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Twitch: How Sports Radio Creates Younger P1s

“Our younger audience is growing, and the younger demos are good places where you start to build a good foundation for the future.”

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It sure helps to have a “gamer” on your sports radio team.

Alex Rajaniemi is the digital coordinator and Colorado Avalanche postgame show host on Altitude Sports 92.5 in Denver. Not bashful about it at all, he admitted to Barrett Sports Media recently that he “enjoys playing video games,” and he’ll jump on the live streaming platform Twitch and watch people play video games (yes, that’s a thing nowadays…).

Raj - Altitude Sports Radio (Alex Rajaniemi) (@RajOnRadio) | Twitter

“I’ll watch them, try and get a little bit better so I’m not getting killed out of every lobby by every 13-year-old in America,” Rajaniemi said.

But he soon realized that in the Electronic Arts video games’ live streams, there was so much back-and-forth commentary from people on sports topics, namely fantasy sports.

Boom! The idea then hit Rajaniemi right in the face. After a quick confirmation from a few pals that it would work, he raced to his managers at Altitude Sports and told them that the station should invest into getting its shows live-streamed on Twitch.

“I just thought that there was an untapped market (on Twitch) for sports talk, especially with how many people watch and listen to those programs religiously,” Rajaniemi told BSM.

By April 20, 2020, Altitude Sports 92.5 FM was on Twitch. 

Twitch is quickly becoming a “must-have” for sports radio stations across the U.S. Unlike YouTube, it’s a platform that is dominated by the Gen Z crowd, as half of its users are between ages 18-34. Twenty-one percent of its users are between ages 13-17, according to Twitchadvertising.tv statistics. Twitch rose to prominence thanks to famous “gamers” who, basically, play video games for all to watch and comment. Some of the most popular games are Fortnite, League of Legends, and Minecraft. Twitch is owned by mega-company Amazon, and so far, no one can come close to the space of which Twitter dominates.

When Rajaniemi told Altitude Sports 92.5 program director Dave Tepper about his grand idea, turns out that Tepper had already heard about some sports stations that were experimenting with Twitch. But he needed the younger Rajaniemi, who was Tepper’s first hire after becoming PD of the station in 2018, to make 92.5’s Twitch unlike any other.

“He took that challenge,” Tepper said of Rajaniemi. “He’s really taken the interactive part of it to a new level. He’s made it his own, a production for sports radio on Twitch that’s not your common Twitch sports radio broadcast.”

AVALANCHE HOCKEY RETURNS TONIGHT on Denver's Altitude Sports Radio 92.5FM -  January 13, 2020 - Twitch

There are multiple cameras that sit right next to each host, so that everyone can feel as though the host is talking directly to them — not that camera that’s “stuck up there in the corner of a room.” He and the hosts also interact directly with those who are commenting during the shows on Twitch. “It makes listeners feel valued, that they have a place in the show. A sense of community and a sense of loyalty,” Rajaniemi told BSM.

Tepper is excited about the success that his station is having with Twitch. “As you grow a brand, you want to try to have milestone goals for guys to show some wins,” and in Denver, they’re winning the Twitch game. “Our younger audience is growing, and the younger demos are good places where you start to build a good foundation for the future.”

Altitude Sports 92.5, owned by Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, the same entity that owns the Nuggets and Avalanche in town (among other teams and ventures across the country and the U.K.), is a relative newcomer to the competitive sports radio landscape in the Mile High City. 104.3 The Fan is the longtime leader in the Nielsen ratings in town, and Tepper said during “these patient journeys of growing success in Nielsen,” it doesn’t hurt to have a vehicle like Twitch which could turn passive listeners into P1s. 

The intimacy of Twitch isn’t lost on Cumulus’ 104.5 The Zone, the sports radio ratings juggernaut in Nashville. Its program director, Paul Mason, told BSM: “Our industry and technology is always evolving. It is important that we give our listeners different options to consume 104-5 The Zone that fits their lifestyle, preference, and schedule.  Video has been one of our strongest forms of listener engagement over the years and creating 104-5 The Zone TV allows WGFX talent to reach their listeners on multiple video platforms each day. It also opens up many other opportunities for our clients, sales team, and promotions team.”

A quick search of “1045thezone” on twitch.tv brings the station’s Twitch page right up, while one can search “altitudesr” and up comes Altitude Sports 92.5’s Twitch page.

