Pam Oliver never saw it coming.
“I was shocked, floored, a monumental surprise,” says Oliver. “The call came out of the blue.”
The call was from Fox Sports president Eric Shanks and executive vice president John Entz, and it came the second week of January prior to the NFL divisional playoffs. And the call came with a question.
Would Oliver consider coming back to do NFL sideline reporting for Fox in 2015?
“I think I was silent for a good 10 seconds and then screamed out, What?” Oliver recalled on Monday afternoon. “I thought: ‘This makes no sense. What are they talking about?'”
On the surface, what were they talking about? Last year Fox announced that Oliver would be replaced by Erin Andrews on Fox’s top NFL team. Furthermore, management initially planned to remove her from the NFL sidelines entirely. As she recounted to this column last July, “To go from the lead crew to no crew was a little shocking. I said I wanted to do a 20th year [on the sidelines]. I expressed to them that I was not done and had something to offer.”
The backstory did not make Fox Sports management look good. In April 2014 executives traveled to Atlanta, where Oliver is based, to tell her in person that she would no longer hold the job that has been her professional life for two decades. They initially informed her that not only was she being removed from Fox’s No. 1 NFL team, but also that she was being taken off the NFL sidelines completely in 2014.
“The emphasis at the meeting was always placed on how they saw what was next for me versus what I saw would be next for me,” Oliver said. “I felt I was not done. I still felt I had more to offer with sideline reporting. I think that took them by surprise a little bit.”
After meeting with her bosses, Oliver spoke with her agent, Rick Ramage. They held meetings with other outlets—for sports and news roles—before she ultimately worked things out with Fox and got one final year on the sidelines as part of a new multi-year contract including longform pieces, specials, major interviews and some producing as well.
Oliver spent last year on a farewell tour of sorts, working with a new broadcast team (announcers Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch) and production crew (led by producer Pete Macheska and director Artie Kempner). It took her a long time to mentally accept that this was her final NFL go-around, but she entered last season in a healthy place and had a strong year. Her bosses noticed. Shanks and Entz told her they really liked the chemistry of the No. 2 team, they thought she had a good year, and they wanted her back.
“The call was so completely out of the blue,” Oliver says. “I also felt it was one of those things like, ‘Why would we go back to this possibility?’ I felt we had all come through a pretty big ruckus and that door had been closed, dead-bolted, chained up. I had fully weaned myself from that role so to have that door open again, and I had difficulty wrapping my brain around it. So I put the decision on the shelf.”
Oliver took a couple of weeks to think about the decision. She solicited opinions of family, her mentors, her agent and some friends. Finally, she decided that she wanted to continue and told her bosses on Feb. 3 that she would come back to the sidelines. Here’s the kicker: The new assignment isn’t just for 2015. She will be part of the No. 2 team of Burkhardt and Lynch for the 2015 and 2016 NFL seasons, which is the duration of her contract with Fox Sports.
“I wasn’t that interested in just one year,” Oliver says. “So this is great. I know that for the next two years we are a true team and I am not some guest. I think we will really take it to another level next season.”
To read the rest of the story visit Richard Deitsch on SI where it was originally published
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”
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”
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.