Sports on Radio – Future in Doubt

I know when it comes to sports, people can’t see straight.

I’m a Flyers fan to the end.

My favorite colors are orange and black.

I love everything about the sport.

And in Philly if you’re not an Eagles fan, you get deported.

Even when Chip Kelly was ruining the team and before Carson Wentz became rookie quarterback of the year, football was everything to Philly as other teams are to their cities.

Every car has 94.1 and/or 97.5 on pre-set, the sports stations.

So give me a break here.

I’m going to offend you by telling you something you are definitely not going to want to hear.

And neither do I.

But the evidence is mounting.

Millennials are not the sports fans their parents were.

Millennial girls want to play in more sports and they want their games to be on par with the boys.

And the dreaded Gen X mom is football’s worst enemy.

I say dreaded because even the NFL is defenseless against Gen X moms who are worried about concussions more than Roger Goodell.

In Springfield, PA (outside of Philadelphia) a few weeks ago, the high school football team was disbanded before the season opener due to too few players going out for the sport.

The high school varsity team!

And parental concerns about concussions were cited as the main reason.

This is not and will not be an isolated case.

The dew is already beginning to come off the lily.

The NFL season opener rematch between Denver and Carolina attracted a whopping 25 million plus viewers – I’m sure you will remind me.

But that’s down 8% from last year and 6% the year before.

Last Sunday’s NFL games were down 13% from last year.

This is football our national pastime. How can it be?

The controversy over player protests for equal justice is just a distraction from the fact that just like radio, network TV, print and all other forms of traditional media, younger audiences have no time for sports.

But sports is our special radio and TV thing that we pay a lot of money for to lock up the rights because we can package it and don’t have to worry about ratings.

Enjoy it while you can.

Blame Millennials who get what they want from YouTube.

Blame their moms.

Golf is so dead in the water – not that golf is a sport (ha ha) – that Nike recently got out of the golf club business. The reason: no young people.

You think a short attention span generation is going to drive the future of the sports the rest of us love?

We have already seen some small concessions to short attention spans.

Summaries of the highlights of games in a few minutes or less.

Why waste your time watching an entire hockey game when you can be texting, producing social media or otherwise doing something with your digital devices when you can get the entire hockey game – goals and fights – in a few minutes.

And that has been one of the dilemmas of the radio industry that is hopelessly stuck in the past.

Play the same 25 songs over and over when the audience can get whatever they want.

Play each song all the way through when few young people ever do.

Make them suffer through 16 or more minutes of unlistenable commercials for those 25 songs.

Put people on the air that don’t sound like them or worse yet, relate to them.

Take away the fun because a voice tracker doing 4 stations or more is not having fun and a local dj held to four to six breaks an hour can’t relate to anything or anyone.

Give up on talk by making it the same old boring conservative talk when 86 million Millennials are more socialists than conservatives. And didn’t Trump pretty much steal the Republican Party and Tea Party from conservatives?

And that leaves us with sports.

The one place we thought was safe.

But ironically, it’s not radio killing sports off as it has done to other formats.

It is the social aspect that strong Gen X moms and older Millennial moms who are adopting their mothers’ ways think concussions are more of a threat than being a high school sports star.

And that short attention spans and observing sporting events don’t go together.

Lesson: when we watch what’s happening at the local level, we are never surprised.

So Les Moonves can spend millions for NFL Thursday night games because he can still make money on them.

And radio stations can still make money on their prime sports franchises.

I’m just saying – don’t get used to it.

Even this is changing.

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