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97.1 The Fan and Ohio State Sports Properties/Learfield Extend Ron Stokes

“There’s no better person to bring Ohio State Men’s Basketball to life for our listeners on The Fan.”

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Logos for 97.1 The Fan and Ohio State University along with a photo of Ron Stokes
Photo Courtesy: 97.1 The Fan

97.1 The Fan and Learfield’s Ohio State Sports Properties announced a multi-year extension to see Ron Stokes continue as the men’s basketball color analyst through the 2028-2029 season. Stokes played for Ohio State from 1981-1985.

“I am thrilled, honored and blessed to have the opportunity to continue my role as the expert analyst for the Ohio State men’s basketball radio broadcast,” Stokes said in a release. “These past 26 years have flown while having the privilege to call some exciting action on the court. I appreciate The Fan, Learfield, Ohio State, Paul (Keels), Skip (Mosic) and Buckeye Nation for all the support.”

“Ron lives for Buckeye Basketball,” Station Manager Cody Welling said. “His dedication as a former player, advocacy as a representative of the brand, and his passion to interact with the community, players, and our fans makes this an easy decision for all involved.”

“We’re delighted to have Ron continue in his capacity on the Ohio State Sports Network,” said Todd Knisley, Vice President & General Manager of Ohio State Sports Properties. “There’s no better person to bring Ohio State Men’s Basketball to life for our listeners on The Fan.”

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Bill Riley Exiting Host and PD Role at ESPN 700 to Become Utah’s Director of Broadcasting

“This opportunity is a dream job, and it would not have been possible for me without the great experience that I’ve had at ESPN 700 here in Salt Lake City over the past 20 years.”

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Graphic announcing Bill Riley as the new Director of Broadcasting for the University of Utah
Courtesy: Utah Utes Athletics

Bill Riley, the long-time radio voice of Utah Athletics, will be joining the athletic department in the role of Director of Broadcasting. Riley, a three-time Utah Sports Broadcaster of the Year is being brought in to oversee the launch of the school’s new endeavor where it will self-produce digital game for ESPN+ as a part of its move to the Big 12 Conference.
 
Utah Athletics says it will produce 50-plus live broadcasts of home athletics competition during the next school year via the conference’s Big 12 Now digital platform on ESPN+.

Riley has been the play-by-play voice for Utah’s football and men’s basketball radio broadcasts on ESPN 700 and 92.1 FM since 2010, and also hosted weekly coaches’ shows. He will continue those duties and will also continue to teach a sports media class at the school, which he started in 2022. He will not, however, continue in his role as program director or daily host for ESPN 700 as he moves to the athletic department full-time at the end of the month.
 
 “We are very excited to bring Bill Riley into our team and benefit from his extensive experience in broadcasting and his deep connections and familiarity with Utah Athletics spanning nearly three decades,” said Charmelle Green, Utah’s Deputy A.D. and Chief Operating Officer in a release.

“This is an important new endeavor for our department and the University of Utah, and this position is critical for us to have immediate success in the broadcasting space. We’re looking forward to working closely with our university partners to build a robust broadcasting department and establish a strong presence in this industry as we enter the Big 12 Conference later this summer.”

“I am thrilled to join the amazing team at the University of Utah in this exciting new position,” Riley said. “Not only do I look forward to continuing as the Voice of the Utes, but the opportunity to play a role in this significant expansion of the U’s broadcasting capabilities will enable me to become more deeply involved with all of the Utes’ teams as we grow their coverage and expand the broadcast curriculum for students.

“The talent, vision and commitment of the Utes’ athletics staff has built a tremendous foundation for the production and distribution of digital broadcasts, as well as elite storytelling and content creation, and I’m excited to come alongside that team as we take on this new endeavor.

“This opportunity is a dream job, and it would not have been possible for me without the great experience that I’ve had at ESPN 700 here in Salt Lake City over the past 20 years,” Riley added. “It is a first-class station with first-class people, and I’m grateful that I can continue to be part of Utah radio broadcasts on the ‘Home of the Utes’ in my new role at the U.” 

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RJ Choppy on NBA Finals Ratings: ‘This is the New Reality of TV Ratings in the NBA’

“We are now in the post-LeBron; post-Warrior dynasty era.”

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RJ Choppy
Courtesy: QC Kinetics DFW

ESPN announced yesterday that Game 5 of the NBA Finals on ABC between the Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks averaged 12.22 million viewers and attained a record-setting share of audience in the People 18-34 demographic. As a whole, the NBA Finals averaged 11.31 million viewers and a 5.8 rating, according to Jon Lewis of Sports Media Watch, which represents a 3% decline in viewership compared to last year. Excluding the 2020 and 2021 NBA Finals, both of which were altered because of the global pandemic, the 2024 NBA Finals is the lowest-rated on record and the least-watched iteration of the championship round since 2007. RJ Choppy discussed the viewership metrics during the Shan & RJ morning show on 105.3 The Fan where he divulged the information to the listening audience.

Shan Sharriff, co-host of the program, acknowledged that the fact that Game 4 ratings were not released until several days after the contest was indicative that the game did not perform well. Game 4 ended up being the least-watched contest in the series, averaging 9.62 million viewers and a 4.7 rating on ABC. The 2020 and 2021 NBA Finals series notwithstanding, no NBA Finals game had a smaller audience than the game since Game 3 of the 2007 NBA Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers, which drew an average of 9.49 million viewers on ABC. Nielsen began tracking out-of-home viewing in 2016 and implementing the figures into its viewership estimates four years later.

