Although this is being written just hours before the February radio ratings start becoming public, it appears that recent research bears out my point about problems with so much sports "talk" and not enough sports "reporting".
The M/A/R/C agency survey for the Newspaper National Network reveals that the majority of sports fans rely on "reporting" sources compared with sports talk radio. This is something that sports radio program directors need to take note of. This national survey included "in-depth" interviews with hundreds of sports fans regarding their "go-to" sources for sports news.
Among the key results among male sports fans aged 18-54 is that 76% cited their local newspaper web site sports section as their "top source", with 69% of respondents going with the print edition. The next selected sources were ESPN.com at 66%, and league web sites (such as NFL.com, MLB.com, etc.) at 46%.
A huge part of the reason that, as much of a sports fan as I am personally, I haven't "voluntarily" listened to very much sports talk radio (although I do because of this column) is the lack of news and factual material. Too much of the conversation is "What if....?", and hearing "Joe from the north side" commenting on who should hit cleanup for the local baseball team does not inform me. Factor in the sports reporting media being slowly reduced to CBS saying that "ESPN is reporting....." something instead of using their internal resources to confirm or deny a story themselves are being noticed by sports fans.
While it is certainly the case that newspapers and sports web sites have more than their fair share of opinion, the difference is that "reporting" and "opinion" are distinguished on every resource that sports fans are choosing the most. In other words, there is a reason that the target audience of males 18-54 are choosing updated newspaper web sites more than DOUBLE the amount they "choose" sports radio. And that includes the printed sports section which is published hours later than radio could have the same facts.
This same research showed only 33% saying "sports talk radio", and that includes ESPN Radio stations. I'll repeat that. ESPN's web site gets more than twice as many males 18-54 using it for sports "news" as its radio stations are getting - and that site trails the local newspaper's reporting. The in-depth interview portion of this research concluded that 72% said "Sports content from newspapers was superior to any other source".
Keep this in mind when we assess markets such as Los Angeles, Houston, and Milwaukee. L.A. and Houston are both sports "hot beds" during certain times of the year. Interest is always high with the Lakers, and the upcoming baseball season with the spending of the Dodgers and Angels will be a big story. In Houston, the Texans' season means significant ratings for their games. Yet, it is rare month when any of the multiple sports radio stations in either market show up in the top 20 overall.
Milwaukee might be the best example. WTMJ Radio has been #1 overall in the market for most of the past twenty years, and airs play-by-play of the Brewers, Packers, Bucks, and U. of Wisconsin football games. Yet, although they provide sports updates during drive times and have some adjacent sports related programming, it is not a sports radio station. The two full-time sports radio stations, which includes the local ESPN station, have both averaged less than a "1" overall rating in the market for at least the past year.
The fans want play-by-play and sports "news" instead of hours of pointless speculation such as "This guy could get traded, what do you think" that sports radio stations are dedicating way too much time on.
Elsewhere, we're actually seeing a "sports media" impact on the movies. Sony Pictures as acquired "Jesse Holley" (the film title) which will be about the wide receiver of that name who played for Dallas and New England. The media impact is because Holley got into pro football after he won the "4th And Long" reality TV show and was invited to the Cowboys' training camp and made the team. (In his first game with Dallas he caught a 77-yard pass in overtime.) Michael Irvin is expected to be the Executive Producer. If not for the reality show, chances are that Holley would not have received the invite to camp and had the chance to compete in the NFL.
Meanwhile, the movie "Draft Day", which is to star Kevin Costner as the GM of the Cleveland Browns, will include actual filming for the movie at the NFL Draft in New York next month. The remainder of the film will be shot in Ohio. It's interesting that the NFL appears to be allowing a movie crew to be working at the actual draft.
Elsewhere, the NBC Sports Radio Network has announced more of its weekday lineup, and this time it's more than moving weekend guys into weekday slots. Former NFL QB Donovan McNabb will be teamed with another former QB, and Radio-TV sportscaster Mark Malone for the 3 - 7 PM ET spot, with the debut set for April 1st. Not only is this pairing two guys who played the same position (as opposed to an offensive player and a defensive player), but after the NFL Draft in late April they will go almost three months before NFL training camp time. Thus, while the sports world focuses on the start of baseball season, The Masters, the NCAA Final Four, and the start of the NBA and NHL playoffs in April, all NBC offers up is a pair of football experts. The Noon to 3 PM ET spot will be hosted by Newy Scruggs out of Dallas. Scruggs is Sports Director of KXAS-TV 5, and has also hosted on KRLD-FM, which is now a CBS Radio station. Scruggs will be joined by analysts including Stan Van Gundy and Bobby Valentine throughout the week.
Listeners to New York's WABC 770 from its days long ago as MusicRadio may remember Howard Hoffman, who spent about 17 years as one of its top 40 format DJ's. Where is he now? Hoffman will be the play-by-play voice for the Walla Walla Sweets of the West Coast (baseball) League starting next month.
Meanwhile, it is possible that this could be last "consecutive" year for CBS-TV to televise the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament. The word is that TNT might be airing those games in 2014, even though the original contract allowed the alternating to begin as "late" as 2016. My hunch is that CBS prefers to air the Final Four in 2016 instead. That's the next year that they (CBS) are scheduled to air the Super Bowl. Just like this year, that would give CBS the two biggest "early in the year" sports events if they have both the Super Bowl and Final Four in 2016, as well as major opportunities for their advertisers.
CHICAGO: ESPN Deportes 97.5 has signed to broadcast soccer from Mexico in an interesting move. This is not a network deal, but the local station securing the broadcast rights to air the games of Chivas Rayadas de Guadalajara of the Mexican Football League North Zone. As of now, it is the only team in that league to have a roster consisting entirely of Mexican players. Thus, this is a local station contract for an out-of-market (and out of the country) team, whose game are not otherwise regularly available in any language.
OKLAHOMA CITY: KINB 105.3 has gone to CBS Sports Radio Network and dropped the music format. However, the station starts by having to battle Sports Animal WWLS 98.1 and ESPN Radio 640 for listeners without any local play-by-play.
VERONA NY: Sorry to learn of the passing of Vincent Spadafora, who handled play-by-play of many local high school and college games over the years on a variety of local stations in the Oneida area. Spadafora also taught broadcasting at Onondaga Community College for more than 30 years.