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Meet the Market Managers: Todd Markiewicz, Tegna Inc. Columbus

“I love this industry. It’s all I’ve ever done my entire career and I’ve done it at a variety of places around the country. It’s been very good to me and my family, and I love it. I’m passionate about radio.”

Demetri Ravanos



Sports radio is losing a leader at one of its most accomplished mid-market brands. Longtime market manager Todd Markiewicz has decided to enter the brave new world of NIL collectives.

Last month, he announced that his time with Tegna Inc. and 97.1 The Fan will be coming to an end. Markiewicz isn’t leaving Columbus, though. He is giving up radio to help his beloved Ohio State Buckeyes stay competitive as the college sports landscape changes.

Barrett Sports Media wanted to give Todd his flowers before he assumes the role of President of the 1870 Society. That is why he is the debut feature in our third annual Meet the Market Managers series presented by Point-to-Point Marketing.

Markiewicz sees a lot of similarities between his new job and the one he is leaving next month. In this conversation, he shares insight on why stations should be courting business from NIL collectives, what he learned about simultaneously serving sportsbooks and listeners, why it isn’t easy to recruit sellers right out of college, and so much more.

Demetri Ravanos: As you look back on your time at The Fan, what is it you’re going to walk away most proud of? 

Todd Markiewicz: Well, I think there are a couple of things. First of all, I wasn’t looking to leave the broadcasting industry. I love this industry. It’s all I’ve ever done my entire career, and I’ve done it at a variety of places around the country. It’s been very good to my family and me, and I love it. I’m passionate about radio.             

In terms of leaving it behind, you know, there is a sense of pride that I was here 13 years, and that we’ve grown and accomplished so much together as a broadcast team. I feel confident that I’m leaving this product in a better position than it was when I got here, and I think any market manager or GM would want to be able to say that.                    

I will add to that, it’s really hard to leave this group of people. We have such a great team and it really gave me a lot of thought and pause in deciding to go down this new road – just the thought of not being able to work alongside all of them each and every day. 

DR: It’s interesting that the time you are stepping away from the business, and particularly, by the way, working for a company like Tegna, where you have so many different outlets where you can serve advertising partners. You’re stepping away during a time when, on the advertising side, the business has never had to be more creative. Is that something you’re going to miss or is it a little bit of a relief at this point? 

TM: I wouldn’t say it’s a relief. I really enjoy that process. You know, the interesting thing is the verticals of these two jobs are actually very similar from the standpoint of managing a team, building relationships, doing the CNA’s, etc.. You satiate the clients needs by coming back and putting together all the different assets that you have that meet that marketing need.

This is very similar in terms of that. I’m going to be going out and working with businesses and potential contributors to put together marketing programs. The difference is, instead of station assets, I’m going to be working with athletes and other assets. But basically, the process is very similar in terms of building solutions for businesses and contributors. So from that perspective, they’re really not that different. 

DR: It’s interesting to hear how similar they are because I work in Raleigh, North Carolina, now. I worked in Columbia, South Carolina for a while. Both of those markets are similar to Columbus in that so much of the sports culture centers around the college team in town. I’ve often thought that NIL sort of presents this real opportunity for broadcasters in markets like those. Is that something you could see your group when you move over to 1870 pursuing, whether it is for the athletes at Ohio State or a way to go about servicing some of the businesses that are going to be partnering with you guys? It just seems like a natural fit to me. 

TM: I think it absolutely is, and that’s one of the things that appealed to me. It’s just not that far off the mark from what I currently do. It’s just using different assets to do it. The reality is this also needs to be a very creative space. It lends itself to that, whether it’s tying in a player’s name to a business, putting together speaking engagements, or meet and greets, as well as activating the investment from the contributor or business to maximize that opportunity by using media.           

I’ve told the folks at the radio station that you know, I’ll probably be back here purchasing media as opposed to selling. But having that skill set of understanding media, I think is very relevant in this NIL space. 

DR: You hit on something that I want to ask you about, which is it does seem like this space presents a lot of opportunity for broadcasters. You have had the broadcast experience, now you’re moving over to the NIL collective world. I would guess you sort of look at the business you’re leaving and say, “Man, radio, television, digital. These are businesses that should be chasing business from me and NIL collectives.”

TM: Absolutely. Yes, and I see a huge opportunity for utilizing OTT because of how targetable it is. 

DR: I mentioned that so much of Columbus’s sports culture revolves around Ohio State. But also,  you are kind of in this ideal space where that is a school where sports plays a big, big role. You are the big sports radio brand in town. Does that make it easier to recruit younger people coming out of high school, whether they are looking to be on air, on the sales side, behind the scenes, or whatever it may be? Did having the Buckeyes brand associated with yourself and The Fan make it easier to recruit kids coming out of that school? 

TM: There’s no question that it’s made it easier, in particular on the programming side, to find individuals coming out of high school or college that were interested in getting into radio broadcasting. I wouldn’t say it’s made it any easier on the sales side. Those are two completely different animals. 

DR: So you mentioned that they are two different animals. Is that about something beyond The Fan and Ohio State? 

TM: Well, let me put it this way. I started in college on air. I started my career doing news at WONE and WTUE for Summit Broadcasting in Dayton, Ohio, and it was my dream to be on air. I quickly realized several things.              

Number one, I really wasn’t talented enough at it, which is why I appreciate the programming folks so much and what they do every day for 3 hours or more. It wasn’t my forte, but I loved the business, so I gravitated to sales as a result of that. I didn’t want to leave radio.           

