Is there room for a fourth major sports radio network?
We’re about to N-B-Cee about that this fall.
Late this weekend, NBC Sports announced a new collaboration with Dial Global Radio Networks. Currently, D-G offers NBC News Radio newscasts and content to over 700 stations.
Now, Dial Global will be getting into the sports game with NBC, in the form of The NBC Sports Radio Network.
As you can expect, the chairman of the NBC Sports Group says they’re “thrilled to bring the rich heritage of NBC Sports to listeners across national radio for the first time,” and likewise, Dial Global’s assistant CEO says they’re “excited to partner with NBC,” and “confident” that NBCSRN will eventually be “a leading full service sports network.”
The initial game plan for NBCSRN is starting small: There will be two nightly three-hour sports talk programs starting at 7 and 10 PM ET, and of course, the top-of-the-hour sports news updates. The goal is to grow into a 24-hour radio network by 2015 at the earliest.
Here’s where they’re going wrong: With Dial Global being the official radio partner of the 2012 Olympics in London, why are they waiting until September – when the Olympics have concluded – to launch? Yes, I know the Olympics is more of a visual sport, but why not take advantage of your partnership and create some unique Olympics content for a radio audience?
And furthermore: Isn’t the national sports radio landscape tapped out? Most radio markets have two sports stations, three tops; though, there are a rare number of markets with four sports stations (Houston and Denver come to mind). When you think about it, sports radio stations in a single market will either be aligned with any one of the big three: ESPN Radio, which bears over 600 stations; Fox Sports Radio, with 400+ affiliates; and Yahoo! Sports Radio (the former Sporting News Radio), whose current affiliate count is at around 170.
I don’t think NBC is putting together a sports radio network with the interest of just Houston and Denver in mind. NBCSRN is hoping to gain affiliates for any one of two reasons: they’ve had it with the content and/or the cramdowns from Fox Sports Radio or, yes, even ESPN Radio, notorious for mandates that their stations carry a certain number of hours of programming, including (but not limited to) “Mike & Mike In The Morning”; or they’d choose the aforementioned “rich heritage of NBC Sports” over the vanilla flavor of Yahoo! Sports Radio. I could easily see about a quarter to a third of YSR’s affiliate base jumping to NBCSRN based on name recognition alone.
Not to knock Yahoo Sports, but to most people, they’re synonymous with fantasy sports than sports news.
Now: let’s talk talent. While NBCSRN has announced two three-hour talk shows at night, hosts for these shows have yet to be named. (No, don’t even suggest Michelle Beadle; she doesn’t have a face for radio.) The only possible shoo-in among NBCSN’s current personnel to host a radio show on the new NBCSRN would be Erik Kuselias, an ESPN Radio veteran. Though, could hosting a one-hour nightly show on NBC Sports Network, to an audience that’s all but ESPN-sized, be too taxing to regroup and do a three-hour radio show afterward, to an audience that’s all but, well, NBC Sports Network-sized?
Consider the comments NBC/NBCSN EP Sam Flood made once they brought Kuselias into the fold: “It’s great to have a versatile talent like Erik already within the NBC Sports Group family that can help make us better as we continue to grow the NBC Sports Network.”
NBC Sports Radio Network is, for all intents and purposes, “growth” of NBC Sports Network. That said, I would be shocked if Kuselias doesn’t get one of the two primetime sports talk blocks on NBCSRN.
Overall, though, would I be shocked if NBCSRN is still on the air in a few years, at full 24-hour strength or otherwise? Only if the audience is there. Many all-sports radio stations are on the AM band – which more and more spoken word format stations are leaving in favor of the FM band.
Not that I’m counting out NBCSRN before it even launches – I’m just looking at the big picture.
A picture that’s about to sound a little more crowded come September.