The National Basketball Association has the NBA Developmental League (D-League). Major League Baseball has Minor League Baseball. The National Football League has no true “minor league” system where players not fortunate enough to find themselves on a 53-man roster or team’s practice squad can continue to perform in conditions similar to NFL-style game play. The Fall Experimental Football League (FXFL) hopes to become that “minor league” for the NFL and a broadcasting agreement with ESPN will help the FXFL achieve its goals.
The FXFL and ESPN have signed an agreement that will obligate ESPN to broadcast the FXFL’s inaugural season on the ESPN3 network. The deal will provide the FXFL national coverage on ESPN, which serves as ESPN’s live multi-screen sports network on the Internet.
FXFL Commissioner Brian Woods says that the arrangement with ESPN is a welcome addition to the existing relationships that the FXFL has cultivated with regional networks. He says that the FXFL’s current distribution with regional networks will put the FXFL in front of 80-90 million cable subscribers, including SportsNet New York (SNY), New England Sports Network (NESN) and Comcast CMCSA -1.43% Chicago. Woods adds that the FXFL seems to pick up another regional partner every three or four days and remains optimistic that the FXFL will land a few more partners before the inaugural season kicks off on October 8 at 8:00 p.m. EST when Boston plays at Omaha.
The FXFL wishes to become a true developmental platform for players, coaches and prospective NFL referees. Opportunities are few and far between for NFL franchises to develop young players that cannot make the cut onto a 53-man roster or practice squad. The NFL knows it needs a developmental league for those players as well as to test out proposed rules changes and additionally prepare prospective referees before throwing them into regular or preseason NFL match-ups.
“We have kept an open line of communications with the NFL and I definitely think there are interests on their end,” Woods said who has spoken to NFL executives throughout the formative process of the FXFL. ”The long-term goal of this league is to establish an official relationship or be recognized by the NFL as its official developmental league. ESPN has a very close tie-in with the NFL and I think many people including John Clayton, Mike Golic and others have really shown me their support on this. Having an affiliation with ESPN is something that is going to enhance us with our efforts to build that bridge into the NFL.”
Woods also referenced a recent segment on ESPN’s “Mike and Mike” show when Golic said, “There needs to be a minor league in football. Not a competing league, not one that plays a different kind of football, one that essentially is a feeder league to the NFL.”
Many start-up football leagues have been created and disbanded in the recent past. NFL Europe no longer exists. The All American Football League (AAFL), with prospective teams based on various college campuses was scrapped before a single game was played. The United Football League (UFL) was a failure, and many former players are still seeking pay for their performance on the field. Arena Football and the Canadian Football League remain as options for players who cannot make the cut in the NFL, but spots in Canada are sparse and talent in the Arena Football League has deteriorated over time. Woods says that FXFL teams will not even consider signing players from the Arena Football League. Instead, the FXFL is focusing on players who are no more than three years removed from college, many of whom have had short stints in the NFL.
“Most of the other leagues came into the existence with the mindset that they believed another league could exist and compete with the NFL,” Woods said. ”I believe the only league that can co-exist with the NFL is a league that has our developmental format. Importantly, it’s not the Spring. It should be the Fall.”
Whether the FXFL fills a major market void or follows in the footsteps of other floundering start-up football leagues remains to be seen. However, there is a true need for a platform to develop future NFL talent, and a broadcasting deal with ESPN is a good way to start enhancing the FXFL’s chances of survival. Taking a position that his league is not competing with, but instead complimenting, the NFL is a wise move by Woods. He has stated that his goal is to push 25-30% of the FXFL players back to the NFL by the end of the FXFL season. As always, timing may be a strong influencing factor as well.
This year, ninety-eight underclassmen declared for the NFL Draft (102 if those who were technically early-entrants who declared for the NFL Draft, but already graduated, are included in the equation). Thirty-six of the ninety-eight underclassmen (almost 40%) who declared were not selected in any of the seven rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft. Add the fact that the 2011-20 Collective Bargaining Agreement reduced the amount of practice time that teams have to work with young players in the off-season and today’s football player needs a developmental league more than ever.
The current FXFL membership is comprised of four teams playing a six-week schedule during the months of October and November. ESPN3 has agreed to carry six regular season games as well as the November 26 championship match-up.
Credit to Forbes.com who originally published this article
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.