I think that when we, as an industry, are targeting salespeople there’s a little bit of a mystery around what radio sales means, whereas when you’re looking at being on the radio, everybody knows what that means. Everybody knows what that looks like. So you just naturally get more interest. There’s more people that dream about being on air than there are that dream about being an account executive, right?

DR: Ohio recently came online with sports gambling. It looks like we’re going to get Kentucky here soon. North Carolina might come on by football season. It probably won’t happen in Texas.            

I wonder as somebody that was in the position you were and kind of watched this go from debate to live and in action, what advice would you have for GM in those places where it looks like sports gambling is coming? Whether it is about what to be prepared for or even what it is their role might be in lobbying lawmakers to help get this to happen, what would you tell them?

TM: Great question and the way I would answer that is to say don’t wait to prepare. If you are a sports radio station or a sports radio format, you need to be prepared now for the opportunity that is legalized sports betting.              

I don’t know if you know how things went down in Ohio, but we were supposed to launch a year sooner than we actually did. So we had been preparing for about four months. We were very strategic and deliberate with how we handled this opportunity because it’s immense for our format. And, you know, our team worked tirelessly. We had very specific intentional meetings just about LSB (legal sports betting), what it means to us, asking ourselves about the pitfalls and the other questions that needed to be asked.              

So when it was delayed another year, what we realized is that four months wasn’t enough time to properly prepare for it. We needed that extra time. So it was a blessing in disguise for us to have another full year to put our plan in place.               

Some of the things that we decided upon are a lot different than the way some other stations are handling it. For example, we knew there would be a lot of LSB advertisers coming into the market. There’s a plethora of them. They’re all looking for those first-time deposits. Some come in and they’re there for two months during launch and they go away. Some are there longer term. Some are late getting to the party and they’re coming into the fold, launching their apps later.

But through all that, one of the most important considerations for us as a station from the programming side was we were worried about listener fatigue. This constant barrage of LSB advertising could have a negative effect on a radio station. Not everybody that listens is gambling on sports, right? A lot are, but not everybody. So we took that listener fatigue factor into account. We spent a lot of time talking about them, and so what we decided to do was take our prime shows, all of which are top in the market with men, and we put a package together that sold each of those shows as a separate show sponsorship.           

Morning Juice has its LSB sponsor, Bishop and Friends has its LSB sponsor, Rothman and Ice has its LSB sponsor, and Common Man and T-Bone has its LSB sponsor. Any LSB can advertise within spot breaks on any of those shows. They can advertise throughout any part of the day, but when it comes to show content or when they’re talking about lines, the features within the content of the show, all of that is the same by show.

So we’ve got one sponsoring one, one sponsoring the other, one sponsoring the other, and so on. What that does is it cuts down on the potential for talking about this app’s line or this company’s line or whatever the case may be. It keeps it more cohesive, and that has really worked really well for us.  

DR: What I’ve always found interesting about Columbus is I think if you are of a certain age, like late thirties and on, no matter where you are in the country, you watched that market kind of become a pro sports market. You guys were in on MLS from day one. The Crew has a passionate following. How do they resonate both on air from a content standpoint and also with advertisers? Soccer has this young, diverse audience. Is coverage of the sport easy to sell or is it still sort of a niche that isn’t easy to take to the average business? 

TM: That’s a great question, and here’s how I’ll answer it because it was a unique situation for the sport here in Columbus. There was a very passionate MLS fan base, soccer fanbase, and then the team was taken away from us. Then there was a huge movement in our community to save the Crew.             

We didn’t cover the Crew early. We maybe talked about them, but we weren’t the flagship. After the community rallied the way they did, I felt like it was the right thing to do, to support the community, to support the Save the Crew movement, and then the Crew, once they were saved.           

To give them the type of platform that they deserve in terms of monetizing it, selling it, marketing it, that was challenging at first, partially because it was new, partially because it’s niche. But that sport has grown leaps and bounds. And with the new stadium now here in Columbus, which is absolutely incredible, Field, there’s been an elevated interest. It’s become a very sellable asset for us. 

DR: I do want to end by asking you about your thoughts on the industry at large. Large media companies are cutting jobs like crazy this year. Is there a trickle-down effect to the locally owned stations in the radio world – positive or negative? 

TM: Obviously, we’re owned by Tegna, which is really a television-rich company. They’ve been very good to us since the purchase.              

To answer your question though, I don’t think there is a negative impact as long as you’re staying local and relevant and the content is on point. You know, we’re winning even from a revenue standpoint. In the Miller Kaplan, we’re winning big and it’s because content is king and it is such an advantage right now because listener habits have changed since COVID. People were working from home, they were listening to music on apps and by other means because they weren’t in their cars. When they returned to their car they didn’t necessarily return to music radio stations, right?

In our experience, that was different for us as a spoken word format. I really think that’s where the advantage for the format is. There’s only one way to get the content I provide to the community, and that is going through us. You can listen time-shifted on a podcast, you can stream us, you can listen on terrestrial air, but the reality is there’s only one way to get what we have, and what a huge advantage that is. It’s bearing itself out in our share growth since COVID.                     

Now, I will say that there has been a contraction of ears overall in the market, as I think a lot of markets have probably experienced. But our shares, in spite of that contraction of ears, have grown exponentially since COVID. I think it speaks to the strength of this format. When you’re doing it right, you’re living local and you’re targeting your community and what’s of interest in that community.              

