Is sports talk radio going to be around in 20 years? That was a question the Athletic’s Steve Berman answered at length this week in his mailbag. Berman is a Bay Area media and sports reporter for the site.
“My first instinct would be that it will exist for at least 20 more years in its current form,” Berman said. “There are some obvious reasons to be skeptical. Sports talk radio needs traffic, i.e. people stuck in their cars. The move toward remote work caused by the pandemic absolutely crushed the local sports talk stations (in San Francisco), which rely on people spending hours on the highways. People are starting to go back to the office, however, so we’ll probably see some bumps in the local ratings as the year progresses.”
The journalist covered local sports for Bay Area News Group from 2004-2008 and co-founded Bay Area Sports Guy, which became the top independent site covering sports in the region. Berman noted how the shift to remote work isn’t the only roadblock for sports talk radio.
“Remote work is here to stay for some,” Berman explained. “The time spent away from daily commutes has changed some habits. That’s one reason for concern. Another is the technology available in our cars. At this point, a decent number of drivers still don’t have satellite radio, a USB port, or Wi-Fi in their vehicles. But in 20 years, we can probably assume that just about everyone will be connected in a variety of ways when they drive, so they’ll be able to easily access listening options that feature far fewer ads.”
Berman concluded his thoughts by noting some of the advantages sports talk still has on other mediums like hyperlocalized content and instant reaction ability but there are still issues to figure out.
“Sports talk radio has a few things going for it that are unique … for now. My guess is that it’ll still be around in 20 years. Maybe not 30, though.”
Earlier this year, Demetri Ravanos and Jason Barrett spoke to several market managers as part of BSM’s Meet the Market Managers series. Several marveled at their station’s digital performance during the pandemic, including Dan Bennett of Cumulus in Dallas. He noted that half of The Ticket’s audience comes from its web stream. Even if traditional broadcast signals suffered set backs during the pandemic, it is clear that local sports talk brands were still being sought out by listeners.
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.