The COVID-19 crisis has taken a toll on every segment of our economy and sports is a very visible example. The lack of live games has understandably frustrated sports fans and it has wrecked the weekend programming of the major broadcast networks as well as crippling ESPN.
WFAN has been the sports radio leader in the New York market for 33 years and has always been a leader in the Arbitron ratings which measures radio listenership. While it may actually wind up having even more listeners than ever because people are home as opposed to being at work, its revenue will be down because it isn’t airing Yankees games coupled with the fact that this virulent virus-induced recession has greatly impacted advertising dollars.
Executives from both CBS Radio, WFAN’s former owner, and Entercom, its current one, have long bragged about how WFAN was the highest-billing radio station in the country. Judging by the news coming out this past week, the good times are certainly over for now.
The first sign of troubling times had arrived at the FAN was management’s decision to furlough the weekend air staff and make every weekday air personality add a Saturday or Sunday shift in to their regular duties. Richard Neer has gotten some graveyard airtime back but popular weekend voices as Chris Moore, Chris McMonigle, Jody McDonald, Ed Randall, and Lori Rubinson are still shelved.
Last week Entercom announced that any employee who did not have a contract would have their salary slashed by 20% and it made clear that even those who had contracts would be wise to comply.
That edict undoubtedly nudged John Minko, who has been doing the station’s sports update newscasts since its inception in 1987, to accept a corporate buyout. Most pensions are based on average career salary so a pay cut would permanently reduce his monthly check.
It should be noted that Minko isn’t retiring as he’ll still be the radio play-by-play voice for St. John’s University Red Storm men’s basketball.
Entercom execs asked Mike Francesa to increase his presence at the FAN. In addition to his weekday 6 PM thirty-minute program, he is now hosting a Sunday 9 AM to 1 PM show.
Francesa made news last week when he used his bully pulpit to criticize President Trump’s response to the health crisis as far as New York was concerned. It was newsworthy because he has always been a visible and loud supporter of the president. Needless to say, the clip of Francesa’s rant quickly caught fire on social media.
Instead of being thrilled with this priceless publicity, Entercom had Francesa announce that anyone posting unauthorized content would be subject to legal action.
I guess Entercom doesn’t want to risk incurring President Trump’s wrath in case it’s eligible for federal bailout funds.
As I mentioned earlier television networks are missing the ad revenue that comes with live sports but they are doing quite well with both daytime and primetime programming with Americans looking for at-home diversions from all of the grim news.
A good example was the large ratings the series finale of “Hawaii Five-O” garnered last Friday night on CBS.
This was a reboot of the original series that starred the late Richmond Hill native Jack Lord as Honolulu detective Steve McGarrett which ran for 11 seasons on CBS. This reincarnation, which had Australian actor Alex O’Loughlin in the McGarrett role, enjoyed a ten-year run. O’Loughlin’s co-star on the show was Scott Caan who is the son of actor and Sunnyside native James Caan.
Some media companies are smartly taking advantage of the fact that nearly everyone is at home these days by offering freebies to promote their services.
Satellite radio’s Sirius XM is offering everyone free service of its programming through May 15 while HBO is making some (though not most) of its programming available to all free of charge through its HBO GO and HBO NOW platforms.
Kudos to late night talk show hosts Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, and Seth Meyers who are broadcasting their monologs and interviewing guests from their homes. Satirist/comedian Bill Maher has resumed his “Real Time” HBO Friday night 10 PM program as he is using his Los Angeles home as a studio.