When Robin Roberts first appeared on air as a small-market sportscaster in the mid-1980s, she was sure she could “feel beer cans pelting the TV sets.”
The only drinks in the air Monday will be respectful toasts for a pioneer in sports broadcasting. That’s when Arizona State University presents Roberts with the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism at a downtown Phoenix hotel.
She is an ideal recipient.
To the dismay of curmudgeons who wanted to take the “broad” out of broadcasting, she persevered. To the delight of viewers who took the time to pay attention, she delivered sports news with an approachable style and professional air.
She paved the way for the underrepresented in sports journalism with asphalt made of integrity and concrete shaped by determination.
She is the personification of her ESPN catchphrase, “Go on with your bad self!”
Many know Roberts, 53, as an anchor for ABC’s “Good Morning America.” My female peers and I remember her most for her work in sports. As we navigated challenging moments early in our careers, her poise and voice of authority on national TV was the nudge we needed to forge ahead.
“My earliest memories were (broadcasters) Phyllis George and Jayne Kennedy,” Roberts said. “I had great admiration for them, but I didn’t want to be stuck talking to the coaches’ wives. I wanted to be Brent Musburger.”
For all the advancements women in sports journalism have made, challenges remain. It took until last week for an all-women sports talk show to appear on TV: “We Need to Talk” on the CBS Sports Network. Intriguing concept, dumb title.
Fingers are still wagging over Fox Sports’ decision to remove respected reporter Pam Oliver, 53, from her NFL sideline gig and replace her with Erin Andrews, who is 17 years younger. Many saw the move as confirmation that ageism is alive and well for women in sports broadcasting.
At least we are a far cry from the pre-Roberts era, when networks gave pageant contestants (George, Kennedy) first crack at sports broadcasting jobs.
Roberts pursued the route because she was crazy about sports.
She grew up in Mississippi, the daughter of a Tuskegee Airman. She passed up a basketball scholarship offer from Louisiana State, preferring the more intimate setting of Southeastern Louisiana. After a standout basketball career, she graduated cum laude and followed the path of her sister, Sally-Ann, who worked as an anchor at a TV station in New Orleans.
In 1983, she landed a job as a sports anchor and reporter in Hattiesburg, Miss., making $5.50 an hour. She was giddy.
No one wanted a woman sports broadcaster in the deep South but news was a four-letter word to me,” she said. “I was just so passionate about sports.”
A year later, she took a job in Biloxi and two years after that in Nashville. She was grateful for the opportunities but admits she tired of the hearing station managers say they were “taking a chance” on her.
“Taking a chance? Really?” she said laughing. “I graduated with honors. I was an athlete. C’mon.”
She also was a woman. An African-American one. Doors weren’t exactly flying open in the sports broadcasting world.
While in Nashville, ESPN courted her. A rumor circulated that a rival Nashville station had sent tape of her work to Bristol to get the talented sportscaster out of the market.
ESPN was just seven years old and still figuring out its identity. Roberts wasn’t sold and said no. It came back three years later with better ideas and she made the jump.
That was good news for all of us. It gave her a bigger stage and helped a skeptical audience warm up to the idea of female sports journalists.
Viewers liked her. She was knowledgeable. Prepared.
“People can sniff out an imposter,” she said.
Roberts never was. That’s why she lasted 15 years with the same company in a business that rarely delivers employee longevity. When ABC News and “Good Morning America” came calling, she said, no, several times.
“I love sports,” she said. “It’s part of my DNA.”
Only when close friend and former tennis great Billie Jean King delivered a “Moonstruck”-like “snap out of it'” moment and pushed her toward the bigger stage did she go.
She made the most of it and was promoted from “Good Morning America” reporter to anchor.
To read the rest of the story visit AZCentral where it 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.