I co-host a daily sports talk show in Nashville. I also do guest spots on 15 or more additional stations all over the country. This gives me a unique perspective to check out local sports talk radio shows and stations across the country. I get to consider things as both a guest and a host and I get to gauge what kind of impact the station has in its market by the number of people who respond on Twitter after visits on those markets.
Sports talk radio remains immensely popular, consistently destroying national radio shows in ratings, even as other radio stations battle with the looming impact of satellite and Internet radio. When it comes to sports talk radio, people want to talk about their local teams with personalities they know and trust. Most importantly, you’ve got to be really entertaining. Ultimately sports talk radio in today’s era is entertainment. You know the scores, you know the teams, now who can make those scores and those teams the most fun to talk about. That’s why local sports talk radio is an interesting regionalization, as sports become increasingly national, sports talk remains locally driven.
Indeed, one of the most fascinating things local sports talk radio provides is a window into each city’s collective sports psyche. And there remains a tremendous amount of regional difference when it comes to sports. When I go on as a guest or travel through towns listening on radio, I’m always interested to find out which teams dominate in respective markets, which sports listeners care about the most. The NFL has become king in every city where it has a team. And where the NFL isn’t king, college football is king. Except in North Carolina, Indiana, and Kentucky, the only three states where college basketball is the most important topic in the sporting zeitgist.
But how do all these stations compare?
But which sports talk stations are the most popular in the nation?
We used to have no idea.
Because unlike in television where ratings are released instantly, radio ratings are hard to find. They only come out monthly and the public data from Arbitron is scant.
These ratings are the broadest possible measuring device — the only numbers that are public from Arbirtron. These ratings measure from six in the morning to midnight, persons ages six plus. This doesn’t tell you which individual shows are the highest rated and it also doesn’t tell you how many people are listening to each station.
All this metric does is tell us which sports stations dominate their local markets the most and which are the highest rated sports talk stations in the nation for the month of October 2012. (Again, it does not measure the number of listeners since the size of the market dictates how many listeners you can receive.)
Without further ado, here are the top 25 highest rated sports talk stations in the nation:
1. Detroit WXVT 8.9
This is a massive, massive number that reflects how engaged the city of Detroit was to the Tigers world series run. It also reflects how dominant WXVT is in Detroit.
2. Nashville WGFX 6.8
3. San Francisco KNBR 6.1
The final of the massive number trio, after here there’s a good drop off into high ratings.
4. Minneapolis KFXN 4.8
5. Boston WBZ 4.6
6. Seattle KIRO 4.1
7. Providence WVEI 4.0
8. Philadelphia WIP 3.9
9. Baltimore WJZ 3.7
9. Pittsburgh KDKA 3.7
9. Raleigh WCMC 3.7
None of these top 11 stations have competitors that are remotely close in ratings.
12. St. Louis WXOS 3.4
13. New York City WFAN 3.2
The sports talk radio station that began it all, WFAN is a ratings behemoth in New York City and surrounding areas.
13. Memphis WMFS 3.2
15. Chicago WSCR 3.1
16. Dallas KTCK 3.0
17. Cleveland WKRK 2.9
18. Boston WEEI 2.8
It’s fair to call Boston the most competitive sports talk radio market in the country. But note that even if you combine the two Boston stations they still just equal Nashville. And are still well behind the numbers posted by Detroit, which are just otherworldly.
18. Phoenix KTAR 2.8
20. Tampa WDAE 2.7
20. Sacaramento KCTC 2.7
22. Dallas KESN 2.6
It’s also fair to call Dallas the second most competitive sports talk radio market in the country.
23. Portland KXTG 2.5
24. Norfolk, Va. WVSP 2.4
25. Kansas City KCSP 2.3
If your station was not included here it means it either isn’t in one of the 52 largest markets in the country or it didn’t receive higher than a 2.3 rating according to the latest Arbitron ratings.