Radio Row might as well be a ghost town. According to John Mamola, PD at 95.3 WDAE in Tampa, only 42 tables are available, 36 have been assigned and only six were in use as of Monday afternoon. No ESPN Radio, no FOX Sports Radio, no NFL Network Radio, just an eerie feeling in what’s supposed to be the biggest week in the industry.
However, just because the madness of Radio Row isn’t happening, that doesn’t mean the pursuit of great content and guests during Super Bowl week has stopped. 105.3 The Fan in Dallas has found a unique way to make sure it’s listeners are still getting the best coverage this week, even though the station isn’t broadcasting from Tampa. Instead, 105.3 The Fan is doing a virtual Radio Row from the confines of their own studio. The station is still having high-profile guests and great Super Bowl content, the only difference is they’ll be at home, rather than on the road.
“When we knew Radio Row wasn’t likely going to happen, we, as a group, sat down and decided we could do it ourselves and provide normalcy to our listeners,” said Gavin Spittle, VP of news, talk and sports for Entercom Dallas-Fort Worth. “We wanted to find a way to still have all the entertainment, fun and guests. We began reaching out to our contacts and they loved the idea. We’re very excited and going to try to replicate it as best we can.”
The guest lineup this week for 105.3 The Fan is just as impressive, if not moreso, than if the station was reaping the benefits of all the guests available during a normal year on Radio Row. NFL Hall of Famers such as Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, Michael Irvin and Mike Ditka are just some of the high-profile guests the station will feature this week, with many more to come.
The only drawback is, unlike Radio Row, all of the interviews will be done virtually and not face-to-face, which does take away a personal element of the interview. But being able to carefully select your own guests could be the major benefit of doing Radio Row virtually rather than on-site.
“I think over the years as you go to Radio Row, you tend to become more picky and selective about the guests you get,” said Spittle. “I think the focus of the conversation is going to be Cowboys, Chiefs and the Bucs. We have some guests, like Wade Boggs, Drew McIntyre WWE Champion and others. We’ll obviously talk sports, but we also like to have fun with the guests and that’s one of our biggest compliments when guests walk away. They tell us off the air how much they enjoy being on with us.”
Credit 105.3 The Fan for making the most out of a unique situation, but give them even more credit for making it profitable. Convincing a company to spend money on advertising during a pandemic isn’t easy, but it proves if you have a creative and unique idea, someone will be willing to buy.
“We have a title sponsor, https://mycomputercareer.edu, that said, ‘wow, great idea,’” said Spittle. “They’re a Dallas and national company that’s jumped on board. It’s exciting to create revenue and make money off a lot of people’s hard work. Tim Collins, my assistant program director, who goes to Radio Row every year, has done a fabulous job, along with some of the others in our building. It’s been a collaborative effort to create revenue.”
It’s likely that several stations from across the country will be listening to 105.3 The Fan this week to see how they pull off this creative venture. If the week goes extremely well and the station turns a big profit, both financially and in the ratings, it could pose an interesting question for radio executives across the country. Will it be smarter to save money and do Radio Row virtually, rather than shell out the money to send an entire station to the Super Bowl?
“That’s a tough question,” Spittle said. “I personally think sending people down there, when it’s applicable, you can go to press conferences, also the synergy between the hosts hanging out and appearing on other shows, I think that’s all necessary.
“We’re pivoting as a radio station. I say that because we have Spring Training coming up. We won’t be going but we’ll still be doing full coverage. We’re working with the Texas Rangers right now on interviews and Zoom calls, so we’re adapting with the times. If we just sit and say, well, we’ll just wait until it’s over, we’re probably behind the times. It’s tough to make that decision, but I know this, I’m really happy with the guest list we have and I know it’s going to be an exciting week, but you do always like to be there on the front lines. You want to show your listeners that when the biggest events are happening in the sports world, you’re a part of it.”
There’s no doubt a ton of collaboration has gone into creating the guest list this week at 105.3 The Fan. But what’s the one name the station really wanted to go after? Obviously, any former great with the Dallas Cowboys is a good place to start, but who’s the unicorn the station is trying to chase?
“That’s a great question, because we still have some great potential names that are coming in,” Spittle said. “I think the Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders combo is special. I think they’re both in our hearts, as far as football. From that standpoint, to me, it’s really cool. I would say those two are probably at the top of the list. I think a guy like Kevin Harlan, who you can just hangout with and talk about the NBA and the NFL. I think that’s awesome. The other thing, because of the years we’ve been down there, we try to be selective and say, OK, that guy is a good talker.”
If this unique and creative idea wasn’t enough, this week for 105.3 The Fan is even bigger with the release of the BSM Top 20 rankings. So far, so good for the station, as Shan and RJ were ranked the No. 6 Major Market morning show on Tuesday. Expect the station to rank high as more lists are released throughout the week.
“I think selfishly, you always want your guys at the top, because you see them grind every day,” Spittle said. “I personally look at it and then go back say, ok, why did this show have such a great year? You can learn from that.”