Shan Shariff can be described as many things on the air. He can be sarcastic, funny, opinionated, creative and downright ballsy. I remember having a conversation with sports agent Craig Fenech once about Shan and he told me “this guy had the balls to pick up Mark Cuban’s tab at a restaurant“. When I asked Shan about it, he confirmed that it happened but said that he got lucky because Cuban that day had only ordered a chicken salad.
What I remember liking about that story was that this was relatively a short time after Shan had arrived in Dallas and I thought to myself “what better way to show that you’re determined to stand out in a new market than to get the attention of the Mavericks billionaire owner“.
While that story certainly got my attention, I was already familiar with Shan’s work. Prior to moving to Dallas, Shan worked for 610 Sports in Kansas City and local ESPN Radio affiliate in Maryland. I remember hearing his work for the first time courtesy of Jon Chelesnik at STAA Talent while Shan was in Maryland and when I listened to him I thought he was unique which was a good thing. There was a lot to like in the original presentation even though he was still a little green.
Shan’s profile would start to become more familiar to people in the sports radio industry when he landed a weekend slot with 106.7 The Fan. I remember David Brody of BMS calling me around that time to once again put him on my radar but I was in St. Louis and didn’t have a need so we agreed to keep in touch if things were to change in the future.
As luck would have it, an opening would pop open in Kansas City and Shan’s work was recognized by Program Director Ryan Maguire who would hire him to host a 2-hour midday show for the radio station. From there, Shan’s career started to take off. He spent the next year working for 610 where he’d fine tune his craft, become more polished and start to gain some ratings traction and his hard work and success would draw the attention of Bruce Gilbert in Dallas who would make the decision to hire Shan and bring his “New School” style to Dallas where he’d team up with RJ Choppy for 105.3 The Fan.
Interesting enough, at the time when he was being hired in Dallas, I had a spot open up in St. Louis and I had contacted David Brody after listening to a few days of Shan’s shows in Kansas City. I told David I wanted to know a little more about Shan’s status but was told “I wish I could tell you but I can’t do that right now“.
David and I have known each other a long time and he’s been a great guy to network with so I knew this meant he had something bigger brewing for Shan which I was glad to hear. A few days later the news would come out that Shan was off to Dallas and he hasn’t slowed down since arriving on the scene in March of 2011.
Today when I listen to Shan’s show, I find it to be very entertaining, fast paced and built for Men 18-44. It has an element of unpredictability which I like and I think that’s important especially during morning drive. When you take into account that there are three competitive sports radio stations battling for every quarter hour of listening in the Dallas market, shows need to be unique to the local audience and Shan and RJ have found their place in the overall mix.
Aside from what you hear on the air, Shan is one of the most active personalities in the entire sports radio industry on social media. You may not listen to his show in Dallas if you live out of the market but if you follow him on Twitter you feel like you know everything that’s happening with the program. From morning to evening, he’s always engaging with his fans and that accessibility and willingness to interact is a big reason in my opinion while he’s built up great support for what he does.
I exchanged a few messages with Shan to get a sense of how he has approached blending into new markets, why he’s so active on social media, the competitive landscape of Dallas sports radio and what he believes is important in executing a 4-hour morning show and I think you’ll enjoy the results of that conversation.
A: After college, I scalped a ticket to the Spurs-Nets NBA finals and recorded play-by-play on a mini-recorder. A buddy of mine who worked at a Baltimore television station was able to sync up my audio with the television broadcast and I had my VHS resume tape. The program director in my hometown of Cambridge, MD was impressed (with the editing more than anything) and hired me to host a three hour daily show on their ESPN affiliate.
Q: Who are some of your influences that got you interested in pursuing a sports broadcasting career?
A: Dan Patrick, Marv Albert, Dick Enberg, Colin Cowherd.
Q: After starting your career in Maryland, you left for Kansas City to host mid-days for 610 Sports. How difficult was it to enter the market as an outsider and attempt to win people over? How did you approach the situation to show people you were invested in the things they cared about?
A: It was a challenge at first, but I think the audience realized I could bring an objective view of their favorite teams. It would have been MUCH different if I was a Raiders fan in Chiefs territory, but they weren’t offended by my Redskins love.
The way I showed people I was invested was to work and prepare. I had to quickly learn everything possible about the football and basketball programs at Missouri, Kansas and Kansas State. Once they realized I knew their players and coaches, I think I was accepted.
Q: When you reflect back on your experiences in Kansas City, what stands out as the best and worst part of it?
A: Best part was having early success. My time spent listening was very high and I gained confidence that my style could work in an awesome sports market. Worst part was only having a two hour show.
