The Wide World Of Sports (Radio)
January 15, 2013
Each and every year it seems that sports captures more interest and imaginations of Americans across the country. According to a recent Rasmussen Reports telephone study, 15% of American adults say they talk about sports with family or friends every day and another 14% say they do so about once a week.
Trending right alongside the national landscape, the radio industry has responded to those levels of interest the American public is showing in sports. Arbitron's VP/Sports Measurement John Snyder shared with me some data that shows over the last three years there has been a 14% increase in the number of stations programming a Sports Talk format, raising the total number of national outlets to 619 as of the spring of 2012. Of those stations, nearly a third (196) are on the FM band, an increase of 128% over the last three years!
The ratings results reflect this growth in stations: a 21% increase in listenership over the last three years and a nationwide audience of nearly 24 million total listeners* who are driving ratings for their stations. Looking at the numbers for males 18+ in the 45 markets measured by PPM, nearly 60 sports shows in morning and afternoon drive are ranked in the top 10, and more than half of them rank in the top five.
Helping propel these shows and stations is the fact that sports fans tend to be extremely loyal. In PPM markets, Sports radio's P1 listeners contribute an average of 55% of their station's daily cume and 70% of the AQH ratings, ranking the format second in both areas behind only News/Talk.
To learn more about what's fueling the format's growth, we held a panel discussion at last month's Arbitron Client Conference. Hosted by John Snyder, the panel included CBS SVP/Programming Chris Oliviero, Dial Global Programming EVP/GM Chris Corcoran and ESPN Audio Sr. Dir./Audio Programming Scott Masteller.
Growth: How and Why?
The first question the panel addressed was whether or not sports can continue to grow at the same rate it has been, or if this is just a bandwagon broadcasters may soon jump off.
Oliviero believes that, like any stock that has a huge jump in value, the format is bound to hit a plateau, but he doesn't see it fading away. "Usually there is a leveling off, but I'm not expecting a massive retreat," he said.
One reason Sports radio is unlikely to retreat, says Masteller, is the strength of the relationship sports hosts have with their audience. "It's the male soap opera. ESPN Radio syndicated morning host Mike Greenberg is a Jets fan. He's in pain and the listeners live it with him. It's how they bond and build a relationship."
The other reason the sports format is likely to continue to perform well is that it makes a nice bottom line. "Sports is a sponsor-friendly atmosphere. Lots of advertisers are passionate about sports," says Corcoran.
That connection to advertisers is exactly why Oliviero believes Sports radio will thrive on FM as opposed to previous, edgier attempts at male-oriented FM talk, which failed. "The content was no longer right for the time. Edgy content was no longer a valid business model both from an FCC and a client standpoint."