Sports Radio News
Darren McKee – 104.3 The Fan
The first time I became aware of Darren “D-Mac” McKee was in the late 2000’s. He was working for AM 950 The Fan in Denver before Lincoln Financial made the decision to put the station on the FM dial. I remember watching a funny video feature which was a spinoff of “Pardon The Interruption” (if memory serves me right, I believe it was called “Pardon Our Low Budget Production” or something close to that) and I was instantly impressed with the creativity that went into the bit. Darren was doing some hosting at night as well on the radio station and you could tell quickly that he understood how to drive a radio show.
As the years have passed, he’s since climbed the ladder in the Denver market and become a major part of 104.3 The Fan’s success. His pairing with former Bronco Alfred Williams has given the radio station a strong presence in afternoon drive and that has earned the respect of others in the industry. In 2012 and 2013, Talkers Magazine ranked the show #53 among the best sports talk radio shows in the country. That was the highest ranking given to a Denver sports talk show.
When I listen to Darren the first couple of things that jump out to me are how he keeps the pace of the show moving. His energy is high and he’s very connected to the content he discusses and that keeps the show from feeling mundane or stuck in a rut. Darren also does an excellent job of listening to his partner, his callers and his guests and he knows when to follow up on things or move on to something else. As the driver of a show this is a necessary skill and you can tell he’s worked hard to develop that part of his game.
I also think his chemistry with Alfred is very good and there’s a genuine respect and interest to work together from each side of the studio. Their combination (radio guy and ex-athlete) has become a formula which is extremely successful in the sports radio format across the country and it works because Darren brings a passionate, voice of the fan approach to what he does and Alfred shares his insights and personal experiences from his professional football career which lets the audience in on how the athlete thinks and what it’s like in the locker room.
You can tell that each guy knows his role on the show and the majority of the discussions I’ve consumed lean Broncos/NFL and in the Denver market, they’re playing the hits that the audience seeks. Darren doesn’t try to get too deep into subjects or show off how much knowledge he has, which for the hardcore sports guy might not be his cup of tea. The reason that works though is because he’s playing to the majority of the audience and making the content easy to relate to.
Having a background in both music radio and sports talk radio has also served him well. With the station being on FM you can tell the music skews younger which is smart and his energy, pacing and ability to entertain make the show a fun listen.
I recently reached out to him to pick his brain on some of the ways he approaches his show and to get an idea of some of the trials and tribulations he’s experienced during his career and I think you’ll enjoy reading his responses. They’re very detailed, informative, candid and interesting and I think they’ll paint a picture which shows you how bumpy the radio business can be when you’re working your way up and how rewarding it can be when you have success.
Q: When did you first become interested in sports radio and which personalities did you listen to?
A: I was a much bigger talk radio and FM morning show guy. My absolute biggest inspiration was in Boston. The irony is that this heritage rock station changed formats and frequencies and is now a sports talk station – 98.5 The Sports Hub!
Growing up as a kid in the 70’s and as a teenager in the 80’s, sports talk was reserved for an hour on Sunday nights. So I was more influenced by Boston sports announcers like Johnny Most, and Ned Martin. I also remember TV guys like Bob Lobel, Bob Neumeier, John Dennis and an incredible sports writing collection of guys from the Globe like Peter Gammons and Bob Ryan. My father actually played college baseball with Will McDonough. Talk show guys like Eddie Adelman were just getting their own shows but political talk guys like Jerry Williams were a bigger deal.
I never thought I would be like any of those guys. I did NOT grow up listening to Howard Stern. I found him WAY later after I was already in professional radio. Charles Laquidara was my main man and I was lucky enough to intern for him one summer. I learned a ton in three months working on the Big Mattress.
Once I got to college all the sports guys were such dorks, I didn’t want anything to do with them. They were all incredibly charged up about high school football and women’s basketball. However at my college station, we had one 1 hour sports talk show on Sundays from 6-7. It was pretty dry and boring until one guy made it sound fun. That was Craig Carton who was a fun troublemaker back in college and is now obviously doing great with Boomer Esiason on the FAN in NYC. Craig was really onto something early. It was a blend of typical FM morning show stuff and sports. He was the only guy to do that in college and it sounded great. I was doing all the typical FM morning show hijinks and was the Program Director for a couple years in college with Craig.
I also was influenced by other sports guys I went to school with like Mike Tirico, Ian Eagle, Howard Deneroff and Scott Cordischi to name a few that people may have ears of. There were a bunch of other great guys that are a little bit anonymous. Syracuse was incredible for the amount of talented and motivated guys that were there in the late 80’s and 90’s.
