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WEEI Names New Programming Leadership Team

Jason Barrett

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In recent months, Market Manager Phil Zachary and the Entercom Boston team have been on a mission to identify the right leadership to help maintain and grow WEEI’s position as one of America’s best sports media brands. Former PD Kevin Graham exited the station in July, and with WEEI locked in a competitive battle with 98.5 The Sports Hub, one misstep and bigger problems could’ve surfaced.

While identifying the right leadership for a storied brand such as WEEI is difficult enough, the station also had to tackle a few key on-air issues. Longtime morning host John Dennis left the morning show in August, and Jerry Thornton, who had been part of the afternoon show with Dale Arnold and Michael Holley, exited the afternoon show in November to return to Barstool Sports.

Despite those challenges, which would normally result in a brand taking a step backwards, WEEI actually improved. Strong internal leadership, and a great air staff contributed to a rise in ratings and revenue, and today that hard work has paid off for a few key members of WEEI’s internal staff.

Zachary has announced that after a six-month search for its next program director, WEEI will instead create a new program leadership team from its in-house talent bench.

Current WEEI Assistant Program Director Joe Zarbano has been elevated to Program Director. In his new role, Zarbano will assume direct oversight of all audio content for WEEI-FM, the WEEI Sports Radio Network, the Boston Red Sox Radio Network and ESPN 850. He is a nine-year station veteran who began with WEEI as an intern while a student at Emerson College. He has been overseeing all day to day programming matters for the radio station since July, playing an integral role in the radio station’s growth during that period.

Working in tandem with Zarbano as the station’s new Executive Producer is WEEI Senior Producer Ben Kichen. He joined the station in 2006 from iHeart Media’s WXKS and WJMN and has been lead producer for both the Glenn Ordway and Dale & Holley programs on WEEI.  Kichen also produces the acclaimed “Enough About Me” podcast with Kirk Minihane as well as hosting “Soccercast” for WEEI.com.

Carlson Mozdiez, who is currently the Director of Integrated Marketing Strategies for Entercom’s Boston cluster, will assume the new title of Director of Operations for Entercom Boston, with a special emphasis on the company’s digital juggernaut WEEI.com. Mozdiez joined WEEI in 2002 immediately after graduating from Syracuse University, and has held a variety of positions in promotions, marketing and digital operations.

Entercom New England VP/Market Manager Phil Zachary says the search was necessarily long and intensive. “With its massive broadcast reach and associated digital assets, the WEEI brand is arguably among the most influential and complex in all of broadcasting. Many of our outside candidates simply couldn’t get their arms around all of it. As each month passed, it became clear to me that we had the talent right here in Joe, Ben, and Carlson. Plus they each have that inimitable DNA of the true Boston sports fan.”

Sports Radio News

SURVEY: 16.9% of All Sports Radio Listeners Are Streaming

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 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, All 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 its 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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