Q: Following your stint in KC, you moved to Dallas where you’ve since worked for 2 great programmers (Bruce Gilbert and Gavin Spittle) at 105.3 The Fan. Share one thing they’ve taught you that you use in your approach each day?
A: Bruce preached likability while teaching me everything I know about Arbitron. From setting appointments to resetting, teasing, getting to the point or hooking the listener, Bruce always had new, creative ways to attack the PPM game.
I’ve never been looser as a host than now under Gavin. He encourages fun, lifestyle topics and bits that provide a nice release from hardcore sports during a four and a half hour show. I used to be afraid to do non-sports on a sports show. Gavin changed that way of thinking.
Q: You sang “Hail To The Redskins” to Jerry Jones while hosting your show on the radio home of the Dallas Cowboys. How much flack did you take from the team and your bosses for it? Were you at all worried about losing listeners as a result of cheering for the enemy?
A: There was only once instance where someone from the Cowboys gave me flack for being a Skins fan: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dc-sports-bog/post/dallas-radio-host-plays-hail-to-the-redskins-for-jerry-jones/2012/09/11/f96f48fa-fc41-11e1-a31e-804fccb658f9_blog.html
I never worried about losing listeners when I started because I never want to hide who I am, but I think it was a mistake. I probably overestimated the ability and willingness of some to separate my fandom from the way I covered the Cowboys. I just figured my honesty wouldn’t hurt me in Dallas because it didn’t in KC. Looking back, it probably cost me some listeners the minute I revealed my favorite team.
A: The biggest way I try to gain an advantage on competition is out-working everyone. I know I sleep less and read more than anyone. I always think about our next show and remain obsessed with higher ratings in this market.
I think the biggest difference between us and the competition is pace and energy. We’re never going to be a slow product that feels like it’s dragging. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, texts or taking calls, we interact with our audience more than any show in DFW, it’s not even close.
I also believe we’re more creative topic wise than anyone because we over prepare every single day. The greatest compliment I can get is “I never thought of it that way.”
Q: You currently work with RJ Choppy on a 2-man show but previously the program had a third member (Jasmine Sadry). Which setup do you prefer and how does your approach and preparation change when doing a 3-person show vs. a 2-person show?
A: Bruce Gilbert always wanted two voices to sound like four and four to sound like six. RJ and I have always been the primary voices but we also have producers chime in. It probably took me three years to get comfortable. I had trouble not taking over for three minutes and setting everyone up for air-time. Talking over each other is a turn-off to everyone and that only happens with multiple people in the room.
The positives are different viewpoints, having twice the prep work and it’s nice to regroup during a segment while the other is talking. I would probably prefer a two person show for more air-time but depending on how good the talent and chemistry are, three would also work. Our mid-day show has five voices.
Q: When it comes to executing a 4-hour show, how many guests do you like to have on, how many segments involve callers, how many features are included, etc? What’s the right type of balance in your opinion?
A: I would like to have three guests for a four hour show. If the guest list is like Dan Patrick, you can have five a day. I fight the caller debate every year. My recent bosses prefer less calls and more host. Yes, there are some hosts who lazily rely on open phone lines but I believe in empowering the audience.
One of the things I loved about hosting solo was the increased caller segments and interaction with listeners. There will always be calls that suck, but I always thought I could control the quality of them with the topics I set-up and questions I asked. Calls can also make a show sound busy and break up the monotony of a solo program.
Q: You’re on the air for 4.5 hours per day which equals 22.5 hours per week – are there any tricks you use to keep yourself mentally focused and engaged in every segment?
A: With multiple people on the show, I’ve never really had a problem with focus. I think it’s MUCH easier to stay engaged as the quarterback of the show with the additional responsibilities you have. I also take my job very seriously (probably too much), so I’m usually pretty intense while the red light is on.
A: I want the audience to know I’m not too cool for them. I care about what they have to say. I’ll never forget the Twitter joy I had in being followed by Adam Schefter so if I can follow someone back or like their Facebook comment, maybe they’ll appreciate it and be more invested as a listener.
One major thing I think hosts overlook is the brainstorming and topic ideas you can get through social networking. If two heads are better than one, isn’t 14,000 better than two? If a listener comes up with a great topic or sports question, I let them know they’re getting the credit tomorrow morning and hopefully they set the appointment for the tune in!
Q: When it comes to the critiquing process, how do you, RJ, Gavin and your support staff measure whether or not you’re making progress with the show?
A: I’m probably our biggest critic. From Ryan Maguire, Bruce Gilbert, Gavin Spittle and David Brody, I feel like I’ve already worked under some of the best minds in the business and can judge good or bad radio. We also have a daily meeting with Gavin where we review the show.
A: I don’t believe an agent is necessary, but there are certainly benefits. I went from Cambridge, MD to Kansas City because my agent had a relationship with the PD. Without that connection, I wouldn’t have been found. I HATE the thought of negotiating so having someone to handle the back and forth is always a relief for me.
