Bob from Parkville was on the air, his voice filled with remorse.
A day earlier, he had agitated on WJZ-FM (105.7 The Fan) for the Ravens to place former linebacker O.J. Brigance, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, in their Ring of Honor.
“We get it. … You’re passionate,” said Scott Garceau, one of the sports radio station’s hosts, after listening to several earnest apologies.
Well known to listeners, “Bob” is far from the only regular caller on 105.7, the most popular of Baltimore’s three stations devoted solely to sports, a format growing nationally and holding its own in the city. With its abundance of familiar callers and guests, local sports talk radio can feel like a close-knit neighborhood, albeit a homogeneous one in which the residents are nearly all wisecracking men.
But it’s working. Almost entirely devoid of female voices, sports call-in shows are scoring — locally and nationally — in the coveted Nielsen ratings demographic of men between the ages of 25 and 54.
“That’s the sweet spot,” said Rick Scott, an Arizona-based sports radio consultant. “The successful stations are usually in the top five in that demographic.”
Aided by being the Orioles’ flagship station, CBS-owned 105.7 often found itself in the top five among men 25 to 54 this past summer — and was sometimes No. 1 — although it placed lower in overall ratings.
While sports talk shows can be unabashedly lowbrow and occasionally repetitive, analysts say their audiences tend to linger, sometimes as an extension of their allegiance to local teams.
In a market that is increasingly fragmented — satellite radio, live streaming and podcasts have all become important outlets — sports radio “commands large, loyal audiences and those people listen frequently and regularly, which makes them great targets for advertisers,” said B. Eric Rhoads, publisher and CEO of Radio Ink, a trade publication. “It’s still a very viable format.”
Baltimore’s other two all-sports stations are both AM stations — WNST 1570 and WJZ 1300 — and barely registered in the overall ratings during the summer, if at all.
WNST downsized in 2014 and stopped taking listener calls in favor of “an ongoing conversation with [sports] experts,” said owner Nestor Aparicio, whose station emphasizes text updates and online streaming. “I don’t take phone calls on the radio because I don’t think it’s any good. We’re having an intelligent, cogent conversation.”
A partner of 105.7, WJZ 1300 is also owned by CBS Radio, a unit of CBS Corp. While sticking mostly to CBS national sports coverage and programs, it is the broadcast home of Towson University athletics.
In overall Nielsen ratings, CBS-owned WLIF-FM (adult contemporary), WERQ-FM (urban contemporary) and WPOC-FM (country) rank at the top for Baltimore listeners 6 and older, according to data released Sept. 30.
But in sports, 105.7 is “the Big Kahuna in Baltimore,” said Dave Hughes, founder of DCRTV.com, a website devoted to Washington and Baltimore media. “It’s a very Baltimore-sounding station and they get great ratings.”
The station ranks near the top of the Baltimore market in advertising revenue, Robert Philips, senior vice president and director of sales for CBS Radio nationally and its market manager for Baltimore, said in an email. The ranking could not be independently confirmed because the figures are private.
While it doesn’t have a lot of local competition, radio signals from Washington stations bleed into the Baltimore market.
“ESPN 980 in Washington sometimes gets some good ratings in Baltimore because it has a strong signal and has a lot of people in Howard and Anne Arundel Counties listening,” Hughes said.
Formerly WHFS-FM, 105.7 switched to sports talk in 2008.
It’s not a station for listeners who relish hearing hosts criticize or cut off callers. It’s pretty tame, courteous even.
“I don’t have callers that annoy me,” host Rob Long said. “If it’s annoying, we find a way to spin it and make it funny.”
After “Bob from Parkville” apologized for his rant, Garceau made it clear the caller remained on good terms. “Bob’s Bob,” Garceau said on the air. “Say your piece.”
On a recent afternoon, host Jeremy Conn — joined by Garceau — sat behind a microphone wearing an Orioles T-shirt. Eight Orioles bobbleheads were lined up on a table, and three television monitors with sports programming loomed overhead as Garceau fielded calls.