If you’re looking for some good ole’ Kansas City Chiefs talk, Josh Brisco provides it not only on 810 WHB in KC, but he live-streams his show, called “(Almost) Entirely Sports,” on Twitch, too.

“We still live-stream video to Facebook and YouTube as well, but Twitch is by far the most involved and loyal part of our audience, which translates to them asking some of the best questions and really ‘getting the show’ the highest percentage of the time,” Brisco told BSM.  “I’ve never really liked taking phone calls, so our audience is pretty well-accustomed to the fact that if they want to ask a question or leave a comment, going to our chat is the best way to do it. I imagine that less-online listeners understand that it serves a similar purpose to a basic text line. You certainly don’t have to watch the show on Twitch to engage with us or to understand what’s going on, but it’s probably the most fun way to follow along and interact.”

Brisco, whose show airs on 810 WHB most weeknights at 7 local time, said it wasn’t hard for Union Broadcasting management to jump on board with Twitch.

And as for the higher-ups at Audacy, they’ve already taken the Olympic dive into the Twitch pool. Last July, the company (known as Entercom then) entered a distribution partnership agreement with Twitch. Originally, six sports stations were involved (WEEI-Boston, WFAN-New York, 105.3 The Fan-Dallas, 670 The Score-Chicago, 92.9 The Game-Atlanta, and 97.1 The Ticket-Detroit.) BSM, at press time, couldn’t verify if the partnership deal to broadcast content from the company’s sports stations in 29 different cities is active. But that’s the plan. 

Entercom and Twitch Strike Distribution Deal Involving Sports Radio Brands  | Barrett Media

As for Tepper, Twitch is not only winning on the programming side, but it’s making money for the station that loves to break down every nook and cranny about the city’s beloved Broncos. “We do get a small revenue stream off it,” he said. “In the end, the most important thing is revenue. This has generated us a revenue that we would not have if we were not on this platform.”

BSM Writers

Keeping Premier League Games Shouldn’t Be A Hard Call For NBC

“Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans.”

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NBC Sports is facing some tough, costly decisions that will define its sports brand for the rest of this decade.  A chance to connect with viewers in a changing climate and grow Peacock’s audience as well.  However, making the right choice is paramount to not losing to apps like Paramount+ (pun intended).

NBC is currently in the business of negotiating to continue airing the Premier League as their current deal ends after this 2021-2022 season.  NASCAR is contracted to NBC (and FOX) through the 2024 season.

NBC’s tentpole sports are the NFL and the Olympics.  

Negotiations for the EPL are expected to go down to the wire. Rather than re-up with NBC, the league is meeting with other networks to drive up the price. NBC has to then make a decision if the rights go north of $2 billion.

Should NBC spend that much on a sport that is not played in the United States? It’s not my money, but that sport continues to grow in the US.

If NBC re-ups with the Premier League, will that leave any coins in the cupboard to re-up with NASCAR? Comcast CEO Brian Roberts hinted that there might be some penny pinching as the prices continue to soar. This may have been one of the reasons that NBC did not fight to keep the National Hockey League, whose rights will be with Disney and WarnerMedia through ESPN and TNT, respectively.

“These are really hard calls,” Roberts said. “You don’t always want to prevail, and sometimes you’re right and sometimes you’re wrong, but I think the sustainability of sports is a critical part of what our company does well.”

Roberts was speaking virtually at the recent Goldman Sachs 30th Annual Communacopia Conference. He told the audience that between NBC and European network Sky, that Comcast has allocated approximately $20 billion towards these sports properties.

Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh spoke virtually at the Bank of America Securities 2021 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference and echoed that the company is in a good position to make some strong choices in the sports realm. 

“The bar is really high for us to pursue outright acquisitions of any material size,” Cavanagh added. “We got a great hand to play with what we have.”

While the European investments involve a partnership with American rival Viacom, the US market seems to have apparent limits.

Last Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series at Bristol Motor Speedway was seen by around 2.19 million people. It was the most-watched motorsports event of the weekend. That same week eight different Premier League matches saw over 1 million viewers. More than half of those matches were on subscription-based Peacock. 

Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans. A game of typical soccer fan is used to a sport that is less than two hours long. The investment in a team is one or two games a week. 

My connection to the Premier League began before the pandemic.  When I cut the cord in late 2017, I purchase Apple TV.  Setting it up, it asks you to name your favorite teams.  After clicking on the Syracuse Orange and the New Jersey Devils, I recalled that my wife has family based in London, England.  They are season ticket holders for Arsenal, and that family redefined the word “die-hard” fans.