We’re blessed to have such a great variety of shows and how they present the content. Let’s be real. Unless there’s breaking news, most of our shows are talking about the same stuff that’s going on in the sports world, right? But we do it in such a way that’s so unique from a talent perspective.               

Each show has its own specific tone and texture, and so we have people that listen all day long, you know, it’s not like they only listen to one show or the other. Now some do elevate their ratings above others, but for the most part, we’re pretty consistent in being number one with both men and adults throughout the whole day. That’s pretty astounding when you think about the fact that the content they’re talking about is basically the same. It’s just different ways of presenting and different opinions about the same topics. 

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Meet the Market Managers: Chad Boeger, Union Broadcasting Kansas City

“I think people know that we’re locally owned and operated, and that goes so far because people know how much we are part of the community.”

Demetri Ravanos



MTMM Boeger

And so we come to the end of another season of Meet the Market Managers. The final conversation in our series presented by Point to Point Marketing is with Chad Boeger of Union Broadcasting.

Union is based in Kansas City, but also operates sports talk stations in Wichita and Louisville. Boeger has used lessons learned in each building to grow business in the others. He and the company have been pretty successful do, demonstrated by the fact that there isn’t a lot of turnover at his stations.

In our conversation, we discuss the company’s significant investment in digital content and advertising, why there is still an advantage an AM signal has over an app and the value of high school sports as a marketing tool.

Demetri Ravanos: How much turnover is there in your company? I don’t recall ever seeing a lot of job openings posted there. 

Chad Boeger: We’ve been very consistent. I mean for 20 years, I think I’ve been here. For the most part, those years, you know, a lot of people will come to the company and stay. We have a veteran group.                      

We always try to continue to add and expand. We have added several pieces, whether it’s salespeople or reporters or digital and social content managers, things like that. So we’re definitely expanding, but we haven’t had a lot of people leave the company over the years. 

DR: You hit on the social side of things. As clients have started to better understand the value of advertising and having a presence both digitally and on social platforms in general, has it changed the way you utilize your staff at all? Have positions or responsibilities changed to reflect those needs? 

CB: You know, our company at one point was radio. That’s what we did, and as most companies have, we have too. Radio is still an extremely important part of what we do, but we have expanded in a lot of different directions. This is no longer a radio company, but a media company.              

I’ll give you some examples. We expanded to where we just opened up a brand new video facility. It’s about 2500 square feet. It’s a whole separate property, but it’s another part of our business. So we have video space. We have two podcast studios. We can do television commercials. We do social posts for companies. It’s all part of the expansion project. 

DR: People consume your content through all sorts of different means. I do have to ask you about the fight to keep AM radio in new car models because WHB, as on-air product is only on the AM dial. Have you devoted time and resources to figuring that out or is the messaging more “you can get the same content through the app?” What do you want listeners to know? 

CB: It is important for AM to continue to stay in vehicles. So we’re 100% behind that. I think you are seeing that some of those listeners are moving from the radio to listening online or listening to podcasts or whatever it may be.                 

But, you know, our signal is 50,000 watts. It covers 43,000 square miles in portions of five states. We hit a massive amount of people throughout the states of Kansas and Missouri. So keeping that easy to access in the car is very important to us. 

DR: The last one of these I did was with Chris Soechtig, who runs IHeartMedia’s cluster down in Tampa. He was talking about being the Buccaneers’ flagship stations and that it’s really is more of a marketing kind of play for them – getting to go out and say that their sports station is the Buccaneers’ station opens some doors with advertisers and then with the rock station being the flagship, that leads to better ratings.                   

One thing that strikes me excuse me as I look at your site is you guys pretty prominently featured that link to the 810 Varsity site. When you are doing so much advertising with local businesses, how important is it to be able to show off something like that to show how invested you are in the Kansas City community? I would imagine that high school sports in that area are maybe a different, but perhaps a just as effective marketing tool for you. 

CB: I think people know that we’re locally owned and operated, and that goes so far because people know how much we are part of the community. They look to us not only for sports news, but to be a leader within the community.

Our organization works with hundreds of charities throughout the year. There’s not a week that goes by that we’re not part of or promoting some philanthropic endeavor. It could be a golf tournament, a run, an event, or one of our personalities hosting something. There was a boxing match last week between firefighters and police officers and our morning show host, Steven St. John was the ring announcer and came in wearing the gear and was hosting that event. So, you know, from a from a community standpoint and us being involved was was was vital for our organization and something we put quite a bit into, not only through our on air product but through our staff.                   

From a high school standpoint, we started our high school game of the week back in 1998. We’ve always tried to get around the market to a number of different areas. 810 Varsity is just an extension of something we try to do.  We’re partners with that organization, too. We have live broadcast, we have video of up to 15 games a week, and we do pre and postgame hits on the radio. But it’s also something where, if a viewer can’t get to a game, if they have family members playing in the game but they live in another city, they can watch it. They can see the stream.                    

There’s quite a bit that we do from all angles. Being a community station is something we’ve always put one of our highest priorities on. 

DR: When you have a reputation for being a part of the community in that way, I know this is sort of an old-school stereotype of sports radio, but I do wonder if you ever still as the GM are fielding calls about hosts being too negative. Obviously, that isn’t a concern with the Chiefs now, but given how much of your business is about Kansas City, have you seen that listeners, at times, expect the station to be more of a cheerleader than a news and commentary outlet?

CB: I think that’s the opposite with us. I think people that want the news and they want to know what’s going on. We’ve always tried to make you think about everything that’s going on within the sports world. We’re going to give you the news and try to get be first, but more than first, accurate.               

