A lot has been made of the Chicago Cubs’ plans to launch a streaming service in partnership with Sinclair Broadcasting, which co-owns Marquee Sports with the team. On Wednesday, Laurence Holmes welcomed Chicago Sun Times Deputy Sports Editor Jeff Agrest to his show on 670 The Score to talk about the plan and just how quickly it may come to fruition.
The team cannot just flip a switch and launch a streaming version of Marquee Sports. Carriage agreements with the cable and satellite companies that distribute Marquee would have to be renegotiated.
Agrest said he has had trouble determining if the Cubs really do have total control of their streaming rights. If they don’t, it could really slow down their plans.
“MLB could say ‘we’re not giving you the streaming rights’ even though there are 4 teams in baseball whose rights belong to Sinclair or Bally Sports Network now,” Agrest said. “Look, they run the league, so I imagine there’s something they could do to get in the way of this. But if the Cubs have them now, it would be tricky for MLB to get in their way.”
Agrest said that streaming is “still a new frontier for sports,” but teams in all leagues know they have a product that advertisers value.
“They see what the distribution of their games gets them. We see the billions of dollars the NFL gets. They know their value. Baseball teams are in a unique position because they have the most inventory.”
The rumored price point is going to turn a lot of people off from a Cubs streaming service according to Jeff Agrest. At $18 per month, the cost will reportedly be higher than the Disney bundle of Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu.
That already causes alarm, but Agrest says that it doesn’t even really paint an accurate picture of what customers are being asked to shell out. In fact, he isn’t even sure the math works out as well for Marquee as it would for another regional sports network in the market.
“It can’t really be a monthly charge, because no one is going to want to pay for it in December, in January. It’s gonna have to be a yearly charge and that is going to change the mathematics of it,” he said. “The churn rate is going to be enormous for that type of product because it’s not a full season. Marquee has one team, whereas if you’re NBC Sports Chicago and you get to that point, and they will at some point, you at least have three teams and you can go year-round.”
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.