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Burning question: Just how much Jose Cuervo did Randy Galloway drink when he saw the radio ratings last week?
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If you saw the blurb in Dallas’ Only Daily over the weekend concerning the latest radio ratings, you probably envisioned ESPN 103.3 FM spending the Martin Luther King holiday breaking out the hats and horns and KTCK-AM (1310, The Ticket) scrambling to forgive Greg Williams.

ESPN did, in fact, commence to partying when it scored a 3.5 to 3.4 ratings upset with all listeners, 12 and up, during the 3 p.m.-6 p.m. time period. “It was a good bump, and we’re very happy about it,” program director Tom Lee tells Unfair Park this morning concerning ESPN's rise in the ratings. “It’s about us remaining true to what we do, and that’s talking sports.”

As for The Ticket, its latest stats -- the station's still No. 1 in the market with the coveted 24-54 male audience -- produced a sigh of relief and, more importantly, confirmation that it should survive with The Hammer now only a memory. “We’re as strong as ever -- stronger, even,” insists Ticket PD Jeff Catlin, whose station turns 14 on Thursday. “We’ve been No. 1 among men for two years running. That’s unheard of.”

Though it is a first for ESPN’s afternoon show Galloway & Company to edge out The Ticket’s Hardline in any category, there’s much more to the numbers.

“It’s something hang your hat on, for sure,” says Lee. “It’s been a long time coming. Randy’s worked hard, and it tells us we’re doing very good radio at this station. We know people are tuning in and liking what they hear.”

Cue these guys, it’s time to analyze some radio ratings.

One thing’s for sure, sports talk in this town is as popular as expensive steak. It’s rare that a city can support two sports talk stations, but in the Fall 2007 Arbitron ratings released last week, The Ticket was ranked No. 13 overall and ESPN No. 18, significantly spiking from a 1.2 rating in the summer to a 2.0.

Another thing’s for sure: Dallas radio is lame-o. No. 1 overall is KISS-FM? Again? Eh, OK. But in third and fourth place? KLUV-FM and KVIL-FM? Lite hits from the ’60s to the '80s? Come on, Dallas, for real?

Fortunately, sports talk stations don’t give a damn about all radio listeners. They don’t care about you, high-school teenager. Or you, eternally 39-year-old CILF (Cougar I’d Like to Fiddle Around With). Or you, 61-year-old Wade Phillips. Nope, the desired demographic in play here is men aged 25-54. You guys, listen up. The rest of you? Go lobotomize yourself with Kidd Kraddick’s caffeinated crew or The Box Tops or Delilah.

We’re intrigued in this ratings period because, maybe you heard, Williams walked off the top-rated Hardline in mid-October never to be heard from again. We were bracing for a ratings dip, a bobble, an outright exodus or, perhaps, another sign of the incumbent champ’s perpetual stability.

So, what’d we get? A visible rise out of ESPN (no doubt they’re grabbing a bigger piece of a bigger pie). Continued dominance by The Ticket (No. 1 among their target demo for eight consecutive ratings periods). And, more than anything, the powerful effect of a Cowboys’ playoff season.

A tale of the radio tape. ESPN v. The Ticket.

Men 25-54 Overall: No. 1 The Ticket, 6.0; No. 5 ESPN 3.5.

Men 25-54 6-10 a.m.: No. 2 The Ticket, 6.6; No. 4 ESPN 4.2.

Men 25-54 10 a.m.-Noon: No. 2 The Ticket, 6.6; No. 15 ESPN, 2.4.

Men 25-54 Noon-3 p.m.: No. 1 The Ticket, 6.9; No. 16 ESPN, 2.4.

Men 25-54 3-7 p.m.: No. 1 The Ticket, 7.6; No. 2 ESPN, 5.2. --Richie Whitt

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