Mike and I never worked college radio together but did work at a professional FM Classic Rock station – 104.7 KIX-FM. Mike was a superstar. As a senior he was the main TV anchor on the CBS affiliate and he did morning sports from his house on our rock station. On Sunday nights between his TV broadcasts he’d come to the radio station and host a one hour talk show on WFBL – a music of your life (Frank Sinatra) station. Somehow a sales guy convinced a client it would be a great idea to stop playing elevator music for an hour and have Mike talk sports.
I was literally on the other side of the wall playing the Sunday night six pack. We’d take a classic rock classic CD and play the whole thing straight – six of em! I would talk five times in six hours and basically just hit play. So quite often I’d call in as Fred from Solvay and question why Doug Flutie wasn’t in the NFL. Dumb stuff like that. Quite often I was Mike’s only caller.
As dumb as a premise as that show was, I was blown away that Mike at such a young age could sit there and put together an hour of seamless sports talk with no callers, no producers, no nothing. He has an extraordinary memory and such a special gift. It was a HUGE influence.
I would later get advice from a Denver talk show legend – Peter Boyles – who told me, you have to be able to do it on your own. You can’t depend on anybody. That basically goes against all of the typical FM morning show stuff. I love working as a team with Alfred Williams, but I have taken heed to that advice and have also worked hard so that if need be I could do any show on any topic with zero callers at any time.
Q: Your time at Syracuse University helped put you on the path to pursue the broadcasting business. Take me through your start and how it led you next to Buffalo.
A: I worked part time as a DJ and assistant production guy at 104.7 KIX-FM as a junior in college. I also interned for the morning show “The Fatman’s Wake up Service”. Steve Corlett was the host and his co-host was Lois Burns and they had regular comedians on such as Ed Wenck.
Myself, Steve and Ed grew a very tight bond. Lois was insanely jealous and took it out on me. We were a guy oriented show so I started applying for credentials for all of the SU sporting events. It was a great deal because I lived on campus and the station was a half hour away. It gave us presence with the teams and players that other FM stations didn’t have and it gave me floor seats to SU hoops games. I was literally going to class with the guys I was covering. It was a blast.
As a senior, they hired me full time to produce the morning show and cover SU sports. I loved it. I was making a staggering 200 bucks a week but I didn’t care. I was putting in HUGE hours at the station and I would also be the fill in commercial production director when the main guy (Ed LaComb) would go on vacation.
When I graduated college, they wanted me to stick sound and I did too. My girlfriend was a year behind me, so I actually spent an extra year in college without going to school – kind of like the athletes I was covering. The Fat Man got offered a job at a competing station in town. He wanted to bring me and Ed with him, but the station – 95x – wanted him to work with a guy who was already there. It was an awful show because they simply had no chemistry. Had 95x put me, Ed and Steve on the same show, we may still be there today. It was one of a dozen lessons in why chemistry matters more to a show than names.
To that point, the classic rock station offered me and Ed the morning show at KIX, but we had to keep Lois. She HATED me because she thought I was the reason Steve left. It was awful. Anything she could do to screw up the show she did. Terrible experience working with her. However, Ed and I became best friends. I was 22 and he was a few years older and a headlining comedian. I loved working with such a funny guy. We even formed a comedy band – Pig Squeals in Fear – and played a bunch of shows. I played Drums and Ed was the guitar lead singer front man. We had a blast.
At the beginning the radio show was actually a success. We tied for first adults 25-54 in our first book but working with Lois was awful. Then it became apparent why the station hired me as a 22 year morning show host on a station geared towards 40 year olds – they were selling the station and just needed to go as cheap as they could. They sold it and were going Country. We all had a couple of months to find another job. Ed and I desperately looked together as a team. We just didn’t have enough traction under our tires.
I also looked for things on my own and was offered a producers job in Buffalo. One of the hardest things I ever had to do was break up with my best friend. Looking back, I never should’ve taken the job because it knocked me down both financially and in my job title. I was a host going to a producer job. Big mistake.
I was in Buffalo about a month and I was offered a full time morning show job in State College, PA. I turned it down because the market size was tiny and I was pretty impressed with myself that I was now in an NFL city. Another mistake. If I wanted to be an on air person, I needed people to see me as an on air person. I spent more than the next decade of my life trying to shake that producer role. Ironically Ed was offered the State College job. He turned that job into On-Air gigs in Pittsburgh, Indy and San Francisco. I found myself jealous and mad that I didn’t take that State College gig when I had the chance. Ed ended up back in Indy where he is very happy and is a local media legend.
