Sports radio (or sports talk radio) is a radio format devoted entirely to discussion and broadcasting of sporting events. A widespread programming genre that has a narrow audience appeal, sports radio is characterized by an often-boisterous on-air style and extensive debate and analysis by both hosts and callers. Many sports talk stations also carry play-by-play of local sports teams as part of their regular programming. Hosted by Bill Mazer, the first sports talk radio show in history launched in March 1964 on New York's WNBC (AM).
Soon after WNBC launched its program, in 1965 Seton Hall University's radio station, WSOU, started Hall Line, a call-in sports radio talk show that focuses on Seton Hall basketball. Having celebrated its 50th anniversary on air during the 2015–2016 season, Hall Line, which broadcasts to central and northern New Jersey as well as all five boroughs of New York, is the oldest and longest running sports talk call-in show in the NY-NJ Metropolitan area, and is believed to be the oldest in the nation.
Enterprise Radio Network became the first national all-sports network, operating out of Avon, Connecticut, from New Year's Day 1981 through late September of that year before going out of business. ER had two channels, one for talk and a second for updates and play-by-play. ER's talk lineup included current New York Yankees voice John Sterling, New York Mets radio host Ed Coleman and former big-league pitcher Bill Denehy.
Sports talk is available in local, network and syndicated forms, is available in multiple languages, and is carried in multiple forms on both major North American satellite radio networks. In the United States, most sports talk-formatted radio stations air syndicated programming from ESPN Radio, SB Nation Radio, Sports Byline USA, Fox Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio, or NBC Sports Radio, while in the Spanish language, ESPN Deportes Radio is the largest current network. In contrast, Canadian sports talk stations may carry a national brand (such as TSN Radio or Sportsnet Radio) but carry mostly local programming, with American-based shows filling in gaps. Compared to other formats, sports radio is not as popular on Internet radio; as a live and interactive format, it does not lend itself well to voice-tracking or automation (thus raising the cost and required labor to keep a station running 24/7), and most sports leagues place their radio broadcasts behind a paywall or provide their broadcasts directly to the consumer, though sports podcasting is a popular alternative to address this problem.
As with most other radio formats, sports radio uses dayparting. ESPN Radio, for instance, insists that its affiliates carry Mike and Mike in the Morning during morning drive time to provide as much national clearance as possible; in contrast, it carries less prominent programming in the afternoon drive to accommodate local sports talk, as well as in the evening (for its first two decades, rolling score updates aired under the banner of GameNight) to allow stations to break away for local sporting events. Somewhat unusually for radio, the late-night and overnight hosts have more prominence on a sports talk network, due to a near-complete lack of local preemption; Sports Byline USA, for instance, only operates overnights.
Sports radio stations typically depend on drawing an audience that fits advertiser-friendly key demographics, particularly young men with the disposable income to invest in sports fandom, since the format does not have the broad appeal to reach a critical mass in the general public. Prominent sports radio stations typically get their greatest listenership from live play-by-play of local major professional sports league or college sports franchises; less prominent stations (especially on the AM dial) may not have this option because of poorer (or for daytime-only stations, non-existent) nighttime signals and smaller budgets for rights fees.
Sports talk stations
- RSN Racing & Sport - Melbourne, Victoria
- 1116 SEN - Melbourne, Victoria
- 91.3 SportFM - Fremantle, Western Australia
- Sky Sports Radio - Sydney
- ABC Grandstand - national, via DAB+ digital radio
|CFAC||Sportsnet 960||Rogers Communications||Calgary||Alberta|
|CFGO||TSN Radio 1200||Bell Media||Ottawa||Ontario|
|CFRN||TSN Radio 1260||Bell Media||Edmonton||Alberta|
|CFTE||TSN Radio 1410||Bell Media||Vancouver||British Columbia|
|CISL||Sportsnet 650||Rogers Communications||Vancouver||British Columbia|
|CKGM||TSN Radio 690||Bell Media||Montreal||Quebec|
|CKST||TSN Radio 1040||Bell Media||Vancouver||British Columbia|
|CJCL||Sportsnet 590||Rogers Communications||Toronto||Ontario|
|CHUM||TSN Radio 1050||Bell Media||Toronto||Ontario|
|CFRW||TSN Radio 1290||Bell Media||Winnipeg||Manitoba|
In 2009, Detroit's "97.1 The Ticket" WXYT-FM, thanks to the surprising time slot dominance of shows like Valenti and Foster, in addition to holding the play-by-play rights for the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Lions and the Detroit Pistons, became the USA's only sports talk radio station to be the highest rated station in their market, according to Portable People Meter rankings. The station relocated to the FM dial in October 2007 after existing on the AM dial for seven years prior, replacing a Free FM "hot talk" station, WKRK. This ratings success has led to WXYT-FM billing itself as the country's best sports station.
