A contribution from WaPo radio reporter Paul Farhi
Washington's great sports-talk radio war is starting to resemble the Battle of Verdun--a long, bloody standoff with the advantage measured in tiny increments. After two
three months of head-to-head yakking, Dan Snyder-owned ESPN 980 and CBS-owned WJFK-FM have failed to take much ground from the other among local listeners.
Overall, in fact, both stations are almost exactly where they stood before WJFK (aka "106.7-The Fan") switched from general guy-talk to an all-sports talk format in July.
According to new figures from Arbitron Inc., the two stations were in a dead heat among all listeners, morning till night, over the past three months. WJFK captured an average of 1.9 percent of the listening audience--the same as ESPN 980 (AM). The two stations finished tied for 19th among all stations.
Among the 25-to-54 year old audience that radio advertisers target, neither station has budged much. WJFK had a 2.9 share (tied for 16th) back in June; in September, it had...a 2.9 share (16th). Similarly, ESPN 980 attracted a 2.6 percent slice of the audience in June (ranking 18th); in September, it stood at 2.3 percent (again 18th).
If you really want to get nerdy, however, look at the stations' demographics. WJFK's program director, Chris Kinard, says his outfit is winning among adult men, the prime prime audience target. Kinard says WJFK is winning in that category--including Mike Wise and LaVar Arrington's shows against Tony Kornheiser's and Thom Loverro's/Kevin Sheehan's in middays--during every part of the day. Big exception: ESPN 980 is way ahead on weekends, when it broadcasts Redskins games.
On the other hand--more radio nerd-ism coming--ESPN 980 is comfortably ahead on "cume," the total number of individuals who tune in to the station for at least 15 minutes over the course of a week. Helped by Redskins game broadcasts, ESPN 980 had 315,000 "unique" listeners each week in September vs. 231,700 for WJFK.
Score one for both sides. It's sorta like having a 2-2 record.