We make sure we cover the teams the way they need to be covered, whether that’s positive, negative, or indifferent. But it is news, and so we make sure we’re covering every event we need to be at. If it’s a Super Bowl, we’re all over the Super Bowl or the Final Four or, next week, you know, it’s Big 12 Media Days or the American Century Championship Golf Classic will be there. We’re covering all events that have Kansas City storylines.                 

We’re not the cheerleader. We’re definitely not. We’re going to go ahead and cover it the way we need to cover it, and that’s the way the listener wants us to do it. 

DR: What is your perception of the hierarchy of what the listeners want in Kansas City? I would imagine right now the Chiefs are on top, but after that is it KU? Is it the Royals? After the Chiefs, where do the majority of eyes and ears go?

CB: Well, no question that the Chiefs coverage is enormous. I’ve never seen it like it is for the past five years.                 

Football is definitely the dominant product. After that, I think obviously people are passionate about the Royals, but the Royals have struggled. Where conversation at this time of the year you’d hope would be about baseball, it has sort of turned into ‘Is there going to be a new baseball stadium?’ and where it is going to go.                    

The owner of the Royals had a press conference about that topic. It was not necessarily solely about the new stadium, but it turned into a conversation about the new stadium. So I would say, you know, after the Chiefs and football in general, you’re kind of coming into the local schools here in this area – Kansas, Kansas State of Missouri. That’s both football and basketball. Then you do have Sporting Kansas City and the Kansas City Current. You know there are a lot of minor league teams in Kansas Cit too. I would say the hierarchy obviously is Chiefs head and shoulders at the top. Then you have the colleges and Royals and then Sporting. 

DR: The teams in Missouri obviously are very active in trying to get sports betting legalized. What about media outlets? Certainly being on the Kansas border, you can speak to the economic impact it has on your business and what it could do for others in Missouri. 

CB: We experienced it in the state of Kansas last year and it was an influx of business for us through a number of different sportsbooks. Obviously, at some point, we feel Missouri is going to legalize it. We’ve seen it in Louisville with our stations there. Indiana had passed it several years ago. There was an impact. It wasn’t nearly like what we’ve seen here in Kansas City.                  

The state of Kentucky just passed it. It’s going to roll out we think is pretty similar to how it did here in the state of Kansas to where you’ll be able to place bets on games in time for football season. I think that’s going to have an enormous impact on on on business with quite a few sportsbooks in that market.                    

We haven’t been asked to advocate at all. Our job is to anticipate and prepare.

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Meet the Market Managers – Chris Soechtig, iHeartMedia, Tampa Bay

“The frenzy around influencer marketing, it’s given us the opportunity to leverage the relationship our talent have with their listener bases and go out and meet with clients and help tell that story.”

Demetri Ravanos




Let me start by admitting my bias. I am a lifelong fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. My Uncle John didn’t work for the team, but he worked for IBM and the team was one of his clients in the late 80s and early 90s. He didn’t have a son, so any time he would get kids-sized swag from the team, it got sent my way.

Between that fandom and being a Southerner, I have always considered WDAE something special. As far as I was concerned in my college years, the tent poles of Southern sports talk were WJOX in Birmingham, WFNZ in Charlotte and WDAE in Tampa.

Since we started the Meet the Market Managers series in conjunction with Point-to-Point Marketing, I have wanted to highlight Chris Soechtig and the job he does at iHeartMedia Tampa Bay.

In our conversation, we hit on the importance of play-by-play as a marketing tool, unconventional competition, and how the world of independent media has influences his sales staff.

Demetri Ravanos: Around the sports world, we know the impact that Tom Brady had on the Buccaneers as a team and as a culture. But what about on the broadcast? What did you see happened to advertising and interest in the Buccaneers’ radio broadcast when he came to town and played those three years? 

Chris Soechtig:  The Brady effect was absolutely huge.  Before Brady, I want to say we didn’t make the playoffs for 12 consecutive years. 

DR: I grew up a big fan of the Buccaneers. I felt every bit of the drought. 

CS: Exactly, so you get it. Brady elevated the standards and the expectations for winning on that team.  From day one, that was contagious. This is a football town. When he came to Tampa, it changed everybody’s perspective.  Even on the broadcast side, there was an air of confidence and swagger that came along with having Brady in our market. Whether it was on the team or just in the community, he demonstrated he’s a champion in so many ways.  People wanted to emulate that, from the way he trained to his work ethic to self-care.

On the business side, there was a lot of excitement around the Bucs with Brady on the team.  Businesses wanted to be a part of it.  We’ve got a unique broadcast relationship with the Buccaneers.  The flagship is 98ROCK.  The partnership is a marketing play for us. The team owns and sells the inventory on game day.  But we also carry a players/coaches on sports radio 95.3WDAE.  And that’s where listeners go throughout the week to get their Buccaneer football fix.               

DR: Are we too early to know how that changes going into next season or are there things you already know about the broadcast that you can see “Oh, yeah. That wonderful three-year period is definitely over”? 

CS: Well, before the season starts, we’re all number one, right? That being said, there are realistic expectations of what the season could look like.  We’ve got Baker Mayfield at the helm and Kyle Trask is still on the radar.  We just don’t know how that will play out.  But we’ve got a very good team.  As far as I’m concerned, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are a couple of the best receivers in the league. And we’ve got a great defense with Vita Vea, Devin White, and LeVonta David; go through the list.  