WXYT-FM's recent influence has led to CBS Radio installing sports radio stations on the FM dial in Dallas (105.3 The Fan), Boston (98.5 The Sports Hub), Pittsburgh (93.7 The Fan), Washington, DC (106.7 The Fan), Baltimore (105.7 The Fan) and Cleveland (92.3 The Fan), in addition to simulcasting Philadelphia's heritage 610 WIP onto the former WYSP. Other non-CBS stations have also migrated to the FM dial, most notably Clear Channel's KFAN in Minneapolis, Greater Media's WPEN in Pennsylvania and Dispatch Media's WBNS-FM in Columbus, just to name a few.
More recently, a number large number of listeners have begun to make internet radio the primary medium of choice. Major market leaders such as ESPN, NBC, CBS, Yahoo, and Fox have invested in the creation of their own proprietary sports apps for streaming radio distribution on Apple, Android, and Windows devices. Other independent market leaders such as Sports Radio America choose to stream their content through non proprietary apps including Live 365 and Tune In.
Sortable lists of commercial sports talk radio stations:
- Sirius XM 80 - ESPN Radio
- Sirius XM 81 - ESPN Xtra
- Sirius XM 82 - Mad Dog Sports Radio
- Sirius XM 84 - ESPNU Radio
- XM 86 - Sirius XM NBA Radio
- XM 87 - Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio
- Sirius XM 88 - Sirius XM NFL Radio
- XM 89 - MLB Network Radio
- Sirius XM 90 - Sirius XM NASCAR Radio
- Sirius XM 91 - SiriusXM NHL Network Radio
- XM 92 - SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio
- Sirius XM 93 - Sirius XM Rush
- Sirius XM 157 - ESPN Deportes Radio (in Spanish)
- Sirius 207 - Sirius XM NBA Radio
- Sirius 208 - SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio
- Sirius 209 - MLB Network Radio
- Sirius 210 - Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio
Internet sports radio
- RIVAL Radio 809 - sports programming all day long, with a little something special at night.
- Sports Radio America - home to the next generation of independent sports radio talk show producers from around America.
- Victory Lane Radio - racing on Monday nights and Football Frenzy on Wednesday nights.
- Bradesco Esportes FM - Brazil's first sports radio network which covers mainly soccer, olympics, rugby among other sports. It is jointly owned by Grupo Bandeirantes de Comunicação and Grupo Bel.
- BBC Radio 5 Live - national Public service broadcasting non-commercial network; combination of news/talk/sport format
- Five Live Sports Extra - supplementary station to the above; exclusive live sports format
- talkSPORT - national commercial network; features sports talk and live sports coverage
- CBS Sports Radio
- Champions Soccer Radio Network
- ESPN Deportes Radio
- ESPN Radio
- Fox Sports Radio
- Fútbol de Primera
- Motor Racing Network
- NBC Sports Radio
- Performance Racing Network
- SB Nation Radio (formerly the One On One Sports Radio Network, Sporting News Radio Network and Yahoo! Sports Radio)
- Sports Byline USA
- Sports Radio America
- Enterprise Radio Network (United States)
- KRAE (Cheyenne's ESPN sports radio) (USA, Wyoming) - contract ended 2013, now oldies radio
- Réseau Sport Radio Network via Digital Radio Oceane (New Caledonia/Wallis & Futuna)
- Sports Fan Radio Network (United States)
- The Team (Canada)
Notable syndicated programs
- Don Cherry's Grapeline
- Prime Time Sports
- 2 Live Stews
- The Ben Maller Show
- Boomer and Carton
- The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz
- The Dan Patrick Show
- The Doug Gottlieb Show
- From the Press Box to Press Row
- The Herd with Colin Cowherd
- J. T. the Brick
- The Jim Rome Show
- The Michael Kay Show
- Mike and Mike in the Morning
- Mike and the Mad Dog
- Mike's On
- The Ryen Russillo Show
- The Tony Kornheiser Show
- The Toucher and Rich Show