clock, waiting for my take on the day’s events. I love, and will miss, that.”
Francesa has brought an amazing amount of revenue to WFAN as well as number one ratings in Men 25-54, the bullseye demo for a Sports Talk station. Over the years, Francesa has also raised a ton of money for various charities WFAN has been involved with, including the Tomorrows Children’s Fund, CJ Foundation for SIDS, WhyHunger, the Connecticut Sports Foundation, St. Francis Heart Hospital, and the New York City Police and Fire Departments.
Here is the entire 2017 list of the Best Local Sports Talkers in America
#2. KIRK MINIHANE & GERRY CALLAHAN
(Kirk & Callahan)
#3. FRED TOUCHER & RICH SHERTENLEIB
(Toucher & Rich)
#4. ANGELO CATALDI
#5. CRAIG MILLER, GEORGE DUNHAM & GORDON KEITH
#6. JOHN AUVILLE, ERIC BICKEL, JASON BISHOP & JOHN-PAUL FLAIM
(The Sports Junkies)
#7. MIKE MULLIGAN & BRIAN HANLEY
(Mully & Hanley)
#8. BOOMER ESIASON
#9. BRIAN MURPHY & PAUL MCCAFFREY
(Murph & Mac)
#10. MIKE VALENTI
#11. MIKE FELGER & TONY MASSARROTTI
(Felger & Mazz)
12. DALE ARNOLD, MICHAEL HOLLEY & RICH KEEFE
13. MIKE MISSANELLI
14. TOM WADDLE & MARC SILVERMAN
(Waddle & Silvy)
WMVP (ESPN 1000)/Chicago
15. GLENN ORDWAY, LOU MERLONI & CHRISTIAN FAURIA
10 a.m.-2 p.m.
16. SCOTT ZOLAK & MARC BERTRAND
17. MICHAEL KAY & DON LAGRECA
Michael Kay, Peter Rosenberg and Don Lagreca
WEPN (ESPN)/New York
18. TOM TOLBERT & JOHN LUND
19. GARY RADNICH & LARRY KRUEGER
10 a.m.-1 p.m.
20. MIKE RHYNER & CORBY DAVIDSON
21. JOE BENIGNO & EVAN ROBERTS
10 a.m.-1 p.m.
22. BROCK HUARD & MIKE SALK
23. CARL DUKES & MIKE BELL
24. STEVE MASON & JOHN IRELAND
25. DOUG KARSCH & SCOTT ANDERSON
10 a.m.-2 p.m.
26. DAN SILEO
XEPRS-AM (The Mighty
27. BERNIE MIKLASZ
28. ADAM GOLD & JOE OVIES
29. DAVE “SOFTY” MAHLER
30. GARY SHARP & DAMON BENNING
31. MIKE SCHOPP & CHRIS PARKER
(Schopp & The Bulldog)
32. MATT MASCONA
33. NICK BAHE
11 a.m.-2 p.m.
34. GEORGE PLASTER
35. DAVE CARNEY & MATT SKRADIE
WKTY/La Crosse, WI