That said, even when they aren’t leading the division, there’s just a high level of enthusiasm around the Bucs and the NFL in Tampa Bay.  How that affects broadcast? It’s interesting, during losing seasons you can see a higher level of engagement with sports radio. People love to call in and critique our team and talk about what we need to do to improve and what are the moves we need to make. 

On 95.3 WDAE, we’ve really built a strong local lineup. That’s unique compared to a lot of other markets. We’ve got live mornings, middays, and afternoons.  With our team, there’s definitely a bit of realism in 2023.  But there’s a bit of optimism as well. 

DR: You hit on this earlier. You guys are the only major dedicated sports station in town. But you do have a competitor that I don’t think many other markets have to deal with in that hot talk format that Cox has on 102.5. They do have some play-by-play, but they aren’t a sports station.            

Tell me a little bit about what kind of competition that is for sports radio when you have something that may be focused on the same audience in a different way. 

CS: The station you are referring to is not a sports station.  It’s a “guy talk” format.  They simply air the Tampa Bay Lightning play-by-play and do not offer that same type of content integration you can get with stations like WFLA and 95.3WDAE.    

We have enjoyed a phenomenal relationship with the Lightning for the past 30 years. It was a mutual decision to dissolve the rights deal.  I have nothing but great things to say about that organization and will continue to support them in many ways, outside of play-by-play.

We just recently signed long-term rights deals with both the Buccaneers and the Rays and have every intention to foster those partnerships for many years to come.

DR: So when they’re not doing play-by-play and it is that hot talk content, do you and your program director, John Mamola, emphasize that it is really important that WDAE stay pretty X’s and O’s sports talk rather than venturing out? I mean, forget trying to do what The Bone is doing, just the fact that you guys are dedicated sports talk. Is it important in your mind that that is always what listeners find when they turn on WDAE? 

CS: We definitely stay true to our mission of delivering high-quality sports programming to Tampa Bay fans with up-to-date scores and news combined with a healthy balance of on-air talent opinion.

But every show has its own personality, too. A perfect example is Pat & Aaron in the morning.  They refer to their listeners as “the goon squad.” They connect with their fan base in a tongue-in-cheek, personable way.  They absolutely recognize a large portion of our cume tunes in to get caught up on the latest news and/or what happened in the Rays game last night. So they get that news.  Maybe more importantly, listeners are looking for compelling takes.  They want to hear opinions of the different things that may have taken place in the game. 

There will be times where they go off script and have fun and talk about whatever. They want their personalities to connect with their listener base, but it’s always going to be aligned to sports in some way, shape, or form.

Another important differentiation between us and a “guy talk’ format is that our content is appropriate for a father and son on their way to school.  They can lean in and listen.  You don’t have to worry about inappropriate content coming out of our personalities’ mouths.

DR: I do want to jump back real quick to what you said about the relationship with the Buccaneers and it being more of a marketing play. How does that play out in terms of value? Is it in getting in-stadium recognition or is the promotional value more about being able to say to clients and listeners “This is the Bucs’ station”?

CS: The Buccaneers have their own sales team that goes out and represents game day inventory. When I say marketing, it’s about introducing 98ROCK to that large Buccaneer audience that tunes in on gameday.  There’s a lot of people that may never have listened to 98ROCK, or maybe haven’t listened in a long time.  

It was 2017 when we moved the Buccaneer broadcasts from US 103.5, our country station.  Ever since then, we have steadily watched 98ROCK’s overall ratings climb. We are consistently a top radio station Men 25-54 and top-five adults 25-54, which is a substantial growth over where we were before having the Buccaneers.  That’s not the only reason for our success.  But it speaks to the value of having play-by-play on your radio station.                             

We also get a lot of merchandise through our partnership, including a suite and additional tickets. We’ve got a promotional relationship as well.  There are different activations that we do together throughout the season.                      

The Bucs control the inventory, but it’s great content that draws listeners to our radio stations.  On the business side, we build football programs on WDAE and use that merchandise to build phenomenal marketing campaigns, including access to games. 

DR: Let’s talk about WFLA and John Mamola. That is a very busy guy, right? Both WDAE and WFLA are full-time jobs on their own. What did you need to know or hear from him sell you on the idea that he was capable of taking on both of these big responsibilities

CS: John Mamola is phenomenal. He is extremely detail-oriented.                      

The reality is, when you compare the two radio stations, WDAE is the more complicated of the two.  WFLA is a massive brand; a top three biller in the market.  But we have a lot of syndicated programming on the radio station, without a lot of promotional activations. There are some nuances associated with News Talk that needs to be managed, but not it’s not the same as managing all of the live and local content we have on WDAE and all activations associated with sports in Tampa Bay.             

We did put a new morning show on WFLA.  John has a lot of experience working with teams on delivering good content and staying aligned against the mission of the radio station.  That certainly applies to both brands. It’s spoken word, and the beauty of working with a company like iHeartMedia is we’ve got a lot of brand expertise throughout the company.

We’ve got folks like Grace Blazer, who is the company’s VP of National News Talk.  She provides a lot of coaching in terms of the actual content.  John is definitely the guy to manage all the moving parts of business. 

DR: This is an age with digital and on-demand media, when anybody can start a show any time they want to – podcast YouTube, whatever the case is – and they go sell it themselves. Has that influenced legacy media in major markets at all? How much are you asking the talent to really go out and lead the way in terms of acquiring new clients? 

