What’s Right and What’s Wrong with Sports Media- Sports Radio

There really hasn’t been any glaring changes in the sports radio industry since 2007 when I first wrote of what I liked about sports media.

Living within the Boston media market, I now have two reputable choices for my sports radio listening pleasure.  Both have very knowledgeable hosts who, when they want to be, are very, very good.

What I said four years ago about what I like about sports radio holds true today…I like when hosts talk sports.  Novel idea, isn’t it?  But for some reason there are times when hosts think they need to expand their horizons and talk about topics not associated with the hometown teams.   Case in point…one of the Boston area sports radio morning shows last month spent its entire four hour show on two topics; Mark Sanchez dating a 17 year-old and whether the husband of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords should leave her side and command the last space shuttle mission.  That’s the kind of sports I love!

Hosts who delve into the non-sports realm say they’re bringing up topics that “guys” are talking about, specifically “guys” in the 18-49 or 25-54 demographic.  We may have interests outside of sports on our mind, but we tune in to sports radio to hear a discussion of sports.  If we want to hear about other topics we can find those elsewhere on the dial.

As much as all radio stations live and die on ratings, sports radio remains a niche format with low ratings.  That’s why in most markets sports radio consists of a blend of local sports shows and those from ESPN Radio or other national syndicators.  Boston is one of the only markets where sports radio has consistently scored high in the desired male demographics.

I tend to value local sports talk radio to national programs, because I get more information on the teams I follow.  The downside to this is because local sports shows focus on the regional sports scene, they tend to ignore other sports when in season.  Back to what I hear in Boston, sports radio programs focus exclusively on the four major sports teams and rarely, if ever, talk college sports or individual sports like golf and tennis. The nationally syndicated shows tend to give me more variety, so I’ll check in with them more during golf and tennis majors, etc.

The best sports radio programs are the ones where the hosts are knowledgeable and respect the views of the callers.  They are also the ones that include interviews of local and national newsmakers.  Unfortunately there are many hosts who feel that because they have control of the microphone, they are why people listen.  These hosts may have good ratings numbers, but not for the reasons they think.

Like newspapers, sports radio faces competition on other media platforms.  There are now satellite and online audio programs which focus on a specific sport or team that are gaining market share with audiences.   Some of these programs are better than others, but isn’t it great that we have these choices?  I like that.

0 comments

  1. This is the biggest piece of garbage I’ve ever read on sports radio.

    I’ve been doing sports radio for almost 20 years and I can’t disagree with you more on some of your assesments on the industry.

    First, it’s okay for sports hosts to reach beyond the sports world for topics and to broaden their show. That’s because most of their audience are not crazy die-hards who spend all of their day going over box scores and playing on the NBA Trade Machine. Most listeners have jobs, families and enjoy a good action flick every now and then, and yes, they think Charlie Sheen is crazy.

    You can’t win in radio ratings by appealing to the die-hards, you have to branch out a little. Yes, a whole show on pop culture is not appropriate in the format but a good host can take those topics and make them very entertaining.

    Yes, sports radio is a niche format but to say it has low ratings is missing something larger. Most good sports radio stations in larger markets have top ratings in their target demographic. If you want to target men 18-49 or 25-54, this is one of the best formats to do that. Those numbers in the right sales person’s hand equals money. WFAN in New York was one of the top billing stations in the country. Sports radio is not geared towards the 12+ crowd.

    “Unfortunately there are many hosts who feel that because they have control of the microphone, they are why people listen”

    Wow…where to start. This is a PERSONALITY business. You better have one or you are not going to last. This isnt one of those “anyone can do it” jobs. Just because you and your buddies talk sports all day doesnt mean you can crack an microphone and be successful at this. You have to develop into someone that people want to listen to every single day.

    People dont listen to sports radio for scores and news anymore (thank you smartphones). They listen for commentary on the topics. A host needs to be entertaining and informative. They need to drive the debate and they need to be strongly opinionated. Good hosts have people making appointments in their day to listen to what they have to say. Callers are only an ingredient to the show. Everything, and I mean everything starts with a strong host who has a unique personality that forms strong bonds with listeners.

    I dont want to listen to shows with 20 callers saying the same thing. I want different angle and deep analysis.

    Sports radio is changing all the time. A good host with a loyal following can still make money for the station. As a host, you have to do a show that no one can get anywhere else. We are not talking information, we are talking entertainment. If you like CSI on TV, you can only get that on CBS. If you like Jim Rome, you can only get his radio show on Premiere Radio. Same with good solid local hosts like Glenn Ordway in Boston, Steve Duemig in Tampa and Mike Salk in Seattle.

  2. I don’t disagree with you too much of what you say. BTW, I have a radio background too, so I do have some experience.

    When it comes to ratings, I agree that there are markets (Boston and NY among them) that do strong in the demos. That can’t be said nationwide.

    In terms of the personalities, My point is that some hosts have such big egos that their opinions often reflect a lack of respect for the audience and callers. Lowest common denominator stuff. Don’t treat me like a 3rd grader. That’s all I ask. Thanks for the comment!

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