Promotion and vanity have long been first cousins at ESPN, and one of the annual family outings occurs during the first week of the Monday Night Football schedule. For the past seven years with little exception, ESPN management has assigned broadcasters to the second game of its opening week MNF doubleheader—the so-called “B” game that kicks off at 10 p.m. ET—with little regard for the announcers’ NFL game-calling experience. Obviously, that is the network’s right. When you pay $1.9 billion a year for a television property, as ESPN is currently doing for the rights to MNF, you get a few perks, and one of those perks is picking the announcers.
Some history: Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic, the ESPN Radio morning show personalities, were assigned the game from 2007 to ’10. That was clearly done as a promotional vehicle for the Mike and Mike brand, though both broadcasters prepared and took the assignment seriously. During the Mike and Mike Era of Monday Night Football, NFL analyst Mike Ditka was also brought in as part of a “Three Mikes” promotion. That’s the kind of marketing idea that sounds good at the ESPN cafeteria but loses steam once it crosses the Bristol, Conn. line.
Longtime NFL voice Brad Nessler restored some broadcaster sanity to the game in 2010 and ’11 (with the always-excellent Trent Dilfer) before ESPN management foisted the Late Night with Chris Berman concept despite Berman having never called college or pro football play-by-play.
Despite a lack of play-by-play experience, ESPN veteran Berman has called the late Monday Night opener each of the past two seasons. (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)Despite a lack of football play-by-play experience, ESPN veteran Berman has called the late Monday Night opener each of the past two seasons.
Naturally, that announcement came with all the PR trimmings, including a podcast with Berman conducted by ESPN Pravda. If you want to call Berman’s assignment rewarding a longtime employee for years of NFL service, that’s totally fair, perhaps even heartwarming. If you want to call it a vanity play for an announcer who is as much a part of an NFL apparatus as The Duke football, that would be accurate too.
Because I’m a charitable guy, I’m going to give ESPN an idea that offers the dream tonic of promotion and boldness. Plus, there’s the bonus of having the game called by a professional football announcer:
ESPN should assign Beth Mowins to call the Chargers at Cardinals game (10:20 ET kickoff) on Sept. 8, and pair her with a quality NFL game analyst such as Dilfer or Steve Young.
Whether it’s college football, women’s basketball, softball, volleyball or anything else she’s assigned, Mowins is a no-shtick broadcaster who is always prepared and professional. She began calling college football nine years ago. In 2011 the network wisely promoted her to a full-time slate of college football on ESPN2’s Saturday noon telecast. Every Saturday, she chips away at the antiquated notion that football play-by-play must be delivered by a man. (Note to the inevitable mouth-breathers calling me a sports feminist: Blast away, but make sure you spell it correctly. It’s D-E-I-T-S-C-H.) If you want to compare her reps calling football to Berman’s, it’s the difference between LeBron James and Austin Croshere.
A woman calling the NFL on a regular basis is an idea whose time really should have come long ago. In 1987, Mike Weisman, then the executive producer of NBC Sports and one of the most innovative producers in sports broadcasting history, assigned then-newscaster Gayle Sierens to call the Seahawks-Chiefs game on the final Sunday of the regular season. Weisman offered Sierens six more game opportunities for the following year but she opted to focus on her news career. The headline on this Richard Sandomir profile of Sierens remains unchanged six years later: “First Women To Call NFL Play By Play, and The Last.”
Mowins has been one of ESPN’s top play-by-play announcers on sports ranging from volleyball and softball to college basketball and college football. She should get a shot at the late Monday Night opener. (Porter Binks for Sports Illustrated)Mowins has been one of ESPN’s top play-by-play announcers on sports ranging from volleyball and softball to college basketball and college football. (Porter Binks for Sports Illustrated)
Assigning Mowins the late MNF game would follow news that the CBS Sports Network will air a once-a-week, nightly opinion-based sports show with an all-female cast. That’s a smart play for CBS Sports, which needs different concepts (and more viewers). As long as the show avoids First Take buffoonery or pink ghettoizing every sports issue, the effort alone will have meaning. One of the women who will appear on the show is Amy Trask, the former CEO of the Oakland Raiders who now works as an NFL analyst for CBS. I asked Trask how NFL brass would view Mowins doing a one-off or multiple NFL games.
“The league is a business and to the extent it believes it beneficial—economically or from a public perception standpoint—to include a woman on a broadcast team, I believe that it would do so,” Trask said. “I don’t believe that players or coaches would be the slightest bit concerned about this. Stated differently, I believe that players and coaches are concerned with whether someone can get the job done and that it wouldn’t matter to them whether that person was a man or a woman.”
No broadcaster has worked more closely with Mowins than Debbie Antonelli. The two have partnered on more than 1,000 college basketball broadcasts or podcasts since they first began calling ACC games as a pair for Fox Sports South in the early 1990s.
“Beth is aware her margin for error is slim and it serves as motivation for her unique opportunity,” Antonelli said. “She is concerned with what’s in her control: her work ethic, her motivation, and her love for her job. No one dictates those things for Beth. She protects and respects the game she is broadcasting.”
I intentionally did not contact Mowins for this piece. She did not plant this idea for the column, nor did anyone on her behalf. In previous interviews with SI.com, she has said the NFL would be the highest honor for a football broadcaster but did not express calling NFL games as her ultimate broadcasting goal.
Antonelli believes Mowins would accept the assignment immediately if offered.
“As her friend, I would be thrilled for her to challenge herself at the highest level in football,” Antonelli said. “Detractors of having a woman call football say the same clichés—she didn’t play, she doesn’t know the game. Beth didn’t play football but she knows the game, the rules and it would be awesome for her to lead women into a different role in the NFL, a challenge that I’m positive she would navigate and handle.”
ESPN has been the most forward-thinking sports broadcaster when it comes to giving on-air female staffers opportunities, and assigning Mowins would be received with great pride from its employees (as well as women throughout the sports media.). As of now, alas, the late-game MNF assignment has been made:
The network told The MMQB earlier this week that Berman and Dilfer will call the game for a third consecutive year.
Credit to Sports Illustrated who originally published this article
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.