CS: We don’t really deploy our on-air talent to go and sell on a one-to-one basis.  But I will tell you, our sales and programming teams are more aligned than ever against a common vision and a common goal.  And they work hand in hand to achieve those goals, whether it’s driving ratings or driving revenue.  

Also, social media has helped with the power of influencer marketing.  It’s just grown exponentially.  When you think about it, radio cultivated the first true social influencers, before social media ever existed.  I say that because of the way radio talent connects with their listeners. It’s a very personal relationship. And that’s what makes influencers influencers. 

The frenzy around influencer marketing has given us the opportunity to leverage the relationship our talent has with their listener bases.  It is very common for talent to join a sales rep to go out and meet with clients to help tell that story.  In some cases, they might even prepare a communication via e-mail or video that our account executives use to secure a meeting.  It might be… “Hey, this is TKrass. I just wanted to let you know that I’m familiar with your business and I’d love to talk about it on air”.  Using their star power on the front end gets people excited about doing business with us.  But like I said, we’re not really having them out there pitching business and closing business, you know what I mean? 

DR: I understand that. Alright, last one for you. A little bit more general about the industry. Where do you see opportunities for revenue growth in 2023 and beyond? Is it new sectors and clients or is it finding new revenue streams from the folks that have been with you for a long time? 

CS: It’s a little bit of both.  A big part of iHeartMedia’s expansion is with our digital platform.  That’s a massive part of what we’re doing today.  We are the world’s largest curator and provider of podcast content. From the moment podcasting took off, we enthusiastically expanded at a rapid pace and bought a couple of the biggest podcast companies that were creating content. Those purchases combined with all the audio on demand we were already doing, made us the largest player in that space.  That’s one of the hottest things that we have in the market right now.  Podcasting offers so much  value.  It’s lean in listening. It has the lowest ad skip rates out of just about any digital media out there and it delivers fantastic results. So, when we just look at this year and next year in terms of growth opportunities, that is a massive one for us.                  

When you look at our core platforms, I go back to what I said before. We can do a better job representing the marketing power our influencers have with their audiences.  We’ve got a very collaborative environment here in Tampa. I’m actually responsible for Tampa, Sarasota, Fort Myers and Punta Gorda.  So, it’s the west coast of Florida. We foster a collaborative environment between sales and programming in all of my markets. We’re finding ways to make that connection even stronger and lead with our talent. 

As far as new sectors, there are certain categories of business that were absolutely huge for us 20 years ago that are relatively small now and others that are on the rise, in a more non-traditional sense.  So, it’s about staying on top of trends.  And a lot of the trend requires us to look at are where are businesses are spending money in digital and approaching them with our collective assets.                    

We all know, there’s been massive growth in digital marketing. When you combine digital marketing with broadcast, the results grow incrementally, and we’ve got the data to back that up. Just think of all the businesses that target you on your personal social platforms. It’s amazing, the type of companies we’re calling on now and generating a lot of success.                      

Unlike any other broadcast company, we offer the opportunity to leverage our entire platform to super-serve any marketer coast to coast. We’re in every market except for Buffalo and Kansas City, and still reach those populations through digital extensions. That is one of the greatest competitive advantages we have.         

At iHeartMedia, our account executives are no longer restricted by geographical boundaries.  They generate business from emerging companies – even foreign companies that are making their way into the United States.  They leverage our entire platform, both broadcast and digital to meet their needs. That’s been a great growth opportunity for us. 

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Meet the Market Managers: Dave Fleck, KSE Denver

“I think you create a culture. That’s what’s important to me – creating a culture where we want to win. We want to be the best.”

Demetri Ravanos



MTMM Fleck

One day at a time. One month at a time. One book at a time. That is how Dave Fleck helped Altitude Sports Radio get to the level of success it enjoys now.

Of course, being the flagship station of the Denver Avalanche built a nice base for what happened last week, because the station is also the flagship of the Denver Nuggets. Market conditions, sometimes, work just as effectively as any talent or promotion ever could.

In this week’s Meet the Market Managers column, presented by Point to Point Marketing, Fleck talks about how small ideas can turn into great sales success, the amount of work and the kind of expectations that come with taking money from sportsbooks, and why it is important for a GM and a PD to gel.

Demetri Ravanos: Let’s start by talking about the last week. Obviously, a huge deal for you guys in Denver. Take me through the lead-up to and what we’re all the moving parts between programing and sales were to make sure that not only did you have full coverage of the Nuggets in their celebration, but also that on the sales side, you were able to take full advantage of that moment. 

Dave Fleck: Luckily Demetri, it’s been two years. We had good practice last year with our Avalanche and their Stanley Cup and the culmination of award-winning, great coverage last year for our Avalanche. So fortunately, we had just been through it several months earlier, but our team did a fantastic job – our radio team in addition to the team on the court. It’s a lot of moving parts that come down quickly.                 

Once you hit the Western Conference Finals, it really transcends your average and typical sports fan and just becomes something the entire community embraces. Sweeping the Lakers, they’ve been our nemesis for many years in trying to get over that hump, that was a big step. You could feel the excitement around the city, not just with the Lakers, but going in, even though we were a number one seed, as a bit of an underdog to the Suns. The community, the entire city just got so excited and could see kind of what the future might bring to us in the form of a championship. So it was it was a lot going on.                

