Video hasn’t killed the radio star, according to ESPN Vice President of Production Amanda Gifford. During an interview on Sports Media with Richard Deitsch, Gifford said ESPN still sees value in radio — especially in the crowded podcast area — despite the sports company’s reportedly inconsistent approach to audio.
Sports is not just saving radio but also TV, as three of the top five most watched programs in 2021-2022 were NFL sporting events.
“There is no other medium that is as immediate and urgent as audio,” Gifford said on the show. “If there is breaking news … there’s no other medium that on-demand can give you what you’re looking for in reaction to breaking news.”
It’s unlikely that families are gathering around the radio every evening as they did in the 1930s and 1940s, but radio listening remains “steadfast” at 49.5 million people, or about 88% of the adult population, according to the latest data from Radio Joint Audience Research. It’s still a fixture for drivers commuting into work, for instance.
With more media companies looking to live sports to gain viewers and make a profit, sports radio could be seen as another resource. Earlier this month, Max launched an add-on sports tier with content from the MLB, NHL, NBA, U.S. Soccer and the NCAA March Madness tournament. In September, Disney and Charter struck a deal that would give Spectrum TV Select Plus subscribers will also ESPN+ for free.
Increasingly, the only reason people want to pay for cable TV is live sports. Viewers who are not fans of sports are increasingly ditching live TV for on-demand-only options.
“I truly believe there is a place for live radio to exist,” Gifford said. “It’s free. A lot of people are still in the car … and there’s just no other place that has that immediacy and urgency when it comes to breaking sports news.”
Gifford said ESPN isn’t relying entirely on radio, but also tapping podcasts to increase its audience footprint and meet listeners where they are.
“[P]eople can’t necessarily listen to a live show at 7:30 every morning, but maybe they like the personalities,” Gifford said. “[Listeners] build a relationship with their hosts.”
You can listen to the full interview with Gifford here: