Last week, Cumulus Media — the second largest radio network in America, owning 413 different radio stations across 86 different markets — announced a partnership with WynnBET that will bring the sports betting app to the attention of over 250 million listeners.
This deal shouldn’t have come as much of a shock, as earlier in the week, in a pair of studies commissioned by Cumulus and run by MARU/Matchbox, it was found that AM/FM radio listeners are more interested in sports betting than TV viewers — and the numbers weren’t particularly close.
For instance, 42% of radio listeners have placed an online sports bet, compared to 28% of TV viewers. Furthermore, 52% of radio listeners say they’re interested in online sports betting, compared to 28% of television watchers.
Even more surprising is that 64% of radio listeners can name an online sports betting brand, compared to 53% of television viewers. This is a little bit shocking, as in the first quarter of 2021, sports betting companies spent $153 million on local television advertising, compared to $4 million on local radio stations.
But if the Cumulus study proves right, don’t be surprised to see radio stations getting their fill — and more — of sports betting ads in the very near future.
“Radio is a mysterious medium, and any research that claims to have hard numbers I always look at as suspect because there’s such a large degree of estimation in radio research,” said Michael Harrison, the editor and publisher of Talkers magazine, which has been covering talk radio since 1990. “There’s no box office, you don’t sell things over the counter. That being said, I found it very intriguing that the radio listener might be more prone to gamble than the television viewer. And that’s the premise of the study. So I gave it a lot of thought, and I think it might be true because the person that consumes sports on radio is probably a more serious fan of the sport for information purposes than the person who watches it on TV.”
Part of the study bears this out, with “light” television viewers being more likely to be interested in online sports betting than “light” radio listeners, but those numbers flip-flop when it comes to “heavy” TV watchers compared to “heavy” radio listeners.
Another part of the study deals with Nielsen/Scarborough scores comparing sports broadcasts and the propensity of radio listeners and television viewers to bet on sports.
And keeping in line with the results thus far, people who listen to play-by-play on the radio are significantly more likely to be betting on sports than people who are watching the game on TV.
In fact, people who listen to radio play-by-play are almost twice as likely to be sports bettors than people who are watching games on television.
“There’s probably a great overlap between the two, but the person that goes out of their way to listen to a game on the radio … well, you don’t see what’s going on,” Harrison said. “They are obviously, by nature, more interested in the information about the game than necessarily the pleasure of just watching it. And if you are more interested in information, you’re probably more prone to bet. A person who listens to sports is probably more prone to bet than a person who watches sports because they’re more interested in the data and the details than the eye candy of watching the game.”
Overall, according to the study, AM/FM radio listeners are 50% more likely to have placed an online bet and are 85% more likely to be interested in sports betting than television viewers.
And in terms of people who are already betting on sports, 40% count themselves as heavy radio listeners compared to 30% who say they are heavy television watchers.
FanDuel, DraftKings lead the way
Unsurprisingly — as anyone who listens to radio (or watches TV) can attest — FanDuel and DraftKings have the most brand awareness among radio listeners, according to the report.
But even this area shows room for massive growth — both for the sports betting operators and the bottom lines for radio stations.
When asked, unaided, what sports betting apps come to mind, 22% of respondents said DraftKings, 19% said FanDuel, 8% said BetMGM, and the rest got a few votes. But the bigger takeaway? More than half of the people surveyed — and they were all in states where sports betting is legal — couldn’t name one operator.
And when given the list of sports betting operators, heavy radio listeners were significantly more likely to know more brands than heavy television viewers.
One last interesting nugget from the study: While 70% of sports radio listeners said they are interested in sports betting — not a surprise — some of the other formats have listeners who are almost equally intrigued by sports betting, including 68% of urban listeners and 60% of alternative radio listeners. These numbers skew young, as the people least likely to be interested in sports betting were classic rock fans (39%) and classic hits fans (33%).
But as far as Harrison is concerned, the marriage of radio and sports betting operators is only going to grow stronger in the months and years ahead.
“I just think radio can do everything it possibly can to get in on the business of sports betting, using its influence over people as a communications medium as its leverage and its wedge to get into that business,” he said. “Everybody who knows anything about human nature, the law, and business knows that this is going to continue to be a growth area. From a business standpoint, the legalization of sports betting is perfect for radio to be involved with, and radio is at a time now where it is seeking new streams of revenue to go beyond the standard advertising paradigm.”