Our team did a fantastic job from the coverage standpoint. We’re very fortunate in that we’ve got a lot of crossover talent with our RSN, Altitude Sports Television. Two of our morning show guys, Vic Lombardi and Marc Moser, are doing television for Altitude. Chris Dempsey, who’s on middays has been a Nuggets anchor for many years. Scott Hastings does color analysis for television. So, we’re very fortunate to be with the team and very fortunate to have ownership that owns both the team and the radio station. I think that that puts us in a position to really bring the best content that we possibly can to the community. Our guys were on their game. They were topical, they were fun, and they were entertaining. Listeners want that kind of behind-the-velvet-rope experience. When you have talent that travels with the team and are closely connected, you get those stories and you get the content that people want. I think our team delivers it in an entertaining way. 

DR: One of the things that I’ve heard from multiple people about Denver sports radio is that fans there were conditioned for a very specific type of sports talk – a professional host sets up a former Bronco. You guys bucked that trend a while ago, and now obviously, the timing couldn’t be better to have people involved in so many other sports.               

How have listeners reacted? Did it take time for them to get used to something different, or did you guys find that entertainment is entertainment, and if it was good, the listeners were going to be there? 

DF: I think the listeners were there. Once they found us, they were entertained. We never had much of an issue with time spent listening, Demetri. It was all about building more cume. That tells me that once people found us, they really enjoyed a few things. One is that it is entertaining and another is that we talk about all sports – not even just the teams that we’re the flagship for.           

We cover high school, we talk soccer, golf, college football, and college athletics. We talk about it all, whether it’s Air Force Academy, CU, and CSU. Certainly there’s plenty to talk about up at CU. We pride ourselves on talking all sports but, you know, it’s this is an NFL town.                 

The Broncos have a rich history and we certainly talk Broncos in an entertaining fashion and have hired talent that can do that. Certainly, the Avalanche and Nuggets, the city of Denver and the region have been nuts over the two teams that we are fortunate enough to be the flagship for. 

DR: So given that for so long sports talk in the town was Broncos-focused to the point that those two teams you just mentioned rarely got the kind of spotlight that you guys have been able to give them, did you find that you guys are talking to a different segment of the sports talk demographic? Are you guys skewing a little bit younger than you might expect a sports station in Denver to? 

DF: We are doing well with the 18 to 34-year-old segment. I think our talent is part of that. You’ve got Bret Kane that anchors the morning show with Vic and Mos. I think Bret brings in that younger audience. In midday, certainly Chris Dempsey’s a veteran in the business but he’s partnered with Alex Rajaniemi, “Raj”, who is a young man that is a sports encyclopedia. Then. from an entertainment standpoint, Matt McChesney, former CU Buffalo football player, former Bronco and NFL player, brings an entertainment side and a characteristic that that is is unique to Matt McChesney.               

I don’t know that we’re actively saying we want to go younger. For me, I just want us to be entertaining, whether you’re you’re 22 or 52. I’m 56 and I’m a sports talk junkie. I just love being entertained and I love hearing about all the different sports.              

I think you create a culture. That’s what’s important to me – creating a culture where we want to win. We want to be the best. Everybody just rolls up their sleeves and works hard and a lot of people wear a lot of different hats at the station and everybody’s willing to jump in and do whatever they can.                    

You know, you’ve got Andy Lindhal in afternoon drive, who was a long-time Broncos sideline reporter. He knows the nuances of training camp, so he can help get us in good positions, get us interviews with former players, and things of that nature. It’s a team effort. You know, it’s not just Kevin Shockey, our program director, and myself and management. It’s all the talent creating a culture where they speak up. “How do we win?” “What’s the best thing for this radio station so that we can entertain, entertain our listeners?” 

DR: So I want to ask you about Kevin, because it was around this time last year that you started that search for a new program director. I wonder if going into it you had a concrete idea of what it was you were looking for. I mean, KSE is obviously a very different business than a lot of radio ownership groups are. Is there anything in that search that you knew you needed that might surprise even people in the business? 

DF: I was looking for somebody with good energy – good, positive energy. It didn’t necessarily have to come with a wealth of experience in sports talk, although Kevin was an assistant program director at KJR in Seattle for a long time. I knew relatively from the first time that I met him on a Teams call like this. I just felt really good about his energy. Candidly, he had big shoes to fill from the person that was in here before, because I trusted that person and he did a lot.         

Kevin is very different from what we had here before. His energy level is different. Our former program director was a little bit more methodical and Kevin is excited and always comes in with fresh ideas.                     

I just wanted somebody that I could gel with and we could have an open dialog. You know, I certainly have thoughts, but they’re not always right. And I wanted somebody that was comfortable to say, “Hey, what about this instead? I know you, I know you like it this way, but can we try this this way.” And I like that about him. He speaks up, speaks his mind, and we come to a quick consensus on most of our decision-making.                      

At the end of the day, it’s his station to program, and I want him to have the autonomy to do that. 

DR: I want to go back to the idea that KSE is not your typical radio business. I think anybody that has never worked for a station like that, they have a preconceived notion of what it means to be the station owned by the team. What are the realities? What are the realities of not only expectations for your air staff but for you as well when it comes to coverage or advertising those four teams that Kroenke owns?

DF : We’re, as I said, incredibly fortunate. I was with Fox Sports prior to Mr. Kroenke starting Altitude Television, and a group of us came over when Altitude was launched. Then he buys the radio stations and it is unique. I don’t know, maybe there’s one or two other sports entities in the country. You can look at Toronto and maybe MSG with their television network, that is team owned. So we are unique and that while we’re the flagship we’re also owned by the company that owns the teams.                     

