Jeff Rickard comes to WEEI in Boston with a resume flush with sports media experience in arguably the most sports-obsessed city in the country. Most recently, he was the program director and a morning show host at WFNI in Indianapolis. The new brand manager for the iconic WEEI spoke with Alex Reimer of the station about his upcoming transition.
“It’s one of the great radio stations in the history of sports radio,” Rickard said. “It’s going to have a tremendous amount of backing with Audacy, and it has a complete list of teammates in front of the microphone and behind the microphone who are going to be really committed to it — like, really committed to it. That’s what attracted me. I was happy where I was, but EEI is a different level.”
Coming to Boston from Indianapolis is a move that sees two franchises to get over the ghosts of historic quarterbacks come and gone. There is some bad blood between the two, however, as the Indianapolis Colts were famously the whistleblowers that started the “Deflategate” scandal centering around Tom Brady when he was a New England Patriot.
“Anybody can ask me: I think it was the dumbest thing in the history of sports,” Rickard said. “In any normal circumstance, altering the football is a $25,000 fine, and you move on. But it became a players’ association vs. NFL battle that nearly went all the way to the Supreme Court. It was the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of in my life.”
Rickard had an engaged audience in Indianapolis, and he has seen his fair share across stops at ESPN Radio, Mad Dog Sports Radio, and NFL Radio. Still, he knows that going into WEEI, the city of Boston, and the community of greater New England will be an adjustment, though one he appears to be more than ready.
“What I will tell you is, as I’ve gotten older, I don’t know if I’m the biggest sports fan in the world — I still love sports — but as a radio guy, I’m a fan of the Boston sports fan,” he said. “I love that people melt down during a three-game losing streak. I love that they think they have the greatest team in the world after a four-game winning streak. I love it. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
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.