Radio Ink recently released a report detailing the state of Sports Talk radio for the major networks and where each group believes is in store for 2014. The overwhelming consensus? Digital and Mobile growth.


In the report, top executives from ESPN, CBS Sports, NBC Sports, and Yahoo Sports Radio were interviewed. Fox Sports Radio, for the record, declined to be interviewed.


To really see the impact of digital/mobile for these groups you can turn to the Worldwide Leader ESPN. Traug Keller, SVP/Production, Business Divisions at ESPN, says that his group is seeing consistently north of a 40 percent bounce to their ESPN radio terrestrial numbers thanks to their digital products.


The competition will be stiff in 2014 and the content offered on-air will be essential to these groups continuing to keep market share. But what will be just as important is being everywhere the listener is, and that includes the mobile app. Chris Corcoran, EVP/GM, Sports Programming at WestwoodOne, best sums it up: “We think it’s (mobile app) a critical piece of our business strategy. As time goes by, it’s going to become a major part of what we’re trying to do, and kind of a business on its own”. He goes on to say, “We’re trying to work with NBC to make sure there’s promotion and awareness from the network. I think a big part of that will be on the app.”


NPR has amassed nearly $17 Million in grants and most of it is going towards financing the “creation of a new mobile and web platform that is expected to allow it reach more listeners and better compete with outside aggregators of public radio content.”


Apparently NPR “gets it”. They realize that they want to put their app in the hands of every listener; and it “will allow listeners to switch smoothly from, say, a clock radio to a web-enabled car.”


The need to have a uniquely branded application and to own the app were very important in the decision to spend the money.


“It is a play to take control of our own content and to control the platform and delivery system as much as we can,” says Charles Kravetz, general manager of WBUR-FM in Boston, a pilot partner.


We have been saying this all along, it is important that stations do not give their souls away to the likes of a TuneIn or Stitcher.


What was interesting to also note was something that was said by Laura R. Walker, Chief Executive of New York Public Radio. She says, “We see a huge thirst in the digital space and we’re trying to figure out ways to create experiences for people here.” This was in context to one of her stations, WNYC in New York, having experienced double-digit growth in digital listening, even as its radio listening remains “at an all-time high”.


So when you think that one hundred dollars a month or so for your own unique mobile brand is too expensive, imagine spending millions like NPR.


Interactive and shareable, “this app is clearly, we think, going to be very appealing to younger consumers of our content,” says Kravetz.