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.