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Will Boxing Announcers Hold Back?

Jason Barrett

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A singular motivating force led HBO and Showtime to join forces this Saturday night in producing the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao rumble — greed.

The payday, the moo-la-dee, is what forced the suits (holding their noses no doubt) to mix and match voices from different sides of the aisle for this Pay-Per-View telecast. Their public proclamations promising a smooth fight night operation, and that all the announcers will remain neutral, are, at best, totally disingenuous.

Then again, these executives are involved in a sport where lying is simply a reflex action — kind of like breathing.

Each network has plenty at stake. The fighter who loses leaves Las Vegas as damaged goods to his network. The broadcasters working the fight know this. None of them enters the arena as a neutral commentator. At least one is honest enough to admit it.

“You can never completely erase that business relationship (between a fighter and your network), and what it means, from your mind,” Jim Lampley, the HBO voice who will call the fight, said over the telephone. “I know what our business relationship is in every fight we do. It seeps into your mind during a fight. It will Saturday night, too. But that doesn’t mean you can’t call the fight fairly.”

The gold-plated tracks Mayweather traveled from HBO to Showtime in 2012, when he left to sign a six-fight, $200 million deal with the CBS-owned company, are covered with bad blood.

Before leaving HBO, Mayweather tried to force a clause into his contract that would have prohibited Lampley and then-analyst Larry Merchant, from talking about any aspect of the fighter’s life outside the ring, including his history of domestic violence.

Merchant and Mayweather also verbally went at each other in a post-fight interview after the fighter’s controversial KO win over Victor Ortiz in 2011. Mayweather called for Merchant to be fired, adding, “You don’t know s— about boxing.” Merchant: “I wish I was 50 years younger and I’d kick your ass.”

No voice from Showtime would ever speak to Mayweather in such a harsh manner. Mayweather is not just Showtime’s biggest star. He also has an “executive producer” credit on all “specials” involving him and final say over all scripts. The network’s boxing voices mostly verbally genuflect to him. Al Bernstein, Showtime’s analyst, will join HBO analyst Roy Jones Jr. and Lampley for Saturday’s PPV telecast. Max Kellerman (HBO) and Jim Gray (Showtime) are ringside reporters. Steve Farhood (Showtime) and Harold Lederman (HBO) will be the unofficial scorers.

“There’s a delicate tension that goes with this production,” Lampley said. “Everyone knows these are two networks with conflicting business interests.”

Depending on whom we spoke with, either Lampley calling the fight was not an issue, or it was a huge one that was debated. On his show, “The Fight Game,” Lampley has consistently ripped Mayweather, once saying “for the betterment of boxing’s image, Floyd Mayweather’s retirement cannot come a moment too soon.”

Lampley said he won’t be dealing with Mayweather’s troubled past during the fight. “I don’t have to think about it,” Lampley said. “That’s for the host’s (James Brown) operation.” Through his career, Brown has not ducked issues.

But with Mayweather being such a controlling force at Showtime, will Brown dare to bring up Mayweather’s history of domestic violence during his segments? Considering his strong commentaries on cases of domestic violence in the NFL, Brown must know Mayweather once said that the NFL was overreacting to a videotape when it suspended Ray Rice.

Once the bell rings, the action inside the ring will dictate the voices’ commentary — or will it? Other than scoring figure skating, nothing is more subjective than analyzing, or scoring, a prize fight. This is when the relationship between boxing commentators can get contentious, especially if a fight such as Mayweather-Pacquiao is close.

Credit to the NY Daily News who originally published this article

Sports Radio News

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.

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Streaming Radio

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.

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Sports Radio News

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.

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MLB Radio

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.

Radio Listeners to MLB

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.

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Sports Radio News

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”

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Jeff Dean Show

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”

Jeff Dean Facebook

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.

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