However I loved my time in Buffalo because I became best friends with another comedian – Rob Lederman. The main host of the morning show I worked on at 97 Rock (Larry Norton) was another whack job that I couldn’t stand. I had morphed from a straight producer to the sports guy sidekick. We would end our relationship when he called me a dick on the air. My wife (my previous girlfriend in college) called in to say “don’t call Darren a dick” and he told her to “F-off” in front of me. He later was heard calling her the C-word after the show was over.
I refused to work with him. I thought they would just fire me for not coming back to work but instead they put me to work behind the scenes producing the “Shredd and Ragan” show which I’m proud to say is STILL on the air in Buffalo today! Those guys were great. Love em both. They did a ton of sports stuff too. I thought I would simply do that job for a short period of time and leave Buffalo but I was friends with the President of the Sabres and I ended up getting offered a season long job as the Pre-Game, between periods and Post-Game host. That was an absolute blast and my first real experience doing straight up sports talk.
I also worked for a Program Director – Bob Richards – who was a visionary when it came to what would become FM sports talk. He eventually put myself, Craig Carton and Marc Stout together in Denver. This guy really believed in me. Man, you have to have a guy like that in your corner if you are gonna succeed. Bob has gone through a ton of things in his professional life and anybody who gets him is very lucky.
Q: Following Buffalo, you moved to the nation’s capital. What were your primary job functions in DC and how would you describe the experience there?
A: Ahhh DC! Well, this was a tricky situation. I thought I was going to get a job in Denver but I didn’t. I thought I was going to get renewed for my Sabres job but the guy who hired me (the President of the team – Larry Quinn) got fired so I didn’t get renewed. I was going to do the Sabres gig and then dump them mid season. Instead I was on the beach. This would be the only and longest time I was without a gig since 1987. I was unemployed for 5 months.
It was devastating not getting the Denver job. I had been flown out for a ten day tryout around Thanksgiving and thought I would start in some sort of role January 1st. When it fell through, I was in a heap of trouble. I started applying for everything. I almost ended up in Knoxville. I was blown away by the facilities and the morning guys were terrific but I had an interview with WARW in DC the next week. Knoxville was just too small.
I accepted a job as a producer for the legendary Greaseman. He was clearly on the downward slide. Even though everybody knew him in DC, his shtick was OLD. He didn’t want anything to do with me, but the PD – Phil Locasio (who ironically use to work at my college radio station years before I was there – WJPZ Z89) smartly knew something had to be done. I hated taking a backwards step as a producer but I had little choice. My wife and I were running out of money and this was the largest market and salary I had ever been offered. I just couldn’t turn it down.
Two days before I was supposed to start, the Greaseman was fired for making a racist joke. It was a total shitstorm. The PD told me to come down anyway and I’d be part of whatever was going to happen. I was in a hotel room the night before my first day of work and the guy I’m supposed to work with was on “Night Line with Ted Koppell” apologizing to the nation. Surreal!
For a short period of time I thought this was going to be a HUGE break but in the end they decided not to do a morning show at all. They stuck me on nights where I was absurdly bored. I tried my best to be the sports guy and I covered the Capitals, Wizards and Orioles. I never was there long enough to cover the Redskins.
About a month into my gig, I was offered a producing job with the Regular Guys at 96 Rock in Atlanta. My wife though made me turn that job down. She said she didn’t want to move twice in a month and I didn’t blame her. However I was crazy to turn down such a great gig.
The PD at WARW wanted me to introduce tunes at night but I was a loose canon. Finally he gave me a months notice and incredibly a couple of great jobs opened up. I was offered a job in Denver and Boston at the same time. Both on FM rock stations that leaned heavily towards sports. In fact the station in Boston – WAAF – not as influential to me as WBCN, but great nonetheless, had an Ex-Bruin – Lyndon Byers as a co-host.
Initially I accepted the job at ‘AAF, but KBPI came over the top on salary and health benefits (my wife was pregnant at the time) plus they were going to put my name on the show so finally I was going to be a host. This was tough news on my folks who thought I was coming back to Boston. It’s funny to this day I can’t believe I turned down a chance to work in the city I always dreamed of working in.
But Denver is incredible. I’m a big time skier and I was thrilled to call Denver home and still am!
The next morning WAAF offered me the gig and I took it – didn’t sign a contract but verbally accepted. I was going to give my two weeks notice later that day when I went in. Amazingly, two hours later, the DC PD called to tell me he was firing me that day! This was fantastic because now I was going to receive 6 weeks severance! It was the quickest and easiest firing ever! Incredibly they still needed me to introduce records that night. Can you believe they would fire somebody at noon and trust them to be in the building that night? I didn’t pay much attention to the playlist that night and I think I put the guy who delivered my Chinese food on the air. It was actually a really fun show.
