Detroit radio — and listeners throughout the state of Michigan — lost a legendary voice on Saturday.
Frank Beckmann was an institution at WJR (760 AM) for 48 years (and worked in broadcasting for 52 years), known to many as the radio voice of Michigan football, which he called for 32 years from 1981 through 2013. He also called play-by-play for the Detroit Lions from 1979 through 1988 and the Detroit Tigers from 1995 through 2003.
A longtime sports director at “The Great Voice of the Great Lakes” and its 50,000-watt signal, Beckmann hosted a sports talk show before sports radio as we know it became a nationally viable format. He launched Sportswrap in 1981 after eight years at WJR as a reporter, providing a ravenous Detroit sports fandom with news, commentary, analysis, and interviews that couldn’t be heard elsewhere on the dial. (All-sports WDFN didn’t launch in the market until 1994.)
How highly regarded was Beckmann as the voice of Michigan football? When WJR lost the broadcast rights in 2005, the station allowed Beckmann to continue calling Michigan football games for rival WWJ-AM and the Michigan Gameday Radio Network.
“It’s just so sad losing Frank,” Beckmann’s longtime broadcast partner Jim Brandstatter told the Detroit News. “Frank was a vital, energetic, driven, and larger-than-life personality, and having him be struck down like this is very difficult for everybody that knew him.”
Beckmann’s wife of 49 years, Karen, informed local media outlets that he suffered from vascular dementia and had several strokes since retiring. He was in hospice care when he passed away.
Called “the Swiss Army Knife of broadcasters” by WJR host and former TV anchor Guy Gordon, Beckmann called Detroit Pistons and Detroit Red Wings broadcasts early in his career. (Generations of Pistons fans are surely grateful to Beckmann for hiring the Pistons’ longtime radio and TV play-by-play broadcaster George Blaha.) And he demonstrated his versatility to listeners by taking over as the radio voice for the Detroit Tigers in 1995.
Beckmann brought familiarity and comfort to Tigers fans unsettled by WJR not renewing Ernie Harwell’s contract and bringing in Rick Rizzs and Bob Rathbun, out-of-towners who never connected with the audience. Two years after that experiment ended, Beckmann took the play-by-play mic and made the Tigers broadcasts feel like home again. When Harwell returned to the team’s radio booth in 1999, Beckmann called Tigers broadcasts on WKBD-TV.
After his Tigers broadcasting days were finished, Beckmann hosted a daily morning talk show on WJR and surprised some fans and media observers with a conservative viewpoint and sometimes cranky disposition. But even those who didn’t agree with his views (he considered running for U.S. Senate in 2011) still enjoyed Beckmann for his strong interview skills with public figures and local politicians, kindness with people promoting events and charities, and his rapport with callers.
Beckmann retired from WJR nearly a year ago in March 2021. During his career, he was a three-time winner of the Michigan Sportscaster of the Year award, and is a member of both the Michigan Sports and Michigan Broadcasting Halls of Fame.
He is survived by wife Karen, son Jonathan, daughter Tori Kughn, and three grandchildren.
SURVEY: 16.9% of All Sports Radio Listeners Are Streaming
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 Nielsen reported that 11.3% of all radio listenership comes thru a stream, up from 6.9% in May of 2020.
According to Nielsen, All 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 its 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.