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SMT Panel: The State of Sports Radio

Standing the Test of Time

Steve Cohen, SiriusXM Satellite Radio
Chris Corcoran, WestWoodOne Sports
Traug Keller, ESPN
Chris Oliviero, CBS Radio

While mediums such as newspapers and magazines are still trying to adapt to a digital landscape, sports talk radio executives said they have seamlessly transitioned to the current media environment. Speaking this morning at the 2013 Covington & Burling Sports Media & Technology conference, executives from each of the major sports radio operations said their audience has increased through the advent of technologies such as digital audio streaming and podcasting. Additionally, despite fears of cannibalization through the TV simulcasting of many popular sports talk radio programs, in most cases the practice has instead led to improved audiences on radio. “Audio listening is actually way up when you combine all the platforms, especially mobile,” said Traug Keller, ESPN senior vice president. “Our audio audience is 65 percent higher than what’s in [radio measurement outfit] Arbitron figures when you add in these other things. In terms of reach, it’s second only to TV.”

Despite that increasing audience, the panelists acknowledged that they have not done enough to communicate the power and influence of sports talk radio and need to do a better job conveying their successes to both advertisers and audiences. “We’ve always been second-class citizens to TV,” said Steve Cohen, SiriusXM Satellite Radio senior vice president of sports programming. “It’s always been more difficult for us to do our job. But unlike TV, we’re an interactive medium. We can bring people closer to the teams they love.”

Similarly, the panelists said the demands of being a sports talk radio host are often misunderstood. “A lot of people have really underestimated what it takes to host a daily sports talk radio show,” said Chris Oliviero, CBS Radio executive vice president of programming. “Mike Francesca goes on for five hours every day with no teleprompter and no script. It’s basically him and a phone and a microphone. So you have to have an incredible work ethic and really strong entertainment value.”

Quick hits:

On being a successful sports talk radio host: “If you’re not getting in trouble once in a while, you’re probably not pushing things hard enough,” Keller said.

On the best day part on sports talk radio: “If you look at the finances, morning drive is our prime time,” Keller said. “That's when the boxcar numbers occur.”

On the power of a sports talk radio host: “If you talk to teams, in their markets, it’s the sports talk radio host that is a key influencer, not necessarily the guy on the 11 p.m. TV news or the local newspaper columnist,” Oliviero said.

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Related Topics:

SiriusXM, ESPN, CBS, Media, Arbitron

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