I don’t have any bad things to say about DC. I would’ve fired me too. Square peg round hole sort of deal.
Two days before the moving truck showed up we decided Denver not Boston. The moving company didn’t seem to care. It was ’99, my wife was 5 months pregnant, I was starting a new job on a show whose name I had come up with “The Locker Room” a blend of rock, sports and guy talk. This IS the formula for the VAST majority of successful FM Sports Talk shows in this country today. Just take away the tunes.
Q: So you leave DC to head to Denver and have been there since 1999. Who hired you there and how has your rise in the market come about?
A: I was hired by Bob Richards. Bob teamed me up with another guy from Buffalo Marc Stout and Carton. Craig had also worked in Buffalo at WGR but we didn’t cross paths there. Craig continued to be way before his time in talk radio and was doing an outrageous show on the very sports stodgy AM 950 The Fan. This WAS your grandfathers sports talk station. Old and boring. Craig didn’t see eye to eye with the PD and wanted a change.
Right off the bat the show was different. I loved it, but Stout and Carton didn’t get along. It put me in the middle and that was a bummer. Craig quit after 6 months and they put us on with a guy Willie B who knew nothing about sports but he was a blue collar car guy who fit the format perfectly. We had a terrific run but in the end we were oil and water. Too bad because we had the makings of a twenty year show.
Then Bob Richards left to be the Ops Manager of our Clear Channel cluster in Colorado Springs and Mike O’Connor took over. He once told us that whatever we said on the air had to be better than Godsmack going into Zepplin. What a turd.
He along with Willie (who was trying to become the new PD) would eventually fire me. They blamed me for the morning show ratings decline. Mike thought I shouldn’t be on the air at all! I believe he is now in charge of internet cartoons or something ridiculous for Clear Channel. Believe me when Alfred and I were accepting the personality of the year award at the Colorado Broadcasters Association Awards banquet last spring, I was thinking about good ole Mike.
It’s petty but I’ve been told my entire career I’m not good enough. I’ve been extremely lucky to have a handful of people believe in me especially Bob Richards, Kris Olinger (I did 2 and 1/2 years of straight political talk on a part time basis on KOA, KHOW and AM 760) and Steve Price (General Sales Manager at KKFN). Steve recently had a falling out with management and finds himself on the beach which bums me out. Bob Richards is in flux and Kris has had her ups and downs. I would do anything to help any of these people.
Tim Spence was a great friend too. He offered me my first regular Monday through Friday gig at the Fan in Denver. The only bummer was that he wasn’t in favor of me being hired full time at my current gig with Alfred. I wish he was. It was Steve Price that fought for me. I am also grateful to be supported by our overall station GM Bob Call and our corporate PD John Dimmick. They have shown faith in me and I will always be loyal to them and Lincoln Financial Media which has easily been the best company I have ever worked for.
Since Al and I started five years ago together this October, we have had huge ratings success, local and national recognition, and we have faced many different competitive challenges. The most stunning was when KOA went away from talk altogether to a news and info format. Dave Logan is a guy I look up to who had been doing that show for 20 years. I was shocked, flattered and humbled. It’s one thing to chase away a show or two but to have a station – one I worked for and WANTED to work full time for – change formats, is for me mind blowing.
Q: As someone who is from Massachusetts and has moved to multiple markets, what are some things you have done to blend in and gain the market’s acceptance?
A: Well, I still get told to move back to Massachusetts quite often. However I haven’t lived there since I was 18 I’m now 45. I don’t think there’s anything that can ultimately replace time in a market. That’s not to say a great show couldn’t come into any market and do well. It’s just that I have an inherent advantage of being in the same place for 15 years!
If you were a 17 year old headbanger you are probably a 32 year old Broncos fan. You have literally grown up listening to me. You graduated high school, college, the military and have been through marriage and kids or divorce, disease and death and joy and sorrow and I’ve been there.
You may even hate my guts but deep down you probably love hating my guts. I really am a Denver guy. I haven’t been here as long as others but long enough to earn respect. It would be hard for me to do that in another market and I honestly feel it’s one of the reasons so many national shows fail.
