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hivio 2016: What’s the Future of ESPN Audio?


If ever there was a brand built on proprietary content, that brand is ESPN. Across all platforms, ESPN Audio offers more than 9,000 hours of talk and event content annually, reaching nearly 24 million listeners per week on more than 450 stations.

Traug Keller is ESPN’s Senior Vice President, Production, Business Divisions, and he leads three business units at the company: ESPN Audio, ESPN Local and the ESPN Talent Office. For ESPN Audio, Traug oversees all aspects of the business including talent, staffing, national programming content, scheduling, and event production.

Traug was one of the amazing speakers at hivio 2016. And in our conversation we covered a lot of ground about ESPN’s audio strategy and the future of Sports radio generally. The questions included these:

  1. You have said “there’s never been a better time to be the in audio business.” Why?

  2. In the wake of talent churn, what is ESPN’s strategy on talent retention/acquisition? Fewer superstars? More mid-rank talent that might be easier to control?

  3. How many podcast/on-demand audio downloads every month? Is ESPN monetizing that content, and if so, how?

  4. What has to change for on-demand/podcasting to unlock significantly more ad dollars?

  5. As the world of radio becomes increasingly hyper local, what role does a national network play?

  6. With sports broadcast VIDEO distribution at an all-time high on numerous platforms (ESPN, regional sports networks, league apps, etc.), should we expect AUDIO numbers to decrease for LIVE sports broadcasts? Are you seeing that? Are radio/audio rights LESS valuable even as video rights get MORE expensive?

  7. With ESPN streaming and their content available on Sirius and other Internet platforms it decreases the value of exclusive content for affiliates – in fact, it CEASES to be exclusive. This is the same problem faced by NPR. What’s your take on that? Why shouldn’t affiliates be up in arms?

  8. What is the CULTURE of ESPN?

  9. What’s the future of ESPN audio, now that you’re folding the ESPN radio app into the broader ESPN app? What’s ahead for Sports Radio in general, in your view?

If you’re in Sports Radio or a fan of the category – or if you want to see what real leadership looks and sounds like – then you’ll enjoy this conversation. Click here:

This is another of many videos I’ll be sharing from hivio 2016.

You’ll find them first here in this blog.


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