ESPN’s Max Kellerman and Stephen A. Smith were close to being TV partners in the morning and radio rivals in the afternoon, which would have made a very interesting daily dynamic.
WFAN 660 AM/101.9 FM in New York and ESPN have long been sports media rivals with The Worldwide Leader refusing to let any of their talent appear on WFAN. It’s hard to imagine a world where one of ESPN’s most recognizable personalities would host afternoon drive on the opposing WFAN, but it was a possibility. During WFAN’s 2017 search to replace Mike Francesa when he “retired,” the station was interested in hiring First Take host Max Kellerman with an agreement that could have allowed him to continue his ESPN gig.
In a story about Chris Simms departing Bleacher Report for NBC, the former NFL quarterback told The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand he was offered the opportunity to replace Mike Francesa. Simms’ decision to decline the offer was in part because he didn’t want to be on a three-person show and instead had his sights on a different radio partner.
According to Marchand, the preferred co-host for Simms was ESPN’s Max Kellerman. The ESPN personality reportedly has language in his contract that allows him to host a drive time radio show in New York while continuing to his role on First Take, even if that show is on their rival WFAN.
The available 2 – 6 timeslot on WFAN would have put Kellerman and his TV co-host Stephen A. Smith head to head for an hour in New York, with Smith’s syndicated radio show broadcasting on 98.7 ESPN from 1 – 3pm. Kellerman and Stephen A. would be spending their mornings working together to build an audience and their afternoons competing with each other for an audience.
It also would have been interesting to see if ESPN continued to refuse their talent the opportunity to appear on WFAN. After decades at the network, Kellerman has built strong relationships at ESPN and it’s difficult to imagine his close friends not joining him for segments on WFAN.
In the end a Kellerman and Simms pairing never came to fruition. WFAN chose Chris Carlin, Maggie Gray and Bart Scott and Francesa’s retirement was short lived, but an afternoon drive intersection for ESPN and WFAN would have been fun to watch.
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.