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Seth Harp Takes Over ESPN Gainesville

“It will launch when I feel comfortable with everything else that’s going on,” Harp said while noting he doesn’t want to disrupt the station’s rhythm and peoples’ habits right now.”

Brandon Contes

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Seth Harp knows what many sports radio hosts are going though right now. Harp was laid off by iHeart in January, after more than four years as a host and program director of WFXJ 97.3 The Game in Jacksonville. 

Less than three months later, during a difficult time for sports radio and seemingly every industry during this global pandemic, Harp was able to land his next gig. Last Friday, Harp announced he was joining WRUF ESPN Gainesville as a weekday host and program director. 

“I wanted to be the face of the layoff,” Harp told me about being let go from iHeart in January. “I wanted everyone to know I was available. On my way home from the layoff, I was already networking. I got home around 10:30am and I bet by the end of the day I sent 40-50 emails and made 200 different phone calls.”

It’s not an easy time for many sports radio hosts, both on-air and off.  There are challenges in creating entertaining content without the support of live sports and there are certainly challenges in finding your next opportunity if you were recently laid off. With the coronavirus caused economic shutdown, there aren’t many advertising dollars available to radio stations, and subsequently, there aren’t many media companies looking to hire new talent. 

Several times during our conversation, Harp referred back to how lucky he is, but landing a job in the current climate is also a testament to his drive and persistence. It should serve as a source of inspiration to others who may have recently lost a gig. It might take a few months, but other opportunities will be available. 

Harp will be back on-air in the next couple of months, the date is TBD. “It will launch when I feel comfortable with everything else that’s going on,” Harp said while noting he doesn’t want to disrupt the station’s rhythm and peoples’ habits right now. 

Without launching a show, there’s still plenty of work to be done in his new role as the station’s program director. Harp said he has a lot of big social media plans, some of which were learned at the 2020 BSM Summit, and they’ll start implementing those immediately. 

I asked WRUF’s new leader what’s more difficult right now, hosting a show or serving as program director of a sports radio station while sports are suspended, and resources are scarce?

“The amount of creativity you need to have in your bones to make it work and make it sound good right now is enormous. Programming, I just have to make sure everybody’s on the same path and everybody understands what’s going on,” Harp said. “If you’re hosting right now, it’s the biggest challenge of your career because anybody can go through the motions as a host and get away with it, but to be really good at it, it’s a challenge.”

Still, there are challenges as a program director during unsettling times, to offer a sense of stability, reassuring the station will survive and making sure everybody isn’t constantly concerned about their standing. Harp is a great candidate to provide that confidence, because he’s able to speak from experience having just bounced back from a layoff. 

“I’m almost like a beta test that we’ve figured out it works,” Harp said. “I was laid off, I interviewed for seven different jobs, most of them are now in hiring freezes for the foreseeable future. Gainesville was the exact opposite, they said we want you here now.”

Harp also referred back to what SVP of sports for Cumulus and Westwood One Bruce Gilbert said at the BSM Summit earlier this year, ‘every orchestra needs a maestro.’ “You need somebody that’s a stabilizing force through all of it,” Harp added. “We’re all in this together, but we’re all alone right now too.”

Sports Radio News

SURVEY: Sports Talk Stations Near Top of Streamed Stations

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.

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Streaming Radio

According to Nielsen, All Sports radio stations are the third-most streamed spoken word format, just behind Talk/Personality and News/Talk/Info.

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.

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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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