That being said, a funny/entertaining show will always work. So, no long standing show can rest on their laurels or they’ll be thrown out with the trash. I stay hungry and I grind it out every day. When I was fired from KBPI, I worked for Clear Channel in the Springs for 5 and 1/2 years until they fired me again (same idiot GM both times). I commuted over an hour each way 6 times a week! What an exhausting grind. So I don’t take my full time job in Denver for granted. I work my ass off every day to do things most sports talk guys don’t and that is an insane daily beat covering the Broncos. The listeners know it and expect it but you have to earn it every day.
Q: During your time at The Fan, you’ve ascended to PM drive and developed a strong and successful partnership with your co-host and former Bronco Alfred Williams. How would you describe the show to someone who’s not familiar with it and why do you think it’s connected so well in your market?
A: It’s the typical sports talk formula geek/jock. But I actually played competitive sports and continue to coach it. In fact, I along with my wife run our own competitive youth baseball organization. (Creekflashbaseball.org). So Al has a certain respect that I at least know the competitive nature of sports.
The key to the show is the chemistry between me and Al. We couldn’t look more different. I’m 5’8″ 175ish and white. Al is 6’6″ 300 ish and black. But we are the same age 45. We live a mile from each other – total coincidence. We have a ton of the same friends. Our kids go to the same schools. We are kindred spirits.
We have a huge amount of mutual respect for each other and on top of that we have a world class producer/sound manager (I don’t want to say board op because he is WAY above that) in Ryan Edwards who is also a talented talk show host himself!
We have a PD – Nate Lundy – who is extremely supportive of our show and we have a dedicated sales staff that we are always trying to help. It’s the total package that makes it work.
You have to love where you work to have a great show and we are very lucky to have all those things in our favor. It allows us to get along great.
Q: Previously Mark Schlereth was also part of the show before ESPN switched affiliations in the market. How was the show different with Mark and performing as a 3-person show?
A: I hated the 3 person dynamic but I love Mark. I have my own voice and being a traffic cop isn’t much fun. There aren’t many great 3 person shows. Some, but not many. It’s just too many voices and I think it’s confusing for the listeners in terms of roles.
Ryan is the perfect third guy in a chime in producer sort of way but being around Mark was awesome. Just like Al, he is incredibly talented as a media guy. He’s unafraid, intelligent and funny. I wish I could do a whole other show with Mark as long as I wouldn’t have to give up my show with Al. The show broke up because we lost our ESPN affiliation. Ultimately we’ve had better success as a two man show.
Q: Since arriving in Denver you’ve had the opportunity to work for two well accomplished Sports Programmers (Nate Lundy and Tim Spence) – what’s one thing each of them has done to help you improve as a host?
A: The best thing they both have done is allow Al and I a significant amount of freedom. They weren’t over our shoulder nitpicking us on tiny things. If it’s a big deal, sure let’s talk about it. But this is varsity, division one, radio here. You have to accomplish a ton just to get here and most importantly stay here. We have worked as partners not adversaries and overall it’s been terrific. They know they don’t have to be on my ass every day to do my job.
Q: Having worked in rock radio, how has that helped you in transitioning into sports radio? What aspects of that format have you carried over to what you do currently?
A: The dumbest thing anybody has ever said to me is “that is a rock radio thing, this is sports talk”. Moronic. Calling me a shock jock is equally as stupid. The key is to connect with your audience, period. Shows like Francesa or Mad Dog just do not connect with me at all. Jim Rome doesn’t connect with me. Most shows here in Denver don’t connect. But look at long standing FM morning show hosts on rock stations and I guarantee they know the elements that make sense to their target audience. If I was starting a station THOSE are the kind of hosts I would look at first. Nobody wants to listen to an encyclopedia.
Also, if you can’t make me laugh then I don’t have time for you. The FM guys absolutely understand humor or they wouldn’t be around. I would take those guys and stick them with an EX-NFL guy in town who has a solid personality and roll the dice! What a smart FM music jock gets is timing and rhythm. Now trust me there are plenty of crappy guys doing that job but when you find great ones, it’s special.
Guys listening want to laugh so what’s wrong with a funny bit or parody song or goofy contest or any of those other typical FM staples? The snobbery of traditional talk radio is obnoxious and arrogant. You’ve got to put on a show. The show has to be credible so you have to put in the work. I’ve been ultimately successful because most of my competition isn’t funny and they are lazy and they are sports nerds who you would rather poke with an ice pick in the eye rather than sit down and have a beer with.
Q: When it comes to preparing for your show, how much time do you put in each day and what are some ways you help yourself get ready?
