The Tony Kornheiser era on terrestrial radio in Washington D.C has come to an end. The popular sports personality broadcast his final show Wednesday on ESPN 980. Kornheiser revealed last month that he was leaving the local radio station to launch his own digital venture. He now has a new website and will begin delivering a daily podcast in the next 60 days.
“The opportunity to do this, I walked away from two years left on a contract,” explained Kornheiser. “I don’t know what is being written or what is being said, but the truth of the matter is, I walked away with two years left on a contract, which at my age is so stupid and an indefensible position. Why did I do it? Because I thought it might be nice to see if I could get [not] people to pay for it on a daily basis, but advertisers who I could bring a certain amount of listeners: smart, funny, affluent people all around the country.”
“Not only did I leave money on the table, like a moron; I’m not gonna make any money, and I’m gonna pay people money,” Kornheiser continued. “So if it fails, it can’t fail soon enough, and I’ll come back. But I can’t emphasize this enough: You know, Torie (Clarke), Liz (Clarke), Jeanne (McManus), Chris (Cillizza), and David (Aldridge). It’s the show it is. It’s a radio show.”
Moving away from terrestrial radio is a risky proposition but if anyone can make it work it’s Kornheiser. That’s because his brand and show have national appeal, making the local focus a little less important. He also has a daily profile on ‘Pardon The Interruption’ on ESPN and if he wants to gain promotion for his new project, media outlets won’t hesitate to book time with him and give him an opportunity to promote it.
That said, building awareness, and getting listeners to jump through a few extra hoops to hear a show isn’t always easy. It’s not the same as Howard Stern moving from terrestrial radio to satellite radio but certain similarities do come to mind. When an audience has to do extra work to hear a program they like, they sometimes lose patience and find new ways to be entertained. That will be Tony’s biggest challenge to overcome.
In recent times, Kornheiser’s show wasn’t a huge ratings winner for ESPN 980. Local competitor 106.7 The Fan regularly beat the show head to head. Using that logic, one could make the case that ESPN 980 stands to benefit by replacing his time slot.
However, the Tony Kornheiser brand had broad appeal and was attractive to advertisers for different reasons. In addition, his digital performance on 980’s website was massive. Sustaining those digital numbers and keeping business on the books will be 980’s main challenges especially in the short term until people become familiar with their new programming.
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.