The downside is you better hope your agent is respected, competent and gets along with management. The worst part is obviously paying their commission.
Q: For someone who’s considering a career in our industry, what piece of advice would you like to share based on your own experiences that may be helpful to them?
A: Work harder than everyone and be willing to start from the bottom. I can’t tell you how many kids I’ve seen in Dallas who are unsatisfied and feel held back (AND THEY’RE ON AIR!!!). They’re unwilling to move and have no idea what it’s like to make $20,000 while calling local little league games five years into your career. Be willing to accept and embrace coaching while reading more and sleeping less than your competition.
16.9% of All Sports Radio Listeners Are Streaming
The news comes as Nielsen reported that 11.3% of all radio listenership comes thru a stream, up from 6.9% in May of 2020.
According to Nielsen, sports radio stations are the third-most streamed spoken word format, just behind Talk/Personality and News/Talk/Info. The trend is continuing to show that streaming is on the uptick.
The survey found that in May 2022, 16.9% of sports talk radio’s audience tunes in via the station’s online stream. That news comes as Nielson reported that 11.3% of all radio listenership comes thru a stream, up from 6.9% in May of 2020.
Nielsen notes that in the 45 PPM markets they are grabbing data from and the 4,800+ stations that stream in those markets, just 30% of them are encoded. That encoding allows for Nielsen to accurately measure the streams. They used the listener data from 1,500 stations across the U.S., in their latest report, AM/FM Radio Streaming Growth in PPM Markets.
The survey also showed that streaming levels differ widely by radio format. Spoken word formats display strong streaming listenership (Talk/Personality: 31.2%, News/Talk/Info: 19.1%, All Sports: 16.9%). In fact, Nielsen found that 1/3 of all AM/FM streaming in PPM markets is to spoken word formats.
New Study Finds Listeners to MLB on Radio Are Willing to Spend
More than one third (34%) of the respondents recently purchased clothing/apparel that features their favorite team… 27% have visited a ballpark in the past year. That compares to only 19% of the average MLB fan base has made an apparel purchase to support their team while just 11% have gone to a game in person in that same time span.
When it comes to advertiser’s attempting to reach an affluent and engaged audience, sports talk radio might have a whale on their hands. Major League Baseball play-by-play features an audience that has money and has no problems spending it.
In a recent MRI-Simmons study, data shows that consumers who listen to MLB broadcasts on the radio are the perfect audience for sports marketers. According to the analysis, done by Katz Radio Group, nearly two thirds (62%) of those surveyed consider themselves “super fans” of baseball. That number is 58% higher than the average.
Those “super fans” are willing to spend to support their team, as well. More than one third (34%) of the respondents recently purchased clothing/apparel that features their favorite team. Those fans are also far more willing to make the trip to see their team. The study found that 27% have visited a ballpark in the past year. That compares to only 19% of the average MLB fan base has made an apparel purchase to support their team while just 11% have gone to a game in person in that same time span.
The news continues getting better for advertisers. Continued analysis reveals that 66% of listeners are currently employed and have a median household income greater than $106,000.
Listeners to MLB games on the radio are also 34% more likely to place a sports bet and 106% more likely to be a participant in fantasy baseball.
Jeff Dean Signs Off At ESPN Tucson for The Final Time
Dean said on Facebook: “…the years of burning the candle at both ends has taken a dire toll on my health and for the first time in my life, I’m going to put myself and my livelihood first”
Fans will no longer be able to tune into ESPN Tucson and hear Jeff Dean hosting his show. Friday morning was his last show, according to his Facebook and Twitter pages.
The Jeff Dean Show had been airing from 7-9a MT weekday mornings. Dean took to social media to relay the news and the reason behind him stepping away from the microphone. Dean said on Facebook:
“This morning I signed off from my radio show on ESPN Tucson for the final time. I have been devoting too much of my life and my time to working multiple jobs…the years of burning the candle at both ends has taken a dire toll on my health and for the first time in my life, I’m going to put myself and my livelihood first”
Dean went on to emphasize that he isn’t stepping away from ESPN Tucson, he’s just taking himself off the air. He also added that “gladly, I will be continuing my position as PA announcer of University of Arizona Football and Men’s basketball.”
Dean would also go onto Twitter to add even further context for his self-removal from the ESPN Tucson airwaves. He added, “It’s not a decision I arrived at hastily, as it’s been a 6 month mental grind to make the ultimate decision that had to be made, and I’m not particularly happy about it, but I have to put my health first, we all do, and make sure we’re around long enough to enjoy life”.
Dean had been ESPN Tucson’s morning host since November 2019.