Baseball and the radio have a romantic long-term relationship. Football and the radio? Not so much.
Why? It could have to do with the fact baseball emerged as America's No. 1 pastime when radio was the No. 1 medium in which to consume sports (or anything). It's also tough to commit 162-plus summer afternoons and/or evenings to your family room, and the radio is and always has been somewhat mobile.
There's definitely something sweet and soothing about a radio broadcast of a baseball game, but I don't think football broadcasts lack that. In fact, the odd time I'm "stuck" having to listen to an NFL game from my car or on my mobile device, I'm pleasantly surprised by the experience. Both sports are a tad slow and extremely deliberate, giving descriptive and talented play-by-play announcers a chance to paint the picture.
It's easier, though, for folks to spend 16 Sundays in front of the television every fall. And when you consider that every NFL game is worth about 10 MLB games, you can understand why football fans might be less willing to "settle" for the radio in the car.
But that doesn't mean football on the radio will be disappearing (I suppose it never appeared, but you get the point) any time soon. In fact, don't be surprised if that industry still experiences some growth.
In an article on football's radio future at The MMQB earlier this week, Richard Deitsch notes that Westwood One Sports executive Howard Deneroff believes consumers will soon have the option to sync radio audio on any device with television broadcasts. And while there are already apparently some crafty tricks that can be applied to accomplish that feat, allowing technology to take care of the dirty work is always preferred by the masses.
Baseball folk have been synching radio audio with television visuals for years, too, and would certainly benefit from technological advancements making the process easier. But those who do that for baseball broadcasts are picking one home-team broadcast duo over another.
Football doesn't work like that. In the NFL TV world, play-by-play guys like Hawk Harrelson don't exist. In fact, homers don't exist. Every single game is broadcast on either CBS, FOX, ESPN or NBC with neutral national voices.
There's a reason why SB Nation launched team blogs before anything else. Bleacher Report has featured columnists for all 32 NFL teams. ESPN just hired beat writers to do the same thing in each NFL city. National coverage is great, but consumers/fans typically prefer the hometown perspective.
Generally in the world of sports media, content that focuses on one team or player attracts stronger audiences than content that is broad-based.
"The biggest advantage radio has over television," writes Deitsch, "is that fans, given their loyalties, generally prefer a local broadcast to a national broadcast."
The NFL only allows football fans to access local broadcasts on the radio, and now it looks as though technology is going to eventually make it possible to get the best of both worlds. That could save football on the radio, even after traditionalists are gone.
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