The uproar over NESN’s decision to replace longtime play-by-play voice Don Orsillo with Dave O’Brien on Red Sox telecasts starting next season began as soon as the news of the decision broke Aug. 25.
The fan backlash to the news has only now begun to wane, after the popular Orsillo’s emotional signoff during the Red Sox’ season finale Sunday in Cleveland. Even now, with Orsillo finding a soft landing in San Diego as Dick Enberg’s eventual successor as the Padres play-by-play voice, there are matters that remain unsettled.
Jerry Remy, who spent much of the final inning Sunday in tears while Orsillo called the final outs solo, has not had his status for next season clarified, though he is expected back in some capacity. Rumors of mutual interest between NESN and Mets/TBS broadcaster Ron Darling refuse to fade despite plausible denials from the latter’s side.
Yet lost in the understandable commotion surrounding NESN’s decision to, as Red Sox chairman Tom Werner put it, “re-energize’’ the television broadcast is how the changes will affect the radio broadcast next year.
O’Brien, a voice of greater national accomplishment than Orsillo, will slide over from the radio booth after nine seasons as Joe Castiglione’s partner on flagship station WEEI’s Red Sox broadcasts.
Castiglione is under contract for next season, which will be his 34th year calling Red Sox games. But it remains uncertain who his partner will be.
It is clear, however, who it should be. It’s someone who has spent plenty of time on the Red Sox and WEEI’s rosters: Lou Merloni.
Phil Zachary, Entercom Boston’s vice president and market manager, said via e-mail Thursday that the batch of “well over 100 applicants” has been narrowed to a short list of seven or eight. Zachary said that group includes candidates with a wide range of experience, with some but not all having called MLB games previously. He said the hope is to have a decision finalized by Nov. 1, but such a timeframe may be optimistic.
But the hope here is that the search and the parameters of what WEEI and Entercom are looking for does not preclude them from recognizing an excellent fit who is already in their building five days per week.
Merloni, the son of Framingham who spent six of his nine big-league seasons with the Red Sox, has been a midday host on WEEI since February 2011, the constant in a carousel that has included Mike Mutnansky, Tim Benz, and currently Christian Fauria and Glenn Ordway.
Merloni is a capable host, one who, in a welcome development, has become more anecdotal about his playing days through the years. But he’s truly thrived when he’s been part of the broadcast crew — like Remy at his best, he has that same knack for accurately forecasting what is about to happen — and he was downright exceptional in an inspired three-man booth with Castiglione and O’Brien during the 2013 World Series.
Merloni’s contract is up early in 2016, and while he remains the best thing about a midday show that has struggled in the ratings, the timing seems perfect to slide him into a role in which he has already succeeded and yet retains promise for further improvement.
A wide-ranging search is understandable. It’s a coveted gig. But the answer is already in the building. The choice should be a familiar voice. Lou Merloni has been a superb utility player on the broadcasts. It’s time to make him the regular.
To read the full article visit the Boston Globe where this story was originally published
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.