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Rodgers Wakes Up L.A Sports Fans

Jason Barrett

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By the time 4:30 in the morning rolls around, LA Live morphs into LA Lifeless.

Travis Rodgers now has visual confirmation.

“There’s not a soul around — except maybe some guy is cleaning, buffing, scooping,” the new KSPN-AM (710) early morning weekday drive co-host admitted about the otherwise neon-lit, fan-flash favorite gathering area across the street from Staples Center.

“I did see someone early one morning in the Starbucks, and I thought, ‘Oh, maybe I can hit that on the way up the elevator.’ Nope. It’s not open until 5.”

When you beat the opening of a Starbucks to work — which is when Rodgers and partner Kelvin Washington must do to be in the ESPN Radio studios in the offices right next door — you’re officially on the zombie shift.

The intent behind raising the shade on an L.A.-based sports-talk station before dawn is simple: Find another entry point on a more intimate basis with whomever is out on the Southern California freeways heading to their jobs, or perhaps dragging themselves home from their previous endeavors. The success of this leap of ratings fate may not be deemed success/failure for another 16 to 18 months, according to station program director Mike Thompson. That’s the nature of this beast.

KFWB-AM (980), recently rebranded as “The Beast” all-sports format, has already been asking Jeanne Zelasko, Marques Johnson and Sam Farber to time-slip their lives and start a show that starts at 5:30 a.m., jump-starting Jim Rome’s 9 a.m. arrival. Early ratings for the show, as well as the station, aren’t much of a ripple.

And it has been tried before. In the late 1990s, Brian Golden used to do a live 4-to-6 a.m. “Early Morning Sports Page” show for KAVL-AM (610), based in Palmdale and a Fox Radio Dodgers’ affiliate, trying to synch up with the thousands of commuters who made the daily trip between Kern County and the Newhall Pass.

But other than that, this KSPN innovation/experiment requires Rodgers and Washington to take one for the team. Whatever financial compensation is involved can be parlayed into a stock purchase of a local caffeine-driven company.

As Rodgers emerges at 11 a.m. from the ESPN Radio studios just before the lunch crowd hits LA Live — that adds up to six straight hours of sports yammering, including his syndicated Yahoo! Sports Radio shift from — it’s a bit of an eye opener as he heads home to Orange County to see his wife and three kids.

“Maybe I’m not a morning person — I know when I was 20, I wasn’t,” the 43-year-old admitted. “You just get up and do it.

“This is something I’m ridiculously excited about. ESPN is obviously a huge opportunity, a station that rates well in the market, they’re committed to succeed, grew up 20 minutes from here, I get talk about the teams obsessed with when I was a kid,”

For KSPN, the other purpose of having Rodgers-Washington start the on-air conversation from 5 to 7 a.m. on something called “ESPNLA Morning Show,” with the suggestion it become “Rise and Grind” leading into Colin Cowherd’s national show, is that it keeps things going when it moves to a 7-to-9 a.m. livestream on the company website and the ESPN app. Those technically-advanced in the male 18-34 and 25-54 age targeted demographics have another choice.

“Radio has become more like TV has been for years, where we have shows on multiple platforms that many times compete with each other,” said Thompson, who has been arriving himself at about 4:30 a.m. each day lately to help the launch that began last Monday.

KSPN, owned and operated by ESPN, had carried the solid national show hosted by Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg for years on the 710 signal until it was decided it could be shifted to the other ESPN affiliate in Southern California, Angels-owned KLAA-AM (830), when Thompson wanted to give local voices a try.

Rodgers had been that local KLAA voice for the last couple of years, based in studios at Angel Stadium, and solicited Thompson to include him in the new KSPN plans, making this look like a straight-up show swap.

To create this, however, Thompson decided to let go of highly-regarded sports news anchors/reporters Beto Duran, Pete Fox and Dave Joseph. The time taken for the top-of-the-hour update segments has been morphed into the existing KSPN sports-talk shows, thus smoothing over any sort of abrupt breaks — or opportunities for listeners to leave. Thompson points out other stations in this 80-station market have gone to a similar philosophy.

So enter Rodgers, whose sense of humor and even his facial features may remind you of comedian Seth MacFarlane. Rodgers’ backward career curve to this place of local recognition comes not long after 15 years of a wildly successful run as the driving producer for Rome’s burgeoning sports-talk empire, which lead to a syndication drive with the Premiere Radio Network.

Rodgers broke off from Rome’s run in 2009, mostly because he wanted to see if he could do this talking thing on his own. It was a difficult breakup, but like any marriage, “if it’s not going to end badly, then it’s not going to end,” Rodgers said.

After a stop in Houston, and then engaging with The Sporting News Radio Network that has since before Yahoo Sports Radio, Rodgers understands his solo career may need more than just a six-year span to fully separate from the perceived Rome influence.

“I still get questions all the time about Jim,” said the Arcadia native and UC Santa Barbara grad, “and I guess I have to steal a line that he has used when people still ask him if he’s the ‘Jim Everett guy’ (a reference to a confrontation Rome had with the former Rams quarterback while on an ESPN TV show in 1994).

“Jim would always say: Yeah, but there was a lot more to it than what you think happened. I’m really proud of what we did together. Now, I’m just trying this. I’m a work in progress.

“The thing that really gets me is when people say I’m trying to do a Rome impression. I mean, we worked intimately together for 15 years, and some of him rubbed off on me, and me on him. But stylistically we’re pretty different.”

The transition from producer to on-air talent was hardly as smooth as anticipated for Rodgers, who out of college aspired to be a local TV sportscaster.

“There’s a reason why those jobs are separate,” he said. “My role with Jim wasn’t a traditional producer, just booking guests or screening calls, I was more into content creation and shaping conversations, much more collaborative. That was my value to him.

“I saw when Jim used to get frustrated about things but I never understood why from the producer side. But now that I’m here, it makes perfect sense. When it’s your responsibility and your voice out there, and you make a mistake, it’s on you. That took me a while to figure out.

“It’s one of those things now that feels like going from an assistant coach to a head coach. Sure, I know how to draw up plays. But where I already held Jim in high regard for how he did his show, that respect goes to a whole new level for me now.”

Rodgers still spends his 9-to-11 a.m. window weekdays continuing to do his Yahoo Sports Radio show called “Travis Rodgers Now,” available on the Yahoo Sports app and YahooSportsRadio.com in L.A.

But even with the new wake-up call, Rodgers doesn’t turn in until shortly after 10 p.m. so he can follow L.A.-based games to their conclusion. So now, afternoon naps are schedule.

“When I did the show at KLAA (from 6 to 9 a.m.), it was just a 25-minute commute from my home in Laguna Niguel,” said Rodgers. “I could get up at 4:15 — again, no one should be up at that time — and have no problem.

“This is a little more of a drive, and I’m up at 3. But the difference between 3 and 4 is negligible — they’re both awful. But I’m happy to do it.

“I know the people on the road when we are on the air care about sports the same way someone who drives to work at 8 in the morning. I’ve always kind of wondered why there aren’t more local morning shows done like this.”

Let the other sports-talk station program directors sleep on that one.

Credit to the LA Times who originally published this story

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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