The popular soccer commentating duo known as the Men in Blazers is leaving ESPN for NBC Sports, becoming the latest in a series of recent bets on soccer’s rising popularity in the U.S.
Starting shortly after the 2014-2015 Premier League season begins later this month, the Men in Blazers, as television producer Michael Davies and writer Roger Bennett are known, will have a weekly Monday night show on NBC Sports and will contribute radio, TV and written pieces for the network’s various outlets. The terms of their contract weren’t disclosed, and the show doesn’t yet have a name.
Messrs. Davies and Bennett, who have hosted a podcast about soccer for several years, were already popular among dedicated U.S. soccer fans before they began making television appearances on ESPN during the World Cup in Brazil. They have a shared lingo with fans—whom they call GFOPs, or Great Friends of the Podcast—and have hosted raucous live shows across the U.S.
But in Rio de Janeiro, where the pair made nightly appearances on ESPN from a tiny closet, their humorous commentary on the games attracted a new wave of fans. Recently, their comedy album made the top 10 on iTunes, and a show in Portland was live-streamed online by more than 100,000 people. During the show Mr. Bennett, 43 years old, said, “Not since Lewis and Clark have two men been so excited to be here.”
The Men in Blazers now have more than 78,000 Twitter followers and are regularly recognized on the street by fans. The duo will be expected to bring those fans with them to NBC, which in 2012 spent $80 million to broadcast Premier League games.
NBC, a unit of Comcast Corp. CMCSA +0.30% , has invested heavily to promote its Premier League coverage, and it pursued Messrs. Davies and Bennett for more than a year, according to Ron Wechsler, the vice president of original programming at NBC Sports Group.
“These guys are intelligent, hardworking and have a great humor and wit,” Mr. Wechsler said. “We saw how they showcased their talent in Rio at a very significant event, and that’s how we plan to showcase their talent. We want to be true to the brand that they’ve established.”
Last year a record 31.5 million Americans tuned in to Premier League coverage on NBC—more than double the number of viewers who watched the previous season on other networks, according to Nielsen Co.—and the Men in Blazers will mostly be providing commentary on that league.
“All of our focus, all of our commitment, all of our attention is focused solely on our relationship with the Premier League,” said Jon Miller, the president of programming for NBC and NBCSN. The Men in Blazers “are not going to stop talking about Major League Soccer, but the focus of their relationship with us will be the Premier League.”
For more visit the Wall Street Journal where this story was originally published
16.9% of All Sports Radio Listeners Are Streaming
The news comes as Nielsen reported that 11.3% of all radio listenership comes thru a stream, up from 6.9% in May of 2020.
According to Nielsen, sports radio stations are the third-most streamed spoken word format, just behind Talk/Personality and News/Talk/Info. The trend is continuing to show that streaming is on the uptick.
The survey found that in May 2022, 16.9% of sports talk radio’s audience tunes in via the station’s online stream. That news comes as Nielson reported that 11.3% of all radio listenership comes thru a stream, up from 6.9% in May of 2020.
Nielsen notes that in the 45 PPM markets they are grabbing data from and the 4,800+ stations that stream in those markets, just 30% of them are encoded. That encoding allows for Nielsen to accurately measure the streams. They used the listener data from 1,500 stations across the U.S., in their latest report, AM/FM Radio Streaming Growth in PPM Markets.
The survey also showed that streaming levels differ widely by radio format. Spoken word formats display strong streaming listenership (Talk/Personality: 31.2%, News/Talk/Info: 19.1%, All Sports: 16.9%). In fact, Nielsen found that 1/3 of all AM/FM streaming in PPM markets is to spoken word formats.
New Study Finds Listeners to MLB on Radio Are Willing to Spend
More than one third (34%) of the respondents recently purchased clothing/apparel that features their favorite team… 27% have visited a ballpark in the past year. That compares to only 19% of the average MLB fan base has made an apparel purchase to support their team while just 11% have gone to a game in person in that same time span.
When it comes to advertiser’s attempting to reach an affluent and engaged audience, sports talk radio might have a whale on their hands. Major League Baseball play-by-play features an audience that has money and has no problems spending it.
In a recent MRI-Simmons study, data shows that consumers who listen to MLB broadcasts on the radio are the perfect audience for sports marketers. According to the analysis, done by Katz Radio Group, nearly two thirds (62%) of those surveyed consider themselves “super fans” of baseball. That number is 58% higher than the average.
Those “super fans” are willing to spend to support their team, as well. More than one third (34%) of the respondents recently purchased clothing/apparel that features their favorite team. Those fans are also far more willing to make the trip to see their team. The study found that 27% have visited a ballpark in the past year. That compares to only 19% of the average MLB fan base has made an apparel purchase to support their team while just 11% have gone to a game in person in that same time span.
The news continues getting better for advertisers. Continued analysis reveals that 66% of listeners are currently employed and have a median household income greater than $106,000.
Listeners to MLB games on the radio are also 34% more likely to place a sports bet and 106% more likely to be a participant in fantasy baseball.
Jeff Dean Signs Off At ESPN Tucson for The Final Time
Dean said on Facebook: “…the years of burning the candle at both ends has taken a dire toll on my health and for the first time in my life, I’m going to put myself and my livelihood first”
Fans will no longer be able to tune into ESPN Tucson and hear Jeff Dean hosting his show. Friday morning was his last show, according to his Facebook and Twitter pages.
The Jeff Dean Show had been airing from 7-9a MT weekday mornings. Dean took to social media to relay the news and the reason behind him stepping away from the microphone. Dean said on Facebook:
“This morning I signed off from my radio show on ESPN Tucson for the final time. I have been devoting too much of my life and my time to working multiple jobs…the years of burning the candle at both ends has taken a dire toll on my health and for the first time in my life, I’m going to put myself and my livelihood first”
Dean went on to emphasize that he isn’t stepping away from ESPN Tucson, he’s just taking himself off the air. He also added that “gladly, I will be continuing my position as PA announcer of University of Arizona Football and Men’s basketball.”
Dean would also go onto Twitter to add even further context for his self-removal from the ESPN Tucson airwaves. He added, “It’s not a decision I arrived at hastily, as it’s been a 6 month mental grind to make the ultimate decision that had to be made, and I’m not particularly happy about it, but I have to put my health first, we all do, and make sure we’re around long enough to enjoy life”.
Dean had been ESPN Tucson’s morning host since November 2019.