Buffalo’s WGR 550 turned 100 on May 22nd of this year. Throughout this occasion, the station has been marking the time with flashbacks and vignettes to commemorate such tremendous longevity.
Friday, Howard and Jeremy welcomed on a voice that echoed amongst that station’s corridors nearly four decades ago: Pete Weber. A brief refresher, Weber is currently the play-by-play voice of the Nashville Predators and has been since their opening season in 1998.
However, Weber’s history features stints as the voice of the Buffalo Sabres, Buffalo Bisons (baseball), University of Buffalo and color commentator for the Buffalo Bills. He was also the former sports director at WGR.
Host Howard Simon asked Weber about what he remembered most when reflecting on his time with WGR. Instantly, Weber recalled a very memorable personality.
“Well, the dominant personality when I joined the station was a guy named Shane, Brother Shane (Gibson). And we can never forget him. He was something very, very special.”
Weber also remembered being a part of the station when the city’s major sports franchises were all coming to WGR at the same time.
“It was an exciting time in that it was bringing all the sports properties to 550 on the dial. It was presentations to bring the Bills over. That happened beginning with the 1990 season and we know what happened that season and the next three. To get the Sabres over after having started their National Hockey League lives on GR 55 and then coming over in 1990. It was a very, very exciting time.”
A trip down memory lane for Weber was filled with some of Buffalo’s most noteworthy radio names. “It was an exciting time. Had the chance to work with George Hamberger in the morning, had an awful lot of fun with him. And then when you think about the Jeff Morisons, the Barry Beutels, Greg Brown, I’m still in contact with all of them. That was a tremendous team.”
Howard brought up Artie Baby Boo-Boo (Art Wander) and Chuck “The Coach” Dickerson.
“Very interesting personalities indeed,” quipped Weber.
“And I challenge anybody to be able to play the piano as well as Art Wander could play the piano. You sit down in the hotel lobby and there is a grand piano. Who goes over there but Art Wander and starts to, you know, tickle the keys and all of a sudden producing some very nice music.”
Weber had one more former WGR force he wanted to acknowledge before hanging up.
“I guess there was no greater curiosity as a personality than John Otto. That’s why a couple of my dearest memories are of John joining me in the Bison broadcast booth. And when I listened back to those recordings, I still convulse with laughter. He he was just amazing. He would come on the air, he goes, ‘oh, my, my, yes. Oh, they put the names up on the scoreboard. Our dear sports director had not impressed me with that beforehand.’
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.