I’ve long been a believer that sports allegiances are best when handed down by family. I love hearing stories of people loving the New York Giants because their parents liked them, and they pass it down to their children.

I’ve successfully given my allegiance to the Devils to my young daughters. 

By telling Apple TV that I liked Arsenal, I get alerts from three different apps when the “Gunners” are playing. The $4.99 is totally worth it to see Arsenal.

Whenever I told this story, I was amazed to see how many other American sports fans had a Premier League team. Students of mine at Seton Hall University rooted for Tottenham Hotspurs, while an old colleague cheers on Chelsea.

Global Is Cool': The Growing Appeal of Premier League Soccer in America
Courtesy: Morning Consult

This is not meant to say that NBC should sign the EPL on my account. The key for any US-based soccer fan is that between Bundesliga, Serie A, and other leagues, there will be no shortage of soccer available on both linear television and streaming services.

Besides, Dani Rojas did say that “Football is life.”  NBC, originator of the Ted Lasso character, should make keeping its Premier League US connection a priority.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 45

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Today, Demetri is joined by Tyler McComas and Russ Heltman. Tyler pops on to talk about the big start to the college football season on TV. Russ talks about Barstool’s upfront presentation and how the business community may not see any problems in working with the brand. Plus, Demetri is optimistic about FOX Sports Radio’s new morning show.

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BSM Writers

6 Ad Categories Hotter Than Gambling For Sports Radio

“Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life.”

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For years sports radio stations pushed sports gambling advertisers to early Saturday and Sunday morning. The 1-800 ads, shouting, and false claims were seedy, and some stations wouldn’t even accept the business at 5 am on Sunday.

Now, with all but ten states ready to go all in on sports gambling, sports radio stations can’t get enough of that green. Demetri Ravanos wrote about the money cannon that sports gambling has become for stations. Well, what if you are in one of those ten states where it isn’t likely to ever be legal like California or Texas? Where is your pot of gold?

A Pot of Gold Articles - Analyzing Metals
Courtesy: iStockphoto

Or, let’s face it, the more gambling ads you run, the more risk you take on that the ads will not all work as you cannibalize the audience and chase other listeners away who ARE NOT online gambling service users and never will be. So, what about you? Where is your pot of gold?

Well, let’s go Digging for Gold. 

The RAB produces the MRI-Simmons Gold Digger PROSPECTING REPORT for several radio formats. In it, they index sports radio listeners’ habits against an average of 18+ Adult. The Gold Digger report looks at areas where the index is higher than the norm – meaning the sports radio audience is more likely to use the product or service than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. The report, generated in 2020, indicates that sports radio listeners are 106% more likely to have used an online gambling site in the last thirty days. That’s impressive because the report only lists 32 activities or purchases a sports radio listener indexes higher than an average adult. I looked at those 32 higher indexes, and I think we can start looking for some gold.

Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life. The gambling companies who commit significant money to get results will continue advertising and chase the others away. So, the future of sports radio needs to include other cash cows.

If it is evident to online sports gambling services that sports radio stations are a must-buy, who else should feel that way?  I looked at the Top 32 and eliminated the media companies. ESPN, MLB/NHL/NFL networks, and others aren’t spending cash on sports radio stations they don’t own in general. But Joseph A Bank clothing, Fidelity, and Hotwire should! Here’s your PICK-6 list I pulled together that’s hotter than sports gambling:

  • Sportscard collectors, Dapper Labs, Open Sea- read about Sports NFT $.
  • Online brokerage firms-Fidelity, Charles Schwab, Robinhood, Webull, TD Ameritrade
  • Golf courses, resorts, equipment, etc.- we play golf at home and vacation
  • Hotwire.com, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Airbnb, Carnival Corporation, and Priceline.com- we’ve used Hotwire in the last year.
  • FedEx, UPS, U.S. Postal Service, Venmo, PayPal, Zelle-we wired or overnighted $ 
  • Jos. A. Bank, shein.com, macys.com, nordstroms.com- we went to Jos. A. Bank in last three months

The sports card/NFT market is 32% hotter than the sports betting market for sports radio listeners. Everything on the PICK-6 is at least 100% more likely to purchase than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. All listed are at or above indexing strength compared to sports betting. The individual companies I added are industry leaders. Bet on it! Email me for details. 

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