According to Andrew Marchand of The New York Post, Joe Benigno could return to WFAN by next week, although nothing is definite.
WFAN’s longtime midday show, co-hosted by Benigno and Evan Roberts, remained a staple for the station as the rest of their weekday lineup underwent major changes in the last 12 months, but that changed when Benigno fell victim to controversy on July 19.
After being named in a sexual harassment lawsuit by a former FAN employee, Benigno has been on a leave of absence since late July while the station’s owner, Entercom Communications, works to resolve the case. Entercom did not own WFAN while the alleged sexual harassment took place.
If Benigno was going to be permanently removed from the program, a clean break right after Labor Day would have made the most sense. While the Tuesday after Labor Day is generally when shows reset and hosts stop taking their summer vacations, Marchand notes the more important date is next Thursday when the fall ratings book begins. However, if Benigno does return next week, it does not mean the pending legal matter will be completed.
According to Marchand, some within Entercom believe keeping Benigno off the air would appear as if the company is admitting guilt, although they continue to deny allegations and avoid a settlement. If Joe does return to the show while Entercom still works to handle the lawsuit, a valiant call-screening effort would be needed to keep the program from turning into Benigno repeatedly saying he “can’t talk about legal matters.”
Since Benigno’s absence, Roberts has continued as solo host of the midday show and has had a number of guests sit-in for a full hour, including Barstool’s KFC (Kevin Clancy) on Thursday. Even during his absence, Benigno’s presence remains in the midday as his name was never removed from the show, the Joe and Evan jingle is played daily and Joe’s voice is still heard on Smithtown Nissan commercials. Evan continues to reference Joe on the show to callers and guests, also telling listeners he will offer an update as soon as he receives one.
Last year Benigno signed a three-year contract to remain in WFAN’s midday timeslot, but he made it clear he was retiring and headed to Florida as soon as his current deal is up. Until he returns, an early retirement for the 65 year old Benigno will remain a possibility.
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.