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Wizards Delivering Radio Party

Jason Barrett

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“In some ways I feel like a bartender,” Dave Johnson mused before a recent Wizards game. “I used to always wonder how bartenders could remember what somebody’s drink is, what everybody’s story is. Now I’m starting to get it.”

Johnson, the play-by-place voice for Washington’s wackiest sports broadcast, then launched into a play-by-play of a different sort, one about the lives of his regulars. David from Las Vegas was traveling that week, and would be in the upper Midwest. Noah was in Hawaii. Donald Paul Raymond was observing Lent. Stef in Virginia Beach was with her kids, Brandon and Lauren. Jen would be doing a puzzle. Tracy and Michael were over in section 203. Mathew M. had gotten his cousin Chico involved. Dan and Tony were in Austin.

“I can tell you when somebody’s been away, how old they are,” Johnson continued. “If you want to spend the next three hours I can keep going down the list, tell you everybody’s life story.”

Such a claim might be normal for a talk-show host; it’s probably less typical for an NBA play-by-play man. But Johnson’s broadcast has transformed in recent years from a mere description of the action to what he and color analyst Glenn Consor now call the “Radio Party,” a frenetic, interactive bit of madness that sometimes feels more like a family reunion than a basketball game.

Johnson greets individual listeners by name coming in and out of commercial breaks, dozens and dozens of regulars. They send tweets to Johnson before and during games, apologizing if they’re “checking in” late and telling him where they’re tuning in from. Listeners inside the arena grab Johnson’s co-host, Glenn Consor, during his halftime bathroom breaks to talk about what they’ve just witnessed. Johnson and Consor turn in their section 216 perch and wave to farflung sections of Verizon Center, where individual listeners have tweeted their greetings. Listeners mail them cookies and alcohol, coasters and cufflinks. And Johnson recognizes the whole absurd gang, one by one, during his broadcast.

“Johnny, checking in from the UPS truck,” Johnson said during a recent game. “We promise to try to deliver a win.”

“You know where David is tonight: listening from Colby, Kansas,” he said later.

“Fred’s listening in Miami, is heading to Jamaica in the morning,” he said still later.

“Tyrone wants to wish his son a happy 21st birthday,” Consor added.

“Timothy Lawson is back with us, El Capitan,” Johnson said, and on and on it goes. Last spring, an intern counted nearly a thousand Twitter users who tweeted into the “Radio Party” during a playoff game.

“They turned a totally passive activity into something that’s really interactive, and kind of created a community of Wizards fans and listeners,” said Chris Kinard, the sports director for WNEW, which airs Wizards broadcasts. “Everyone wants to hear their name on the radio. It’s a pretty simple concept. That’s been the case since radio started. The audience usually has no role in play-by-play activity other than just listening to it, and now they’re getting shouted out on the radio.”

That’s what led Kinard to tweet to Johnson, getting a kick out of hearing his own name during a game. That’s what makes my daughter listen to Wizards broadcasts, gawking in amazement when family members are mentioned. That’s why Gloria Mamaed, a 48-year old from Reston, wore earbuds to her office holiday party, and again during her family’s Christmas brunch, so she could still be a part of the Radio Party. (“It’s like we’re there. we’re all watching together,” she said.) That’s why Rob Embrey, a 46-year old from McLean, now listens to the vast majority of Wizards broadcasts from his new home in Southern California.

“It’s a weird phenomenon,” said Embrey, who appeared on air with Johnson and Consor during a road game against the Lakers. “It’s a personal touch. It makes you feel more involved, and it’s gotten us involved with each other. We all follow each other on Twitter, we interact with each other. There’s a camaraderie that comes out of it, a family-ness, as corny as that sounds.”

Johnson is careful not to mix the Radio Party with his play-by-play call; he talks to his listeners before the game and during halftime, going to commercial and coming out of timeouts. He keeps Twitter open on his laptop during the game, glancing at it during breaks, replying to some listeners and retweeting others. He reads their comments and advice, and consoles them when things go poorly — “We’ll get through this,” he said, during a recent blowout. “Hang in there gang.” And because of all that, he doesn’t rest for a single second during a broadcast.

“You know, it probably makes you a little bit more exhausted,” Johnson said. “But I think in some ways it energizes me, because again, it really does feel like you’re throwing a party.”

And he feels like it’s working. WNEW’s ratings on weekday nights among adults ages 25-54 have more than doubled since November, although some of that is surely due to the team’s success. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban caught the spirit during a broadcast last spring: “Listening to wizards radio on nba on Sirius,” Cuban tweeted. “Vintage bananas. Hashtag hashtag! Love it.”

“I know by doing this we’re trending younger, we’re getting more women involved,” Johnson said. “I think we break the stereotypes. People are connecting. But we’re having a blast, that’s the bottom line.”

It’s why Johnson now feels like a bartender, sympathizing with fans who are distraught, keeping up with their vacations, tracking teenage listeners as they go off to college, following his regulars in their careers. He said he’s never experienced anything quite like this during his 30-year broadcasting career, and he said the interaction has brought a new energy to his play-by-play.

“I really believe strongly that radio is the most personal of mediums,” he said. “We invade your personal space, whether I’m in your car or I’m in your ear phones. I just think it’s amazing — radio is the oldest of the mediums, yet in some ways it’s the most adaptable.”

So Johnson will keep his Radio Party going, greeting Anna on her way home from a fundraiser, and Stephen on his way to Atlanta, and Ryan in Fargo, and Sammy in the 400-level, and everyone else who checks in.

“Remember,” he told his listeners moments before a recent game began. “United we tweet; divided we wind up on Myspace.”

Credit to the Washington Post who originally published this article

Sports Radio News

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.

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Streaming Radio

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.

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Sports Radio News

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.

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MLB Radio

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.

Radio Listeners to MLB

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.

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Sports Radio News

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”

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Jeff Dean Show

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”

Jeff Dean Facebook

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.

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