Big changes are underway at the ESPN Radio Network. The longtime SVP of ESPN Radio and the ESPN Talent Office, Traug Keller, has announced he’s retiring. Keller is expected to help the network thru a transition before stepping away from daily activity sometime next month.
With Keller at the helm, ESPN Radio has become one of the most successful and respected brands in the country. Under his watch, ESPNRadio.com became the most listened to live stream of any terrestrial broadcaster in the world, reaching more than 700,000 unique listeners per month. He’s also led the expansion of the ESPN Audio brand to the ESPN apps, SiriusXM, Apple Music, Slacker Radio, TuneIn.
During his time with the network, Keller has had direct oversight of all aspects of ESPN Audio’s business including talent, staffing, national programming content, scheduling, and event production. In May 2016, he added the responsibility of managing the ESPN Talent Office, which is responsible for recruiting and retaining ESPN’s more than 1,000 on-air personnel.
Prior to joining ESPN, Traug served as the President of ABC Radio Networks, leading all aspects of network programming, affiliate relations, engineering, finance, research, IT, international programming, and marketing. Prior to his time at ABC, Keller worked as a sales manager in New York for the CBS Radio Networks, and held marketing and sales positions with the New York Times.
Also retiring from the company is Marcia Keegan. Keegan worked for the company in the early 1980’s and returned for a second run in 2007. She recently served as vice president of national radio programming and production following stints as the vice president of production, and vice president of content integration & strategic planning. Most recently, she oversaw the network’s weekday shows First and Last, Golic and Wingo, The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz, The Stephen A. Smith Show, The Will Cain Show, Spain and Fitz, Freddie and Fitzsimmons, and SportsCenter AllNight.
In an email distributed today to ESPN employees, executive vice president of event and studio production Norby Williamson said, “Both Traug and Marcia have been pivotal in successfully leading the Audio division to continued growth in a dynamically changing industry.”
To fill Keller and Keegan’s roles at the network, ESPN will turn to the team of Dave Roberts and Amanda Gifford. Both have prior experience working with ESPN Audio and ESPN television. They’re both well respected, talented professionals with a lengthy track record inside the company.
Roberts, currently serves as the Vice President of Production at ESPN, overseeing production of First Take, the 6pm ET SportsCenter, Get Up, High Noon, Highly Questionable, Around the Horn & Pardon the Interruption. He is directly responsible for 35 hours of programming per week on ESPN’s airwaves.
Previously, Roberts held the title of vice president of ESPN Audio network content, leading a group focused on strategy for national talk and play-by-play content. Roberts had a big role in bringing Bomani Jones to the network, and added shows such as espnW Presents: The Trifecta, Izzy & Spain, and The Morning Roast.
His experience includes time spent in New York as the general manager of ESPN Radio New York 98.7FM. He’s also held roles as senior coordinating producer of studio production for ESPNEWS, and coordinating producer for ESPNEWS, SportsCenter and Baseball Tonight. He joined ESPN after 25 years in local news, both in front of and behind the camera.
Gifford on the other hand started her career at ESPN Radio in 2004 as an intern, advancing to a producer role on ‘The Herd’ with Colin Cowherd, before taking the plunge into management. She currently serves as Coordinating Producer II, overseeing content planning and strategy for SportsCenter and the network’s studio shows. Her responsibilities include managing ESPN’s Talent Producers, and having direct oversight of guests booked on the network’s key shows and platforms.
Prior to her promotion to the CP role in February 2019, Gifford worked in the ESPN Talent Office, handling all talent matters related to SportsCenter, ESPNEWS, ESPN Radio, ESPN2’s daytime shows, MLB, NBA, Soccer, Golf and Tennis. Part of her role included assisting with contracts, and helping to recruit talent.
But radio is where Gifford first earned her stripes as a manager. As the network’s Senior Director of daytime programs, she oversaw the content, production staffs, talent and operations of “Mike and Mike,” “The Dan Le Batard show with Stugotz,” and “Russillo and Kanell.“ She also managed other programs such as “College GameDay,” “GameNight,” “The Erik Kuselias Show,” “The John Kincade Show” and “The V Show” with Bob Valvano. Gifford has also been heavily involved in the planning, organizing, and executing of the annual ‘Don’t Ever Give Up V Foundation Auction’.
Though Roberts and Gifford are taking on the responsibility of running the ESPN Audio division, both will remain involved in their current roles on the television side as well.
Last but certainly not least, the network has confirmed that Tim McCarthy, ESPN Audio’s Senior VP and GM, and head boss at 98.7 ESPN NY will take over GM duties of ESPN LA 710 in addition to continuing to operate 98.7 ESPN NY and managing network play by play. Scott McCarthy, who’s managed the L.A. brand in addition to holding a VP and GM role with ESPN Audio, will shift his focus to overseeing business operations for the audio division, which includes network ad sales, affiliates, marketing, digital, and podcasting.
Barrett Sports Media congratulates Traug and Marcia on all of their accomplishments with the company, and Dave, Amanda, Tim and Scott on their new opportunities.
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.