The Department of Defense announced today that the American Forces Network (AFN) will cease broadcasting play-by-play sports on radio later this summer.
The decision to discontinue live play-by-play sports on radio was based upon a series of Department of Defense worldwide audience surveys of military members and civilian employees stationed overseas, which showed the preference of viewers to watch sports, rather than just listen to them. The impact of live sports on overseas local affiliate radio schedules was also factored into the decision.
“AFN audiences prefer to watch the greater variety of sports on television rather than listen to them on the radio,” said Mr. Robert Matheson, director of broadcasting at the AFN Broadcast Center in Riverside, Calif. “When radio sports coverage comes on, most listeners tune out. Our mission is better served when the largest possible audience tunes in to non-sports programming and spends more time listening."
AFN radio play-by-play sports broadcasts were, as recently as 10 years ago, broadly listened to. Since then, AFN television sports coverage has expanded exponentially.
“More and more sports fans have been turning to AFN television for the greater variety of sports,” Matheson observed. “We used to air only one or two TV games a week. Now, since the introduction of AFN-sports and recently AFN-xtra, our multiple AFN television services, including AFN-prime, carry nearly 80 events a week."
Most play-by-play sports on AFN Radio ended with the conclusion of the NBA Championships. Some motor sports programming will remain on AFN radio's schedule in order to complete their seasons, with the September 9 NASCAR Nextel Cup race from Richmond International Raceway scheduled to be the final AFN radio sports play-by-play broadcast.
"We signed agreements with the Motor Racing Network and the Indy Racing League before reassessing our approach to radio sports," Matheson said. "We'll honor those agreements."