A: It never stops!! It’s impossible to put a number on the hours. From the time I wake up until the time I go to sleep, I am gathering info, covering teams, working sources etc. Social media has been gargantuan. Any host who doesn’t fully embrace social media is an idiot. I give out my cell number on the air! I get info from drivers and cooks as well as owners and athletes.
Q: On the subject of interacting with the audience, do you prefer to take calls, texts or tweets? What’s your reasoning for the approach you take and how do you see audiences connecting with shows most in the future?
A: Nothing is black and white so I think you need a blend. But any show that depends on callers is clearly a bad show. I throw a topic out and I may get 30 texts in five minutes compare to 3 calls! They are all people and all listeners right? That being said reading is radio death! Any show that just reads listener texts is boring too! It’s gotta be a blend. This is the artistry in our job. I take pride in having a good feel for the flow. Your driver/host has to be able to find that balance. Most jocks don’t get this and stink in that role.
Q: You’ve been known to do a few interviews in other cities which have fired up other station’s local audiences. How much satisfaction do you get out of getting under their skin? What’s the worst feedback you’ve received as a result of it?
A: I’ve never had any negative feedback except from pissed off fans. I think we all have an obligation to help each other and the key to that is to not be boring! This love affair we have with writers is stupid. Give me an energetic and opinionated talk show host over some egghead any day of the week. I love doing the shows and as long as I’m asked I will gladly say yes no matter the show or market size. My only exception is in Boston where I have an allegiance to 98.5 because of how I grew up. I would never be on another sports station in Boston besides those guys.
Q: How important do you think it is for an On-Air personality to attend games/practices and develop relationships with teams, players, coaches, etc? Why?
A: Well for me it’s all about the Broncos and the NFL. I have found myself staying away from the locker room and spending most of my time at practice and talking to coaches. Here’s why. When I get a player on the air, I don’t want him to think of it like he does all the other sports guys in town. I want to be able to be honest and have fun but I don’t want to be too inside or too friendly.
I have also found that most players have no idea what is going on except for their position. I rely a ton on Ex-Players for perspective. I talk to reporters who ARE friends with players and I have close relationships with coaches. But most talk show hosts are lazy. Just by being there every day I pick up a ton. So I think that effort is critical. I never played the game but I know what’s going on and that gives me a huge daily advantage. Plus via social media I raise my cred.
Q: Some in the industry put a lot of stock in ratings, some don’t and your show has rated well. How important are ratings to you and how much attention do you pay to how the audience uses the show?
A: It’s ALL about ratings! Anybody who says it isn’t doesn’t have any. That being said, if you can generate revenue I suppose it doesn’t matter. But we compete against music stations that have high ratings not other talk shows. In terms of men 25-54 we’ve been so far ahead of ALL other talks shows sports or otherwise that it’s a complete joke. Guess what happens? We are always held to that standard. Is it fair to compare us to a Spanish music station? No, but that doesn’t matter. So even though we’ve crushed our competition for years in terms of delivering the actual content and thus revenue, we are constantly scrutinized for ratings.
But like I said, if you can hoodwink the neighborhood bar that ratings don’t matter – good for you. Eventually, clients get that they are advertising to almost a zero audience.
Q: To someone on the outside looking in, how would you describe the Denver Sports Radio scene? What’s the most underrated aspect of it?
A: The sports talk radio scene here is insane. There are 4 full time sports talk stations. You could call KOA a fifth up until a couple of months ago. In addition there is Spanish sports and several rock stations that talk sports a lot. We’re one of the few markets that has every major league sports team and college too. In addition we have everything from Australian rules football to pro cycling. It’s crazy.
What’s underrated is that people may think of it as a cowtown but there are more media members covering the Broncos on a daily basis than any other NFL team.
Q: If an aspiring broadcaster is reading this and looking for some advice, based on what you’ve gone thru during your career, what can you pass along to help them in trying to be successful?
A: Don’t wait, create! Find a hole and just make it happen. Look for untraditional stations and avenues and just start doing it or suggest doing it. Use social media and become a better writer. It will help you analyze and verbalize things.
Also get in your car and start doing your own talk show. Can you speak for ten straight minutes and be entertaining? If so, you can probably do that a dozen times a day and that’s a talk show. Read a ton too. Even non sports stuff. It helps with finding colorful language. Don’t wait for permission just start doing!
Broadcasting colleges are extremely overrated but go somewhere that has significant competition. Newhouse at Syracuse is WAY overrated but the kind of kids that go to school there are first class! Don’t make it easy on yourself.
Also don’t get into a situation when you’re young where you can’t get out easily to pursue work. Wait as long as you can for marriage, kids, buying a house, etc. If that full time gig is in Fort Wayne, IN and you live in Connecticut – MOVE!
