When Kevin Kugler stepped away from 1620 AM's "Unsportsmanlike Conduct" afternoon radio show, I knew it was going to hurt the show. While John Bishop has done an acceptable job trying to fill Kugler's role, it's clear the show is not what it used to be. Nowhere is that more obvious is the show's Facebook page, which has sunk into a quasi-soft-core version of Maxim magazine last fall. I "unliked" the page at the time, and looking now, it appears that nearly all of my Facebook friends have as well.
But that's not a terribly significant measure by itself. In radio, it all comes down to ratings, and Radio Online brings us the revelation that the ratings for 1620 are down about a third over the last year. In the fall 2011 ratings, KOZN-1620 AM pulled in a 2.8 rating from 6 am to midnight during the seven day week. Last winter, it was a 2.7. In the spring, it was a 2.2, and this summer, it was a 2.4. This fall, it dropped to 1.9.
Only the overall station numbers are available; nothing that breaks the ratings out by specific show or by demographic. So there is a danger in using 18 hour a day numbers to infer anything about a four hour show. But "Unsportsmanlike Conduct" isn't just any four hour show, it's the station's flagship program. When KXSP-590 AM added Michael Gray's afternoon show, 590's ratings jumped from almost non-existant in the Summer 2011 to a respectable 1.6 in the fall 2011 book. And since KOZN's ratings went from 3.0 in the winter 2010 book to 2.8 in the summer 2011 and fall 2011 books, competition doesn't explain 1620's plummeting ratings this fall.
Those numbers also show that the network affiliation switch from ESPN to Fox didn't have a direct impact either on the station's ratings. What did change this summer? The departure of Kevin Kugler, Matt Schick, and Nick Bahe. I'm very skeptical that it's the end of the Schick & Nick show; from my perspective, Gary Sharp and Damon Benning are a great addition to the station. Schick & Nick got stale over the years as they seemed to go for stupid gags than sports talk.
My take is that it's the loss of Kevin Kugler. The show seemed to jump the shark last winter, and I stopped listening for a while last winter. And I've only sporadically listened since. Kugler was good, but the insufferable Mike'l Severe has actually begun to make former low-rated 590 host Matt Perrault look like a voice of reason in comparison.
It'll be interesting to see what changes ensue at 1620 if the ratings slide continues. I really hope they focus on the afternoon show; Sharp and Benning have a good thing going in the morning.