The Detroit Lions have elected to move their radio broadcast rights to WJR-AM 760 starting with the 2016 season. In doing so they have ended a relationship with CBS Detroit who held the rights to the team’s broadcasts for the past 18 seasons.
CBS Detroit President Debbie Kenyon issued a statement saying “CBS Radio and the Detroit Lions are parting ways. 97.1 The Ticket has served as the flagship station for the Lions for more than a decade and we have been negotiating with the Lions a long time. It is sad to say goodbye, but in the end it came down to the integrity of CBS — the refusal to be censored in talking about the team and making honest assessments on the air about this team.”
So that begs the question, did the Lions attempt to influence the programming on the radio station?
Lions Senior Vice President of Marketing and Partnerships Elizabeth Parkinson says they did not. “This was a business decision for the Detroit Lions. We fully understand and respect the separation between editorial and business. At the end of the day, we’re a football team, and there’s going to be wins and there’s going to be losses, and there’s going to be things that are said when you lose that you’d rather not be said. But it’s a part of the business, and we all have very thick skins. It’s when it’s inaccurate or untrue that it needs to be addressed, and those are the times that we address it. But because someone has an opinion or a certain approach, as long as it’s accurate and fair, then it’s not going to be addressed. Do I wish that it was all happy talk? Absolutely. But it’s just not the reality of professional sports.”
While that’s the position the team has taken, there is certainly another side to it. Afternoon Host Mike Valenti who has the top rated sports program in the market has often been critical of the team’s poor performance. His agent Mort Meisner sent out an email stating that the team tried to flex its muscles to remove Valenti from the radio station’s airwaves in order to extend the agreement.
Valenti finally had a chance to offer his side of the story today at 2pm. He and his partner Terry Foster opened up their show by addressing the issue. Valenti believes the team is no longer with the radio station because of their disdain for him, his opinions and because they wish to control the message in the media. He says the club did request his termination and have been trying to get to him for more than a decade. Full audio of his opening segment is available below.
No matter how the team tries to slice it, this isn’t a good look for them. The franchise sits at 2-7 and most recently parted ways with their Team President and General Manager. Many Detroit football fans would prefer the organization focus on fixing the problems on the field rather than worrying about the opinions on The Ticket’s airwaves.
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.