Craig Carton’s treatment of Evan Roberts is hurting him in ratings war

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One of the best things about Craig Carton as a talk show host is he is opinionated. While it is an essential trait for the job, not everyone in front of the mic has it. Of all of Carton’s opinions, his highest one, of course, is reserved for himself.

After three years away, including one in a federal prison for fraud, Carton still acts as if there is no better radio host in the country. He leads with his ego. Obnoxious and cocky, he expects to be on top.

So far, the targeted audience hasn’t fully embraced him and Evan Roberts against ESPN New York’s “Michael Kay Show.” Maybe it will eventually, but it hasn’t yet.

Kay beat Carton and his partner, Evan Roberts, head-to-head pretty convincingly in the 25-54 male demographic, where the two stations have staged their fight for years.

For the first month of “Carton & Roberts,” Kay’s show was second in the market with a 6.5 share in men, 25-54, while Carton & Roberts was fifth at 5.4 from 3-7 p.m. The streams are included for both numbers.  

In the complete, three-month book, in which Roberts teamed with the now retired Joe Benigno for the first eight or so weeks, Kay was second overall (6.6) to FAN’s fifth (4.9) from 3-7 p.m.

FAN, though, is encouraged by Carton & Roberts’ numbers. For C&R’s full show from 2-7, which includes the good fortune of going against Max Kellerman’s national hour to start,  FAN was an impressive third in the market with a 5.8 in 25-54, only behind WLTW’s Christmas music and WSKQ’s Spanish music. 

When the audience is measured by listeners, male and female, 12 and older from 3-7, C&R beat Kay, 3.5 (9th) to 2.5 (17th). Still, the crown, using the traditional rules, belongs to Kay.

At this point, Kay’s show is more polished. Like Carton & Roberts, who won’t do a full segment just on sports, Kay’s program is not strictly a sports talk show. The difference is in this schticky approach, the chemistry has to work. 

While Carton and Roberts are figuring it out, Kay, Don La Greca and Peter Rosenberg know where each other is going. They have it down.

Carton is a radio guy, through and through, and listens back to his programs to see where his shows can improve. There are areas that need to evolve.

Nearly every sports conversation can’t devolve into Carton’s theories on life or Carton somehow needling — degrading? — Roberts. The idea of Carton picking on the sports nerdy Roberts does not work; especially against the old juxtaposition of when Carton shot the arrows up at former Pro Bowl quarterback Boomer Esiason. 

The other day, Carton told — scolded? — Roberts that he sometimes gets in the way of bits. 

“Assume I know what I’m doing,” Carton advised.

Carton should give Roberts the same respect. To his credit, Carton acknowledged, upon further review, he interrupts Roberts too much. It’s a start.

The show needs more of an even quality. It can’t be Evan sitting at the knee of his crazy uncle Craigy, finding out which classic movie he is assigned to watch and file a book report on. 

Roberts has places where he doesn’t have to take a backseat. He knows way more sports than Carton. When Carton is clueless on the Rule 5 draft and is using it as some criticism of new Mets owner Steve Cohen, Roberts should go after him, not to demean, but to create entertaining radio. It can’t be just about making Carton shine. Roberts should be insulted if he comes across as a sidekick.

FAN probably needs to add another voice or two because Carton requires an ensemble to orchestrate. The Kay program first really took off, and might have been at its best, when Michelle Beadle joined it. She good-naturedly teased the star, Kay, making him more relatable.

Rosenberg does something similar, giving it a little more of a lightning-rod element, as he, like Carton, has a rather high opinion of himself. 

The other day, Rosenberg implied the legendary Howard Stern Show borrowed a “tournament bracket” bit from the Kay program. What a funny thing to say.

When nice guy Chris Lopresti is doing updates on FAN in the afternoon, he adds to Carton & Roberts. C-Lo, as he’s known, keeps segments a little more focused and breezy for more likable radio.

A month in is still too early to fully make any proclamations about New York’s newest sports radio ratings war. After the New Year, both programs begin at the same starting line for the winter book. 

Carton is a polarizing figure. This is not a bad place to be on radio. He has a high opinion of himself on the radio, but, at least to start his comeback, he is looking up.

The rest of the ratings story

For FAN in the morning, Boomer & Gio were No. 1 with a 6.5 share. ESPN New York, which featured three hours of Keyshawn, J-Will and Zubin and an hour of Rick DiPietro, Chris Canty and Dave Rothenberg were 14th (3.1). From 10-2, Moose & Maggie were third (5.7), while ESPN New York — with its one thousand shows approach (DCR, Bart & Hahn, Mike Greenberg & Kellerman) — was 9th (3.8). ESPN New York is moving DiPietro, Canty and Rothenberg to 5-8 a.m., which should increase the morning competition.

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