Major League Baseball is officially back under a new collective bargaining agreement for another full 162-game season that began last week. The game itself, while at its core is still “America’s Pastime,” has fundamentally shifted in terms of how it reaches and appeals to consumers – one shift being the placement of box scores.
One of the media distributors that has published the league’s box scores is the newspaper, a place where consumers have learned of the previous day’s news and happenings in various areas of society. While most newspapers have focused their content on the digital domain amid a decline in daily physical circulation, there remains a fraction of people who prefer to get their news by receiving the traditional, physical copy of the paper.
Veteran host Norm Hitzges has openly acknowledged that he falls into that category, which he refers to as the “‘I need a paper in my hands’ group,” as he continues to receive the physical newspaper each morning. Amid the medium’s gradual transition to digital content though, Hitzges expressed to his co-host Donovan Lewis on Norm and D Invasion on The Ticket in Dallas that he is mourning an omission from the newspapers that he just noticed this week.
“I’m mourning the fact that The Dallas Morning News no longer publishes box scores of other [baseball] games,” said Hitzges. “I used to pour over box scores, and unless I’m missing something, I haven’t seen box scores of other games since the season opened.”
Hitzges started as the industry’s first full-time morning drive host in Dallas, and has been on-the-air for over 30 years, including a non-sequential stint as a cable television announcer for MLB’s Texas Rangers. In that time, he has frequently had to look at box scores to follow games around the league, something he did in the newspaper – until 2022.
“That was a childhood ritual of mine,” recollected Lewis, “to grab the newspaper in the summer and pour over all the box scores from the other games…I would run out in the morning, get the paper, and I think at first my dad was a little upset because he wanted to read the paper first, and he’s a sports guy also. But he gave up that fight a long time ago after I would run out.”
As he was assimilating into the broadcasting space, Lewis worked a paper route in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for a year-and-a-half. His connection to newspapers, while it has remained strong through the evolution of media, has, like many others, wavered to the degree that he only receives a physical newspaper on Wednesdays and Sundays. Yet his co-host seemed unaware as to how Lewis would receive information about something that happens on a day in which he does not receive the physical newspaper.
“Once you get it a couple days a week, you can always check it out online,” explained Lewis. “I’m just talking about the physical copy of the paper. My parents got it every single day, and I don’t even think they get the paper every day now.”
Hitzges, a member of the Texas Radio Hall of Fame, knows that media outlets in today’s society are evolving with changing technologies and consumer trends – both of which are concentrating in the digital space. Convergence has led to the extinction of newspapers and the amalgamation of content, and it is something that is forcing those reluctant – including Hitzges – to adapt.
“I think we’re getting older and getting smaller,” Hitzges said regarding those who continue to read physical copies of newspapers. “Obviously, some cities have totally lost newspapers… That seems to be the trend – that newspapers are slowly, especially in rural areas, slowly but surely disappearing.”
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.