Another host, Bob Haynie, wore an AC/DC T-shirt and shorts as he prepared for an Orioles pregame show. “I wear a suit and tie to funerals,” he said of his attire.
Like cast members with small parts, the station’s regular callers have become part of the show. There is “Q in Pikesville,” an antagonist because he roots for out-of-town teams. There is “Ed in Arbutus,” a longtime high school assistant football coach and factory worker whom the hosts consider sage. There is “John in Elkton” whom the station has nicknamed “Elkton John.”
“I talk to them more than I talk to my own family,” Conn said off the air.
Ed Foster — “Ed in Arbutus” — said in an interview that he enjoys the connection derived from sharing moments from sporting events.
“From the time 105.7 started, I was making a call,” said Foster, 58.
He has developed such a close relationship with the station that he said Conn showed up at a wake service in March for Foster’s 35-year-old daughter, Amanda Winneke, who had died after a long illness.
“I was overwhelmed that he would consider that,” Foster said. “It was absolutely a surprise. I hugged him.”
Baltimore sports radio has a heavy local flavor. Nationally, ESPN Radio has 375 full-time affiliates — but none in the city.
“Baltimore is certainly on my radar,” said Traug Keller, an ESPN senior vice president overseeing the radio network, among other divisions.
News-talk station WBAL, the Ravens’ flagship station and the city’s AM ratings leader, carries some ESPN national game broadcasts but not the network’s signature shows such as “Mike & Mike.” Hearst-owned WBAL broadcasts its own sports talk show at night, often competing over the summer with Orioles games.
The Orioles jumped from WBAL to 105.7 last year, signing a multiyear deal.
To read the rest of the article visit the Baltimore Sun where it was originally published
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Nick Wilson: Deshaun Watson Press Conference ‘Insulting’ To Local Media
“You — neither Deshaun, his lawyers, or anybody involved in this — get to dictate what those reporters get to say, ask, or think.”
Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson met with the media for the first time yesterday since being reinstated by the NFL after the league ruled he was guilty of violating the Personal Conduct Policy due to improper sexual advances towards more than two dozen massage therapists. 92.3 The Fan afternoon host Nick Wilson called Watson’s press conference “trash” and “insulting” to local media.
Watson told reporters he would only answer football related questions from the assembled media members, which Wilson took issue with.
“You can’t bury this story simply by saying ‘I won’t talk about it’,” Wilson said. “It is insulting to the media who covers this team. This is not about Nick Wilson, I promise. This is about the beat reporters who cover this team. It is insulting — intentionally or not — to say ‘You know what, guys? I love y’all, but I’m going to dictate what you ask me’.
“You don’t do that. You dictate when you speak, your opening statement, or how you respond. You — neither Deshaun, his lawyers, or anybody involved in this — get to dictate what those reporters — who work very hard day in, day out covering this organization, covering Deshaun Watson, covering this town — get to say, ask, or think. That was trash.”
Co-host Dustin Fox added the whole job of the media is to bring information to fans, and Watson wouldn’t allow reporters to do that Thursday, and may never do that.
Gregg Giannotti: Biggest Issue With Craig Carton, Jon Jastremski Feud Is “Mole” At WFAN
“The thing that bothers me the most about this is the leak from within the building. Someone here is sending this audio out to a former listener…to cause problems.”
A feud has sprung up between WFAN afternoon host Craig Carton and former WFAN host John Jastremski. Boomer & Gio discussed the spat on Friday morning’s show, with Gregg Giannotti being troubled by a revelation.
During his New York New York podcast, a voicemail left for Jastremski asked about Carton’s comments, but the caller said a WFAN employee sent him the clip of Carton’s criticism.
“So that means we have a mole,” Boomer Esiason said.
“That right there is a problem,” Gregg Giannotti added. “‘We both have a mutual friend that still works over there’ and that person shared a link of Craig talking about JJ (Jastremski). So, clearly, that person is on JJ’s side and they’re still working here. That’s a mole! That’s someone going against the team! And I think know who that is!”