Darren McKee aka D-Mac can be heard weekdays from 3p-6p on 104.3 The Fan in Denver. For more information on his show “The Drive” which he hosts opposite former Denver Bronco Alfred Williams, click here. You can also follow him on Twitter by clicking here.
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Sports Radio News
Chase McCabe Named Director of Operations & Sports Programming at Cromwell
“Our owner, Bud Walters, opened the door for me almost 12 years ago as an intern and I’m honored to continue to be a key member of the Nashville leadership team.”
Congratulations are in order for Chase McCabe. He is adding a new title to his already full plate at Cromwell Media in Nashville. He has been promoted to Director of Operations & Sports Programming at the company.
“I’m very fortunate to have been to be able to grow into this opportunity under one roof,” McCabe said in a press release. “Our owner, Bud Walters, opened the door for me almost 12 years ago as an intern and I’m honored to continue to be a key member of the Nashville leadership team. I am forever grateful, but none of this could have happened without the great group of people we have here at Cromwell Media.”
McCabe has spent his whole career with 102.5 The Game and its sister station, now called 94.9 The Fan. He was named Program Director and Brand Manager of the stations in January of last year. He has maintained an on-air presence as well. He hosts Chase & Michelle weekdays at 9 AM on The Game.
In his new role, Chase McCabe becomes the number two man in Cromwell’s Nashville building. Shawn Fort was recently named the cluster’s general manager.
“Chase and I have developed a great working relationship in the two and half years since I’ve joined Cromwell Media,” Fort said. “We share similar visions on how to create compelling sports programming all while driving revenue growth. I’m excited to have Chase as my right-hand man as we move forward together with this new chapter of leadership at Cromwell Media Nashville.”
Sports Radio News
Mark Schlereth: People Outside of Denver Aren’t Paying Attention to NBA Finals
“There was not one group of people – they’re all in there together – that was paying attention to the NBA Finals.”
The Denver Nuggets took to the National Basketball Association’s largest stage on Thursday night as they defeated the Miami Heat for the organization’s first-ever NBA Finals victory. Early reports reveal that the game had a 2.21 demographic rating between people ages 18-49, attracting a total of 7.62 million viewers on ABC. The figure is considerably lower than the audience for Game 1 between the Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors last year – which averaged 11.9 million figures across ABC and ESPN2. Ratings for the alternate NBA in Stephen A’s World broadcast Thursday night on ESPN2 have not yet been released by Nielsen Media Research.
Sports fans in the Denver market have felt as if the play of the Nuggets was largely being neglected by the national media throughout these playoffs. Now that the team is the last one standing in the Western Conference, there is no one else to focus on and their play is beginning to be realized by basketball fans throughout the country. It is a narrative that Denver Sports 104.3 The Fan’s Mark Schlereth and Mike Evans felt was especially obvious by watching the press conferences after the game. The duo was able to deduce as such through the questions posed to Nuggets players and head coach Michael Malone by members of the media cohort.
“The national media – it’s like, ‘Oh, wow. We’re just kind of becoming aware of how these guys play,’ and they keep asking the Nuggets about their unselfishness and how everybody is willing to share the ball,” Evans said. “Nikola Jokić [is] being asked about not taking a lot of shots, and they’re all just kind of shrugging their shoulders like, ‘Yeah, this is who we are. We’ve been doing this for a long time.’
Schlereth was curious to find out the ratings from the game last night because he watched the game from a sports bar in Chicago. He is away from Denver, Colo. to help his son’s family move there for the summer and surmises there were about 50 people in the bar with him. What he noticed was that their interest was fixated elsewhere.
“I’m the only person that was watching the Nuggets,” Schlereth said. “There was not one group of people – they’re all in there together – that was paying attention to the NBA Finals.”
“Their loss,” Evans pithily replied.
Denver ranks 19th on Nielsen Media Research’s metropolitan market size list, but the Nuggets have been a contending team for the last five seasons. Most media analysts expect diminished ratings for the NBA Finals this year because of the lack of a storied franchise, even with the Miami Heat as the team’s opponent.
Sports Radio News
Nielsen Releases List of Markets Where Most People Use AM Radio
“In a recent survey, Nielsen Media Research found that AM radio still reaches over 82.3 million Americans on a monthly basis”
Amid concerns regarding the future of AM radio, Nielsen Media Research has unveiled a list of 141 markets where at least 20% of consumers regularly listen to programming on the medium. The list is reflective of the percentage of monthly total radio listening being funneled to AM as opposed to total radio listening as a whole. The top three markets are all in the Great Lakes region, and Westwood One has found large proportions of these listeners are derived from the upper Midwest.
