With a long list of changes about to take place on ESPN Radio, the one constant is Dan Le Batard, but it’s going to be with a smaller platform. Going from three hours on national radio and television down to two looks like a demotion from the outside, and despite ESPN assuring him it’s not, Le Batard acknowledged the reduced time feels like a demotion.
Being on vacation this week, Le Batard took time to pre-record a podcast addressing the reports and rumors about his show’s standing with ESPN. The 20-minute podcast was released Wednesday, after ESPN Radio’s new lineup became official.
“I myself viewed it, and said to people above us ‘hey, this feels like a demotion,’ and the answer I’m getting is ‘no it’s not,’” Le Batard said near the start of the podcast.
“If you guys are afraid of hurting my toddler feelings and you want to say it’s part of a digital push, I will agree with you once those resources come about that digital push that we’ve been promised,” he added. If ESPN is going to tout a reimagined emphasis on Le Batard’s show as a digital product, he wants to see them put effort into growing the platform.
Cutting a third of Le Batard’s terrestrial show comes shortly after The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand reported ESPN Radio was considering removing the show from its lineup altogether. Le Batard quickly responded to that report in April, calling it weird, false and ridiculous. It seemed unlikely, considering he has more than two years left on his contract with ESPN, but after seeing his terrestrial content get cut by a third, Marchand’s story appears more plausible.
While ESPN says making Le Batard’s third hour digital-only is not a demotion, it’s also not a promotion. But the shift comes as Le Batard, Stugotz and the Shipping Container already have a large digital following. He’s never shown a desire to just ‘stick to sports’ which usually doesn’t align with the thinking of ESPN, but The Worldwide Leader has exemplified a shift on that front recently. Moving an hour of his show off the terrestrial airwaves might inspire Le Batard to focus even less on adhering to the requests of Mickey Mouse.
If ESPN is starting to transition Le Batard to their digital platform, he will have to decide if it’s the best location for his show going forward. Le Batard is the type of personality and show that could succeed on an all-digital platform. Joe Rogan recently landed a $100 million deal with Spotify, and The Ringer was sold to the same company for nearly $200 million earlier this year. If and when Le Batard puts his show on the open market, he’ll have other suitors.
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.