Esiason then asked if he knew the person, to which Giannotti said he did. He then asked if he would be upset by who it was, which Giannotti affirmed as well.
The show then played the final portion of Jastremski’s rant, which included him saying to Carton “I’m not listening to a crook. So you know what? Go take a f—ing hike.”
“Jesus!” Esiason exclaimed. “Good for JJ, though. Standing up for himself.”
“I like both of these guys. I do. I got respect for both of them,” said Giannotti. “Everybody doesn’t have to go to the jail, crook thing with Craig every single time. Do they? It’s low-hanging fruit. Everybody goes there. There’s no way he can defend himself in that way because everybody saying ‘You went to jail’ didn’t go to jail, and it’s not apples and oranges. But the business stuff is apples-to-apples.
“So when I hear that, I’m just like ‘Ok, you went there. Be a little more creative than that’. As far as I listen to legend things, please, nobody has given me worse advice in my life than Mike Francesa did. Nobody. I would still be out in the newsroom cutting Islander highlights if I listened to that guy. And the only reason why Mike liked JJ was because he didn’t feel he was a threat. The only people Mike likes is the people he feels non-threatened by. And that’s where that comes from.”
After concluding Jastremski’s rant was a “little over the top”, Giannotti then turned his attention to the “mole” inside the station.
“The thing that bothers me the most about this is the leak from within the building. Someone here is sending this audio out to a former listener…to cause problems. That — to me — is an issue. The guy on the voicemail said ‘We may or may not have a mutual friend that still works at the radio station’ and this guy just slammed the radio station. And he’s friends with the guy who slammed the radio station and then slammed Craig and this guy’s on their side?! And this guy that works here is on their side?! That to me is a major, major problem.”
Dan Dakich: Craig Carton is ‘The Way Talk Radio Should Be’
“If you’re being critical because you want to be the guy that’s always critical I don’t think you can do that either. I think you gotta be honest. And criticism comes with it.”
Craig Carton has prided himself on being one of those hosts who tells it like it is, especially when talking about New York’s pro sports teams.
That willingness to call a spade a spade and levy criticism on teams like the Jets and Giants, especially when things are not going well on the field, is something Dan Dakich has always seen as a recipe for success in the industry.
Interviewing Carton on Thursday on his Outkick show Don’t @ Me, Dakich praised the WFAN afternoon host for essentially creating a blueprint for how sports talk should be done.
“In Indianapolis I’m the bad guy right, because I say look the Colts stink, this regime is 46-49-1 – why are you telling me the GM is the best in the country – why are you telling me Frank Reich can really coach?” Dakich said. “New York’s different, though, right? I mean, New York they expect you to say look if you ain’t any good then you ain’t any good. Yu don’t sugarcoat nothing, and I think that’s the way talk radio should be.”
Carton noted that what’s key in how you critique a team or a front office, executive or owner is finding a balance. He said you can’t as a host be the ultimate homer and blow smoke up everyone’s behind.
“You have to be able to be critical when it’s warranted,” Carton said. “If you’re being critical because you want to be the guy that’s always critical I don’t think you can do that either. I think you gotta be honest. And criticism comes with it.”
Carton pointed out that the fan bases in both New York and in Indianapolis are ultimately the same, because at the end of the day it’s all about making sure you have competent people calling the right shots. He added that the organizations are the same too because of how sensitive they can be to criticism, which he said if they don’t like it, “too bad.”
Jordan Bondurant is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. He works full-time as a multimedia specialist at the Virginia State Corporation Commission, while also putting in part-time work for News Radio WRVA and 910 The Fan in Richmond. Additionally, you can find Jordan contributing coverage of the Washington Capitals for the blog NoVa Caps. His prior media experiences include working for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Danville Register & Bee, Virginia Lawyers Weekly and ABC 8News. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @J__Bondurant.