Dressed in a hoodie and baseball hat, wearing headphones with just one ear covered, Craig Carton looked like the same radio host that entertained the city of New York for a decade. Instead of boisterously dominating mornings on WFAN, Carton was a guest on ESPN New York’s afternoon show to answer questions about his derailed life.
The last time he was heard on New York sports radio, the audience didn’t know he committed fraud or about his gambling addiction, Craig Carton himself wasn’t even aware of the hole he was digging for himself.
For one full commercial-less hour, Carton sat in studio next to Peter Rosenberg and Don La Greca while Michael Kay joined the trio from Minute Maid Park, where the sounds of batting practice regularly bled into the conversation.
At times Carton looked uncomfortable, but rarely seemed like a person heading to prison for three and a half years. Right away Craig echoed Boomer Esiason’s earlier statement, saying he did contact WFAN about doing a sit-down first, but they declined to have him. Both Boomer and program director, Mark Chernoff felt the WFAN morning show had moved on and didn’t want to put Carton’s successor, Gregg Giannotti in an awkward position.
Carton still felt it was important to make a New York sports radio return and apologize to the listeners. ESPN NY gave him that platform, which was a surprise considering Carton and Kay Show co-host, Peter Rosenberg had a number of feuds over the years as WFAN battled with Rosenberg’s Hot 97 morning show for ratings.
On Monday, Rosenberg understood Carton’s crimes, putting the pieces together of someone being an addict and “doing stupid stuff to protect ridiculous debt,” but Peter didn’t ignore the issues he’s had with Craig in the past. Referring to Carton as an “a-hole” during the interview, Rosenberg took issue with the way Carton lied and treated people during his radio career.
“Never was a fan of you, never would have told you that in my life.”
“Ehh, you’re a litte bit of a fan,” the former FAN host said with a smirk in the most Carton-like comment of the interview.
“Not even at all,” a straight-faced Rosenberg replied as he mentioned Carton’s NJ 101.5 radio bits such as encouraging listeners to report illegal immigrants. Carton admitted there were times he forgot the people he attacked on-air had families of their own, his only goal was to make good radio.
Because of his own bombastic style and willingness to test limits, Carton takes no issue with anything that’s been said about him since his arrest. There are certain people Carton went after that he now feels bad about, but the former FAN morning host was careful to admit, without being on the receiving end of those attacks, his feelings wouldn’t have altered, adding “if you don’t change, you’re not human.”
In talking about WFAN, Carton was very complimentary of how they handled his situation, also admitting Mike Francesa has been kinder to him than he would’ve been in a role reversal. Carton acknowledged he’s happy FAN’s morning show has seen a drop in ratings since his departure, only stating that he and Boomer are “fine,” with no follow up question from TMKS.
Carton briefly spoke about his own family, including the difficult task of explaining his mistakes and now repercussions to his four children who range between the ages of eight and eighteen. Carton said his wife loves him and hates him at the same time, adding they’re legally separated and he’s not sure if it will conclude in a divorce.
On September 6th 2017, Carton was arrested on charges of conspiracy, wire and securities fraud after convincing hedge funders to invest millions of dollars for his ticket resale business. The lines of his legitimate ticket resale business and his gambling addiction blurred when he used investment money to feed his sickness.
“I told people what I was using their money for and I didn’t always use it at the exact right time, or exact time,” Carton said during his Monday appearance on ESPN NY. “The hedge fund wired two million dollars for tickets that I was gonna buy to Barbara Streisand and Metallica concerts, I bought every one of those tickets, albeit on my credit card and I used their money, when I got it, for gambling.”
Carton did state that being arrested saved his life because without that September 6th, 2017 day, he wouldn’t have recognized his problem. “There certainly would have come a point when I would have borrowed money from the wrong person,” the former morning radio star added.
As far as whether or not his experiences have changed him to the point that it would affect a future radio career, “I think I’d be number one tomorrow,” Carton told TMKS late in the interview. “Going to prison, acknowledging what I’ve done wrong, taking full ownership of it, I don’t blame a damn person but myself… and being real about that, I think will have great credibility, especially with a male-dominated audience in New York.”
In three and a half years Carton could get an opportunity to test his theory. As much as people have criticized where Carton is in his life today, his radio talent has never been questioned, but the industry’s landscape will continue to change with more of an emphasis on gambling, something that Craig would not want to encourage himself.
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.