On Tuesday, Michael Kay added another new job to his many list of jobs. Not only is he the voice of the New York Yankees on YES and a host of The Michael Kay Show on 98.7 ESPN Radio in New York City, he is now an author. His book, CenterStage: My Most Fascinating Interviews – From A-Rod to Jay-Z was this week released recapping all the memorable interviews he’s done on YES Network’s CenterStage since it first aired in 2002.
Kay was recently a guest on the Sports Media with Richard Deitsch podcast to talk about the book among other topics. Being a host in a large sports market comes with a fair share of criticism and for Kay, it is not easy for him to handle it and at times, he wants to fight back, but knows he can’t.
“I am so incredibly thin-skinned. There are parts of me that when someone say something nasty about me in the newspaper that I think is unfair, my first inclination is to strike back at them. But, my bosses at both places go ‘that doesn’t help you. It’s not productive.’ I think it is.
“People that criticize people do not like to be criticized. My skin is so thin, it is translucent. If I mess up a call and you say wow, Michael messed up a call. Bring it, I deserve it. When you say stuff just the way I do stuff or something that rubs you the wrong way, it bothers me. I don’t understand the meanness of it.”
Kay went into detail with Deitsch about going off on the radio show five years ago about New York Post columnist Phil Mushnick for a criticism Mushnick had about him.
“I went off on the radio like a lunatic. About 21 minutes of lunacy by me. I go to a break and my phone rings and it’s [Mike] Lupica. He goes, you’re happy? I go, yeah. He goes, ok, he’s not going to let you up for 5 years. He goes, what you just did made you feel good for 20 minutes and now you are in his crosshairs for 5 years, so be ready.”
Whenever Kay does play-by-play for a Yankees game or hosts the radio show, the key for him is honesty with the viewer or listener. He doesn’t think there is anybody more critical of the team they broadcast than he is and he credits the Yankees for allowing him to do that.
“The reason I can do it is that the Yankees never say a word because they realize the value of honesty. If you are going to tell people the food stinks, then they are going to believe you when they tell you the food is great. There are so many people around the country that are blowing smoke constantly and I guess that’s what the fanbase wants. I don’t think that would play in New York. I think honesty plays in New York.”
Kay also addressed his competition in afternoon drive. He said that he thought WFAN’s Carton and Roberts, who have overtaken the Michael Kay Show in the ratings have a bit of an advantage because of the content they can do that he cannot.
“I work for two Tiffany brands. I can’t really go low on ESPN. I can’t go low and be connected to the Yankees. Now, Michael Kay the person, if I wasn’t connected, I can go as low as anybody, believe me. But I’ve kind of got handcuffs on, and Craig and Evan, they don’t. … The early ratings would indicate (beating Carton and Roberts is) going to be very difficult to do. That’s a destination station, FAN. People think of sports talk, they think of FAN in New York.”
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.