Top Rated Sports Talk Stations in the Nation: March 2012

Published on: May 07, 2012 | Written by: Clay Travis

A few months ago I posted the highest rated sports talk radio stations in the country for November 2011. 

Lots of y'all loved getting a chance to review these numbers because there is no other real compilation of show ratings. For some reason this information isn't as widely shared as, say, television ratings, which are easily found all over the Internet. If you feel like your station is being slighted or if I left your station out, run the numbers here and you can email me. 

Now, before we get to the ratings, there are two important caveats to share.

1. These are ratings in the local market.

Again, this isn't how many total people listen. If you wanted total sports talk listeners the most listened to would be Jim Rome, Dan Patrick, and whoever is on ESPN radio. Those are nationally syndicated shows. 

These numbers reflect how highly rated shows are in their respective local markets. Basically, which stations most dominate their landscapes. If you aren't on the dial in a city then, clearly, you can't compete there.

Otherwise, you might as well just rank cities by total population since more people listen to the radio in cities with more population.   

These rankings are a compilation of the highest rated stations in the top fifty markets in the country. In theory all of these numbers are standardized because they are based upon the the March 2012 PPMs. PPMs are devices worn by a representative sample of listeners in the largest radio markets in the country.

Smaller markets still do not have the PPM meters so their numbers, based on the old diary method which involves writing down what you listen to from memory, are much less accurate. 

I know lots of y'all, increasingly, listen online or on smartphone apps. Unless you're actually in the local market when you're listening then you don't count in ratings data.  

2. This is the ratings share for all persons ages six and up from six in the morning until twelve at night.

This is the broadest possible audience measurement, all listeners.

So the ratings numbers for popular shows in morning or afternoon drivetime slots will be several orders of magnitude greater than the station numbers below.

Sports talk is also male dominated. But these numbers include all persons, women and children 6+ included, who don't listen to sports talk in anywhere near the same percentages as men.

So, again, this is the broadest possible measurement of audiences in each of these markets. 

With those two caveats -- which inevitably some still won't understand -- here are the top 30 highest rated sports talk stations in the nation for the month of March: 

1. Nashville's 104.5 the Zone WGFX 6.2

2. Detroit's 97.1 the Ticket WXYT 5.1

3. Columbus's 97.1 the Fan WBNS 4.4

3. Raleigh WCMC 4.4 

5. San Francisco KNBR 3.7

5. St. Louis WXOS 3.7

7. Boston WBZ 3.5

7. Boston WEEI 3.5

9. Minneapolis KFXN 3.3

10. Pittsburgh KDKA 3.3

10. Seattle KJR 3.3

12. Kansas City WHB 3.2

13. Indianapolis WFNI 3.1

14. Kansas City KCSP 3.0

14. Baltimore WJZ 3.0

16. Phoenix KTAR 2.8

16. Philadelphia WIP 2.8

18. Dallas KTCK 2.7

18. New York City WFAN 2.7

20. Denver KKFN 2.6

21. Memphis WMFS 2.4

21. Seattle KIRO 2.4

23. Chicago WSCR 2.3

24. Tampa WDAE 2.2

24. Chicago WMVP 2.2

26. Washington, D.C. WTEM 2.0

27. Atlanta WCNN 1.9

27. Cleveland WKRK 1.9

29. Philadelphia WPEN 1.8

29. Washington, D.C. WJFK 1.8 

31. Portland, Oregon KFXX 1.7

...

As you can see, Boston, Kansas City, Philadelphia Chicago, and Washington, D.C. all have two top-30 rated stations.

Given how close these ratings numbers are, it's fair to call these four cities the most competitive sports talk radio markets in the country.  

If you compare the ratings with November's, you can see that top-rated stations don't really fluctuate that much so far. 

Inevitable questions that will arise: 

Birmingham's WJOX does not use the people meter. Based on the most recent quarterly numbers it posted a 5.0 through March of 2012. That would have placed it third in the country behind Nashville and Detroit. Similarly Buffalo's WGR posted a 4.5 in the most recent quarterly book, which would have placed it fourth in the country. But these are not the same measuring system as the PPM, in fact, they're drastically different, so I've excluded them from the mix after several complained about my mixing of the two ratings systems in the November of 2011 rankings.

Also, Oklahoma City's WWLS is very highly rated, but it's not showing up in the ratings database for a recent book and it's not on the PPM. I'm not sure why this is. Perhaps they aren't subscribing to the data?

Further, Cleveland's WKNR ranked in the mid-three's for the past several months but doesn't register a number for March. Again, I don't know why. Not paying for the data too? If that number was posted for March it would have had them in the top ten.   

Top 50 market PPM stations that don't make the top 25 that y'all asked about on Twitter include: Atlanta's 790 the Zone 1.0, LA's KSPN 1.6, Houston's KILT 1.6, Miami's WAXY 1.0, Memphis's WHBQ 1.6, & Dallas's KESN 1.5.

Because y'all will ask for number of listeners: not surprisingly given the populations, New York City's WFAN with 1.3 million listeners is the most listened to local sports talk station in the country. Only four other local sports stations break 550k listeners: both Chicago stations, Detroit's WXYT at 570k and KNBR out of San Francisco with 566k.