“We started getting some really juiced numbers,” Shariff said. “Every single sport was setting records where, ‘Oh my gosh, look at viewership records and how high this is,’ so I feel like era-adjusted, Chop, that viewership may actually be higher for Suns-Bucks.”

Earlier in the week, Nielsen Media Research reported that streaming usage had been measured to encompass 38.8% of total day television viewing among Persons 2+ in May 2024. ESPN broadcasts of NBA games across ESPN, ABC and ESPN2 averaged 1.7 million during the regular season, some of which included simulcasts or alternate broadcasts. With the NBA reportedly nearing a new media rights contract with The Walt Disney Company (ESPN/ABC), NBCUniversal and Amazon’s Prime Video worth a collective $76 billion, Choppy believes there has to be some concern with the performance on broadcast television.

“We are now in the post-LeBron; post-Warrior dynasty era,” Choppy said. “I think this is the new reality of TV ratings in the NBA. The Warriors-Cavs, which was a 4-0 sweep in 2018 – this series averaged a 5.8; that averaged a 10, and that was 2018. It was 4-zip, it was a sweep and it averaged almost 18 million viewers a night. This one averaged 11 million a night.”

Shariff expressed that he felt the NBA Finals matchup was compelling with storylines surrounding Kyrie Irving and involving big marketplaces. The series, he outlined, was lacking the presence of Los Angeles Lakers forward and four-time NBA champion LeBron James, along with potential interest from the West Coast. Choppy added that the Celtics did not have a transcendent superstar on the team whereas the Mavericks did and is not sure if it plays into the numbers. He then proceeded to draw a comparison to the 2023 World Series, which featured the Texas Rangers and Arizona Diamondbacks. The five-game series averaged 9.11 million viewers with a 4.7 rating on FOX, according to data from Nielsen Media Research, marking the lowest-rated and least-watched World Series on record.

“MLB does better,” Choppy said. “Now this year they didn’t – this was a very lowly-rated World Series. The World Series this year was the fewest viewers for each game in the first four games in league history [that] the league had ever seen. They were getting 8 and 9 million viewers, so it wasn’t as bad as that, but it’s basically what every World Series or worse had done in recent memory.”

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Fred Toucher: If Sean Grande is Not Retiring After Sign-Off Message, He is a ‘Pretentious Lunatic’

“They just won the championship; it has nothing to do with you.”

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Sean Grande
Courtesy: Jim Davis, Boston Globe

The Boston Celtics won the NBA Championship on Monday night, securing the 18th banner in the history of the organization and officially claiming the title of the franchise with the most championships in league history. Celtics radio play-by-play announcer Sean Grande delivered a final call encapsulating the moment on 98.5 The Sports Hub and then commenced postgame coverage with color commentator Cedric Maxwell. To close the broadcast, Grande delivered an emotional sign-off message to the listeners in which he told Maxwell that he loved him and thanked the listeners for tuning into the broadcasts. Fred Toucher played the audio of the sign-off on Wednesday morning’s edition of Toucher & Hardy on 98.5 The Sports Hub and proceeded to deliver his opinion on the matter.

“The 23 years I’ve spent with you guys has been, with the exception of being a dad, has been the honor of my life, and I wouldn’t trade any of it,” Grande said on Monday night. “I recognize that being the voice of the Boston Celtics is probably the first line of my obituary one day. It has been an honor in every way, shape and form an honor could be.”

At the moment, it is not clear whether Grande is retiring from his job as the radio play-by-play announcer for Boston Celtics games. Earlier in the year, he did not receive the television play-by-play job for the team following the retirement of Mike Gorman at the end of the season. The way in which he signed off, however, resembled what one would say on their last broadcast, according to Toucher, considering the remarks about his time with the team and his obituary.

“If he’s not leaving and that was just the end of the season, he’s an absolute lunatic,” Toucher said. “And quote it, say I’m a di-k, I don’t care. I thought about it overnight – I’m even more convinced than ever. If he’s not leaving, he’s a pretentious lunatic. That’s lunacy to make that about yourself at the end.”

As Toucher gave his opinion, he articulated that Gorman was not comfortable making the broadcast about himself at the conclusion of the first round of the playoffs. While he recognizes that Grande deserves a sign off if it is indeed his last broadcast, not revealing whether or not he is retiring has elicited speculation. Co-host Rob “Hardy” Poole asked if Grande genuinely does not know if he will be back, leading Toucher to express that he should not have signed off in that manner if it was the case.

“Putting myself in his position and having sort of the same job – talking on the radio – it’s insanity,” Toucher said. “It’s insanity. They just won the championship; it has nothing to do with you.”

Show anchor Jon Wallach, who has filled in on Celtics broadcasts in the past and has always wanted to be the voice of the team, shared that he had not heard anything. Additionally, he spoke with Maxwell on Tuesday and learned that he was not aware of any potential change taking place.

“Sean has signed off similarly in the past,” Wallach said. “This one was a little bit more, I don’t know if ‘dramatic’ is the right word, but this one he seemed more choked up than in previous years, but similarly he’s said things like, ‘Thank you or going on this ride with us. It’s been an honor.’ That kind of stuff.”

Toucher thought that Grande should have ended the broadcast by congratulating the Boston Celtics for winning the NBA Finals and conveying that they would be remembered for the rest of their lives. Instead, the minute-long monologue about the honor he has to call Celtics games and work with Maxwell is a decision he regarded as insane. In fact, if Grande was sitting in front of him in the radio studio, Toucher said that he would have expressed the same thing and does not feel badly about his opinion.

“If he’s retiring, I wish he would have said he was retiring, and then he could be honored like he deserves for having the job for 23 years,” Toucher said, “but if he’s not retiring, he’s a lunatic.”

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