Buffalo-Niagara Falls leads the list with 56% of its audience tuning into AM radio in a month. It is a figure that makes sense based on the variety of AM stations, including leading news talk outlet WBEN and leading sports outlet WGR. The city of Chicago is ranked second, complete with 670 The Score, WGN and WLS. Nearby Milwaukee, Wis. ranks third on the list, another city with various AM stations such as WTMJ and WISN.
In a recent survey, Nielsen Media Research found that AM radio still reaches over 82.3 million Americans on a monthly basis – a measurement that equates to one-third of AM/FM radio listeners as a whole. Fifty-seven percent of the audience listens to stations in the news and/or talk format, utilizing the public service the outlets provide to learn of breaking news and other concerns.
There is a wide variety in market size represented throughout the list, but a trend of markets with undulating topographies tends to have larger shares of AM listeners because of the challenges the landscape presents to FM signals.
The full list compiled by Nielsen Media Research can be found below:
|Metro market rank||Market name||Percentage of radio audience that listens to AM radio|
|59||Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY||56%|
|3||Chicago, IL [PPM]||48%|
|43||Milwaukee-Racine, WI [PPM]||48%|
|253||Grand Forks, ND-MN||45%|
|39||San Jose, CA [PPM]||43%|
|33||Cincinnati, OH [PPM]||42%|
|11||Seattle-Tacoma, WA [PPM]||42%|
|187||St. Cloud, MN||41%|
|75||Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA||39%|
|4||San Francisco, CA [PPM]||39%|
|244||Sioux City, IA||38%|
|25||San Antonio, TX [PPM]||38%|
|7||Atlanta, GA [PPM]||38%|
|176||Wausau-Stevens Pt (Centrl WI), WI||36%|
|114||Johnson City-Kingspt-Brstl, TN-VA||36%|
|27||Salt Lake City-Ogden-Provo [PPM]||36%|
|202||Cedar Rapids, IA||35%|
|34||Kansas City, KS-MO [PPM]||35%|
|71||Des Moines, IA||34%|
|73||Metro Fairfield County, CT||33%|
|231||Waterloo-Cedar Falls, IA||32%|
|13||Phoenix, AZ [PPM]||32%|
|12||Miami-Ft Lauderdale-Hollywood [PPM]||32%|
|9||Philadelphia, PA [PPM]||32%|
|28||Sacramento, CA [PPM]||32%|
|15||Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN [PPM]||31%|
|2||Los Angeles, CA [PPM]||31%|
|5||Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX [PPM]||31%|
|68||Grand Rapids, MI||31%|
|223||Eau Claire, WI||30%|
|20||Nassau-Suffolk (Long Island) [PPM]||30%|
|14||Detroit, MI [PPM]||29%|
|30||Orlando, FL [PPM]||29%|
|10||Boston, MA [PPM]||29%|
|189||Bryan-College Station, TX||29%|
|18||Denver-Boulder, CO [PPM]||28%|
|41||Hudson Valley, NY||28%|
|17||Tampa-St Petersburg-Clearwater [PPM]||28%|
|116||Ft. Wayne, IN||27%|
|35||Cleveland, OH [PPM]||27%|
|22||Portland, OR [PPM]||27%|
|183||Green Bay, WI||27%|
|6||Houston-Galveston, TX [PPM]||26%|
|54||Hartford-New Britain-Middletown [PPM]||26%|
|175||Sioux Falls, SD||25%|
|180||Lima-Van Wert, OH||25%|
|1||New York, NY [PPM]||25%|
|119||Corpus Christi, TX||25%|
|237||Grand Island-Kearney-Hastngs, NE||25%|
|51||Memphis, TN [PPM]||25%|
|151||Ann Arbor, MI||24%|
|208||Las Cruces-Deming, NM||24%|
|178||Traverse City-Petoskey, MI||24%|
|87||Colorado Springs, CO||24%|
|126||New Haven, CT||22%|
|79||Wilkes Barre-Scranton, PA||22%|
|29||Austin, TX [PPM]||22%|
|24||St. Louis, MO [PPM]||22%|
|23||Baltimore, MD [PPM]||22%|
|77||Baton Rouge, LA||21%|
|205||Santa Barbara, CA||21%|
|50||New Orleans, LA||20%|
|19||San Diego, CA [PPM]||20%|
|32||Las Vegas, NV [PPM]||20%|
|37||Raleigh-Durham, NC [PPM]||20%|