Friday, August 12, 2022

Sports Talk Radio Thrives In Boston, Not So Much In L-A

No city loves its sports talk like Boston, and no city tunes it out like Los Angeles, at least according to Nielsen ratings, reports The L-A Times.

In May, for instance, WBZ was the top-ranked radio station in Boston, with sports-talk rival WEEI ranking 11th.

“When it comes to their teams, people here are insatiable,” said WBZ-FM Mike Felger’s co-host, Tony Massarotti.

In Los Angeles, KLAC ranked 23rd, tied with the classical music on KUSC. KSPN ranked 37th, just behind the Christian music on KFSH.

In each of the four quarters of 2021, the sports talk ratings were lower in Los Angeles than in any other top 10 market in the United States, according to research Nielsen compiled for The Times.

In the fall quarter of 2021, with the Dodgers in the playoffs and the Rams and Chargers heading there, L.A. sports talk stations combined to attract 3% of the total radio audience in the demographic most coveted by their potential advertisers: men aged 25-54.

In San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Washington, that figure was at least 7%. In Atlanta, Dallas and Philadelphia, at least 10%. In Boston, 28%.

“How passionate are you?” asked WBZ program director Rick Radzik. “I think it’s the approach in the Northeast: it’s more fast-paced, aggressive, opinionated hosts than it is, ‘What do you think?’

“I don’t need to ask you. I’m going to tell you what I think and you can react to it, good or bad.”

Felger and Massarotti are former Boston Herald sportswriters, confident in the authority that comes from covering local teams for decades. Their rapport is evident, after 13 years together on air. They dispense hard-core analysis for diehard fans.

In their first segment that Monday, they took no calls. In the second, they took four calls within seven minutes: make your point, and be gone.

“People here are wacko about it,” Massarotti said. “They’re nut jobs. I say that with all the affection in my heart. They’re psycho about their teams. They’re crazy. That’s what we feed off.”

According to The Times, Ratings are fueled by more than rage. In Boston and Philadelphia, the top two markets in sports radio, the civic profiles are similar: what Massarotti called a “blue-collar” fan base built over generations, where everyone lives and breathes the same team in each sport.

In New York, allegiances are split between the Yankees and Mets, or the Giants and Jets. In Philadelphia, ride or die with the Phillies and the Eagles.

“Cold weather is part of it,” Massarotti said. “We’re just cooped up watching games sometimes.”

Jason Barrett, president of Barrett Sports Media, consults with broadcast executives on how to develop a successful sports radio station.

“It really is about understanding what local people value and care about, and delivering what they want,” he said.

“If you’re in the Northeast, you’re going to put a little more focus on phone calls, because people are a little more passionate, short fuses, and there is some entertainment value that comes through on the air. In other pockets of the country, people don’t get as worked up about stuff.”

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