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How Barnhart Became “Mr. SEC”

Jason Barrett

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Tony Barnhart never set out to become “Mr. SEC,” let alone “Mr. College Football,” the sobriquet he earned during a 30-year writing career, first at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and, since 1994, as go-to SEC guy for ESPN and later CBS.

Back in 1976, Barnhart – now part of the SEC Network and aiming toward Aug. 28’s football debut of Texas A&M at South Carolina – was another recent University of Georgia graduate. Then as now, there was a recession, and jobs – especially in newspapers, most especially covering sports – were few and far between.

“I graduated June 10,” Barnhart said, laughing at the memory, “and I saw a 3-by-5 index card (on a UGA journalism-school bulletin board) that said the Union (S.C.) Daily Times needs a sports writer.”

On June 11, he spoke with Union editor Don Wilder, who asked, “When can you get here?”

“I’ll be there tomorrow,” Barnhart said.

That next day, after a couple hours’ conversation, Wilder reached into a desk drawer, withdrew a sheath of papers and told the wannabe reporter, “I’ve got this many applications, but I’m going offer (the job) to you right now.”

For $125 a week – trust me, that wasn’t bad in 1976 – Barnhart had his start.

Flash forward to this year. Barnhart, who departed the Journal-Constitution in 2008, turning his part-time TV gigs with ESPN and CBS into a national profile among college football fans, signed on with the fledgling SEC Network, where he’ll make – well, considerably more than $125.

It was a no-brainer, he says.

“It was one of those things, when I learned the SEC Network was about to become a reality, and they said, ‘Is this something you’re interested in?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’

“CBS was very good to me” – Barnhart was part of “College Football Today” from 2004-2013 – “but the chance to get in on the ground floor here is sort of cool,” he said. “The SEC is on an incredible run in all sports (especially football), so to be in at the beginning of the network, helping shape it … I’m honored to be a part of it.”

The SEC Network could hardly call itself that without Barnhart. Starting as the AJC’s Georgia beat writer (1984-85) and moving on to be its national college football writer, no reporter in America has been more closely identified with the conference – not even his new colleague, longtime Alabama radio talk-show host Paul Finebaum. When Barnhart recently filled in for the Controversial One on his national radio show for two days, it looked to be a seamless handoff.

In fact, Barnhart said, laughing, “after doing it for four hours (each day), I have even greater respect for Paul.

“The ‘traffic cop’ aspect (of fielding callers), getting into commercials (and) setting things up – he makes it look easy. It’s not.”

Still, he said, “I’m glad I did it and hope to do it again.”

The SEC Network plans on Barnhart doing a multitude of cross-media jobs, from pregame studio work to writing a weekly Friday column for SECSports.com. He also returned Aug. 11 to AJC.com, writing columns Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. He has his own site, tonybarnhart.com; and does “a little radio” in Atlanta.

For the rest of the article visit The State where it was originally published

Sports Radio News

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.

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Streaming Radio

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.

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Sports Radio News

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.

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MLB Radio

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.

Radio Listeners to MLB

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.

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Sports Radio News

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”

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Jeff Dean Show

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”

Jeff Dean Facebook

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.

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