NYC Sports-Radio Veteran Mike Francesa Draws Thousands of Subscribers to App

(Bloomberg) -- Can a sports-talk veteran make a living by leaving radio and launching a mobile app? Mike Francesa is attempting to find out.

NYC Sports-Radio Veteran Mike Francesa Draws Thousands of Subscribers to App

The longtime WFAN host started an online subscription service for $8.99 a month in late August, aiming to turn his New York broadcasting fame into a profitable business. The 64-year-old has said the platform will eventually be his broadcast home, but some critics have taken a dim view of its prospects.

Francesa engaged in a public spat last week with a reporter who questioned the success of his fledgling app, called “Mike’s On.” The New York Post reporter posited that the service only has a few hundred subscribers. Francesa pushed back, saying he would give the reporter $10,000 for every subscriber under 800. But he didn’t disclose how many subscribers the app had attracted.

So what’s the truth?

According to estimates from research firm Sensor Tower, Francesa has about 2,500 current subscribers for the service. That’s way more than 800, but down from a peak of about 7,000 subscribers, the firm said. Mike’s On offered a two-week free trial, which may have helped goose the early numbers temporarily.

Creative Artists Agency executive Mike Levine, whose firm represents Francesa and owns a stake in the app, took issue with the estimates. Sensor Tower’s numbers are “light by an order of magnitude,” Levine said, while declining to give specifics. The subscriber base is growing “gradually and steadily” every time Francesa appears live, he said.

NYC Sports-Radio Veteran Mike Francesa Draws Thousands of Subscribers to App

According to Apptopia, another research company, the app has been downloaded about 25,000 times and has brought in about $64,000 in revenue through in-app purchases. Simply dividing $64,000 by $8.99, which would yield 7,119 subscribers, doesn’t account for two or three payments being made by the same person or annual subscriptions, said Apptopia’s Adam Blacker.

Still, Blacker notes that there has been a “major falloff” in new installs and revenue in October.

“Mobile apps are a hard business,” he said. “People with much bigger followings, such as Taylor Swift, have trouble maintaining a top app in any category.”

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