ESPN’s Senior Vice President of Production, Dave Roberts, has finally given his first interview since ESPN Radio revealed its new lineup, which is set to start August 17. Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports had the honor of chatting with Roberts, who is quick to point out that the network thinks of itself as “audio” and not just terrestrial radio.
“If you look at what’s going on in the audio space, the way audio is consumed today, in no way reflects how it was consumed, say, even five years ago,” Roberts said. “It’s a whole new day in radio and audio consumption. The approach we took is to put ourselves in the best position so that we can be accessible on all audio platforms – no matter where people choose to listen.”
Roberts was complimentary of Mike Golic Sr. He said the decision to move on from the man that has been part of morning drive on ESPN Radio for the last 22-years was a tough decision, but says “tough decisions are always part of leadership.”
McCarthy asked Roberts about a Tweet from Golic’s wife Christine last month, which said that Golic offered to reunite with former Mike & Mike partner Mike Greenberg in mid days.
“I’m not going to respond to comments made on Twitter. Nor am I going to go into the background of internal discussions,” Roberts answered. “I’ll just say Mike Greenberg has his plate full with doing Get Up and also with his [new] two-hour radio show.”
Greenberg is just one of many talents that will be pulling double duty on both ESPN and ESPN Radio. Roberts says that is no accident. It wasn’t a decision driven by saving money either.
“One of our strategies is to have that synergy between TV and radio. One of the keys to our success is how well we merge the two and cross-promote from one platform to the other.”
There are three key elements of the new lineup that Roberts cites as important for ESPN Radio to remain relevant as listener habits change. The first is the addition of new and interesting voices. Along with that comes the second key – diversity. Finally, he cites the way this new staff will work as the most important factor for determining its success.
“At the end of the day, that’s all we can guarantee. And we’re going to guarantee that. We’re going to work hard, we’re going to work smart and hope that the results follow.”
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.