It’s fun to play the woulda, shoulda, coulda game in sports radio. What would have happened if Mike Francesa and Bill Simmons teamed up? Would it have worked? Should they have done it? Could it have been more successful than “Mike and the Mad Dog”?
Those questions will never be answered but when Simmons and Francesa teamed up on Monday, it was clear that there was chemistry and a shared respect. Those qualities helped make for an entertaining five and a half hour broadcast.
Newsday spoke to Francesa about working with Simmons, and the discussions that occurred in 2008 after Chris “Mad Dog” Russo left the show. Although it might have seemed like an odd fit at the time, Mike maintains it could have worked.
“A couple of people I trust who will remain nameless who didn’t even know Bill said, ‘Man, you were right about this guy, this would have worked really well.’ He would have been really good because he’s really good, that’s why. He has a lot of fresh stuff, and that’s what this is. What makes guys good at this is having personality but also having a real interesting take on things. That’s what cuts through.”
But how would two bulls with big egos have fit inside the same room? Francesa says anyone who’s worth anything usually has a high opinion of themselves.
“I’m sure there are people who think Bill Simmons is a big deal. I’m sure Bill does think he’s a big deal. Brent [Musburger] told me this many years ago, there’s no such thing as good talent that doesn’t have an ego. Every talent that’s worth anything has an ego.”
It’s well documented that Francesa plans to leave WFAN at the end of his contract in 2017. Some industry sources feel it’s a negotiating ploy. Others maintain this is the final swan song for Mike. Francesa once again addressed the situation on the air during his program with Simmons.
“[Don] Imus was quoted the other day saying it’s not going to happen. Guys have written stories saying that it’s a negotiating ploy. It’s not a negotiating ploy. We have not negotiated. We’re not negotiating. I never even considered anything from that standpoint,” said Francesa.
“I am leaving on that date. Nothing has changed. And I think the company has come to grips with that now. I think they understand that.”
If it is indeed the end of the road for Mike, the questions that will soon follow are, how will the radio station sendoff it’s biggest star? Francesa mentioned that a few things have already been planned.
“I’m going to the Super Bowl next year; I’ve already agreed to do that. That’s one thing they asked me to do and I already said yes,” said Francesa. “There might be a couple of stops that we make that will be considered. There are already some [remotes] on the map booked that we’re going to do, but it’s not like we’re going to do a stop every week.”
When asked who should replace him, Mike says the midday show deserves consideration but it’s not his call to make. He also pointed out that his former partner Chris “Mad Dog” Russo is no longer an option.
“Once Dog [Chris Russo] took himself out of it, which he has, I think the midday guys should get the first crack,” he added. “It’s not my place, and I don’t know what Joe’s future is. Joe’s older than I am, so he might have a different plan, but I think Evan, obviously, has earned that right. I don’t expect to have anything to say on how they’re going to do it. I don’t expect to, nor do I think I deserve it.”
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.