It seems that some of ESPN Radio’s plans to shake up sports talk are bearing fruit. The company has focused on adding and emphasizing new and diverse voices, with more shows led by women (including The Trifecta with Sarah Spain, Jane McManus and Kate Fagan, pictured above, and TMI with Michelle Beadle and Ramona Shelburne) as a strong priority, and that appears to be paying dividends in both overall audience gain and a boost in the female audience. Here are more details on the network’s Q1 results, released by ESPN Media Zone this week:
ESPN Radio recorded a strong Spring 2016, earning a 27% overall increase in impressions from the same time last year, according to Nielsen Audio in PPM markets. Across all affiliates ESPN Radio now owns a 50% share of all Men 25-54 sports radio listening, up from 42% over the same period last year. In addition, ESPN Radio grew its female audience by 42% over last year. ESPN Radio has added 625,000 new listeners in the last quarter.
“ESPN Radio is constantly evolving to reflect our fans’ desires for sports talk radio,” said David Roberts, vice president, ESPN Audio network content. “With the additions of several new voices and shows over the last year, including The Trifecta, Jorge & Izzy and First & Last, and the continued quality of our mainstay daytime programming, we offer one of the broadest and most diverse lineups — from top to bottom – in sports talk radio today.”
The changes aren’t just about the female-led shows, of course, as there’s also been a lot of success for Jorge and Izzy (Jorge Sedano and Israel Gutierrez) and First and Last (Robin Lundberg and Mike Golic Jr.), but it’s particularly notable that ESPN is doing well with the likes of The Trifecta. That should only encourage them to give even more opportunities to women in commentary roles, whether on TV (and we’ve seen progress there with Jessica Mendoza on Sunday Night Baseball, with regular shows like His and Hers, and with all-female editions of Around The Horn and First Take), on radio, or on other platforms. It’s perhaps especially positive for the cause of equality to see this working in sports radio, which many in the industry have long insisted has to focus on male hosts and male listeners. ESPN’s Q1 ratings suggest that isn’t the case.