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Radio Games

September 23, 2021

Westwood One recently released a study about radio listening to NFL games. The gist is that those who listen to the NFL on the radio are more engaged than those who just watch the games on television. The study talks – in great detail – about the quality of the audience.

We work with a number of sports stations across the country, and we can state that there is also a vast quantity of people who tune to NFL – and college – football games on the radio.

This may seem counterintuitive….

Almost every single pro and college game is televised in local markets. A vast majority of those who listen own several TVs. Understand, we are talking about those listeners wearing a meter or filling out a diary. However, we will assume that survey participants reflect the population as a whole. (That’s kind of the point of surveys, after all.)

If you refer to the “PPM Panel Additional Characteristics” quarterly report, you can see – on line 48 – the number of TVs in the households. The scale goes from zero to five. It would be safe to assume that many of those households have large screen, high-definition television sets in at least one room.

So they can watch the games from the comfort of their homes, get all the instant replays they want, flip to the RedZone channel during commercial breaks, and spend the nine bucks on beer for an entire six-pack! Yet they still listen to the games on the radio.

Is it because of the home announcers? Well, in today’s HD digital age, it’s nearly impossible to synch up the radio broadcast with the television broadcast. There are too many delays to factor into that equation.

Yet the games generate numbers. If you look (and we have) at the hour-by-hour radio ratings for NFL and college football games, you will see a dramatic rise in listening right around kick-off. You can track whether the home team played at 1:00 pm on a Sunday or on Thursday night. There is a noticeable spike in the numbers during those hours.

Play-by-play is still a viable content source for radio, but it is not the exclusive domain of football. Baseball games can and are a difference maker for sports stations. You can see the initial surge in the early season, which often dips during the dog days of summer only to rise in the fall – if the hometown nine is in contention. Anyone can see the 6+ numbers online, so watch the fortunes of stations like KNBR in San Francisco this fall as the Giants play in the post-season. Of course, baseball is a parochial game, and some fan bases are much more rabid than others. That said, the games can and do have an impact on ratings.

Case in point: Recently, the Phoenix Suns had an ill-fated run in the NBA play-offs. However, look at the ratings boost that their flagship KMVP received. Their May-through-August 6+ run looked like this: 2.6-4.7-6.1-2.2. This happened despite every single game being televised live!

Listening to any game on the radio requires a listener to pay attention. The mind paints the pictures of the action. The Westwood One study confirms that these fans are valuable to advertisers. Their contributions to a station’s overall ratings success should not be overlooked – especially on the weekend (you can look it up).

You can read all the details here. Play ball!

-Steve Allan, Programming Research Consultant