I want our talent to be real. I want them to be honest. If they need to critique the team, coaches, players, whatever, they can do that, but they need to be fair. I would say that not just about our teams, but really any team in the market. I don’t want us going out and attacking the Rockies because they’re having a tough season. We can critique, but I don’t want anybody to get nasty. Just call it how it is. You don’t need to bad-mouth ownership. You can point out some challenges that other teams are having in the market.              

I certainly don’t want name-calling or doing things like that to our teams, because we are owned by the Kroenkes, but we can certainly be fair and critique and bring up the challenges that our teams have. So it’s a balance, but I would expect us to respect those boundaries of any ownership, whether it’s Kroenke or any other team. 

DR: You guys have a sales promotion sales partnership that I really like because as simple as it is, I am guessing it involved every department. It’s the “Ska Friday” you guys do on the afternoon show. I made it’s named for a brewing company that sponsors it. The idea is simple – stupid, terrible ska music. They play it out of breaks.                  

Again, simple, but I would imagine that’s the kind of thing that Andy Lindahl, Nate Kreckman and their producer all have to be a part of, maybe not from conception, but on a weekly basis, certainly to make work. 

DF: Absolutely, and it was from conception. Buy-in from the talent is really important. It started on the sales end. Nate even did kind of an audition dance because he thought he thought that is what they wanted. You know what? He owned it. He wanted to move the needle for the client.                 

I will tell you whether it’s Ska Brewing or any of our other advertisers, I try not to get too caught up in the monthly ratings. Certainly, it’s part of what we do and it’s the currency that we trade on. We are having great success with those ratings currently, but it’s one book at a time. We’ve seen great development with that, but I don’t let that be the be-all and end-all. For me, Demetri, it’s do we get results.                        

If our revenue continues to grow month in and month out and our advertisers continue to stick with us and every month continue to spend their advertising dollars with us, then that means we’re working for them. We’re getting results for them. When I see the kind of growth that we’ve had from a revenue standpoint, not just our own growth year to year, but just in comparison to the marketplace, what we’re doing specifically from a local revenue standpoint, it makes me really proud of the sales team and the on-air staff and the promotions staff and the engineering staff. Everybody’s working together to put out the best possible product that we can. It’s getting results for advertisers and they’re going to continue to renew with us month in and month out. That’s what excites me most, because while the ratings are growing and we’re building that cume, and I’m thankful that we’re the flagship of world championship teams, I also know that it’s the hard work that this team is doing day-in and day-out, putting out great content, coming up with superb sales ideas to put in front of clients and a promotions department that fulfills it.              

I put us up against anybody in the market with how we facilitate and implement our promotions and ad campaigns. So if the revenue is growing, that means we’re doing something right for our advertisers. 

DR: So speaking of doing something right for your advertisers, Colorado was in the first wave of states to legalize sports betting once it was left up to states. I remember listening to not only you guys around that time, but other stations in the marker as well. Every sportsbook in the world was buying those stations at that time. I do have to ask, because I think this is really interesting as more and more states legalize and people are a little bit more methodical about those buys, how did you approach that advertising as a company?                        

The Colorado market exploded. There had to be some things either initially or over time you that you thought about. Did you put any guideline in place, both for advertisers and sellers to make sure that the advertisers’ message wasn’t getting lost amongst so much competition? 

DF: Yeah, I think we’ve done a really good job of giving each of those gaming companies something they can hang their hat on. That speaks to creativity within the sales department and the production group and cutting out a little piece of something that those gaming companies can own.                    

Colorado is very fortunate as an entire media market to be one of the early ones to approve gaming. I’m especially proud of our group our ad sellers, and I guess I’m fortunate in coming with my background, coming in from the sponsorship and television side and the arena sponsorship. You know, you get accustomed to asking for those larger dollars than maybe you typically would on the radio side.                

We saw this category coming in and we knew it was it was flush with cash. So how do we do the best job that we can for those gaming companies as well as for our organization? I mean, everybody wants an endorser, but there’s only so many on-air talents that you can have or producers to endorse a product. Early on, we set specific parameters and thresholds that those gaming companies had to meet and we were very successful in holding that line.                  

You get a lot of sellers that say, “Oh, my gosh, we’ve got to take this deal!”. Well, no, we don’t have to take this deal. We can wait and we can see what else comes in. If they want multiple endorsers, then they have to pay for that. Just because they’re coming in and spending a decent amount of money doesn’t mean they just get carte blanche on the number of endorsers. If they wanted special promotions, then we would create those for them. But it came with a specific spending parameter that they had to meet. Fast forward to 2020 coming out of COVID, it was great to have that happen here in the state.               

As more states come online, that category starts shrinking. A lot of players were in that category initially. Some have been bought out, some just folded up shop and it’s consolidated a little bit. So through that consolidation and as that category matures, you change your strategy and your parameters. I’m still really happy with what we’ve done in that category from both from a revenue standpoint and more importantly, how we work for each of those companies to have success with what we can offer, whether that is specific promotions, tying them into certain endorsers, or coming up with something unique for them.                       

I’ll give you an example. We’ve got Betsafe here, which is a great supporter of ours. They like to educate, so we come up with an idea for betting tips. You know, “what does ‘the money line’ mean?” and “what is an ‘over/under’?”. We’re looking at different betting terminology that that the average person may not understand and explaining that to them and using 15 second ads to just share that knowledge. We’re not recreating the wheel, but it’s coming up with different ideas for each gaming company. We need to move the needle for them and generate activations for each of those apps. 

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