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Can 3 Sports Stations Last In Indy?

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As 3 p.m. hits each weekday, fans with an insatiable appetite for Indianapolis sports talk have choices.

Three local drive-time radio shows commence, each claiming to have a special recipe for success.

For the “Kent Sterling Show,” it’s all sports all the time, no veering into pop culture. On “The Ride” with JMV, Lady Gaga (and almost anyone else) is fair game. “Query & Schultz,” the only two-man show in the time slot, is somewhere in between with a twist — banter sparked by their differing viewpoints.

In the cutthroat industry of radio — which is battling a seemingly ever-increasing ocean of competing media from the Internet to iTunes to satellite radio — sports is as cutthroat as any genre.

How many people are listening to the local shows? In Indianapolis, the 40th largest among U.S. radio markets, JMV’s station leads the way. Nielsen audio rankings show WFNI (107.5 FM, 1070 AM) garnered a 3.8 rating in January. Query & Schultz’s WNDE (1260 AM) received a 0.4 rating and WXNT (1430 AM), where Sterling airs, finished the month with a 0.1 rating.

When it came to afternoon drive time ratings for individual shows, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., WFNI received a 4.2, WNDE a 0.6 and WXNT a 0.2.

In a market such as Indy, home to the Colts, Pacers, IU, Purdue and Butler, there is room for plenty of sports talk. But is there enough room for this much? Or is it just a matter of time until one falls off the airwaves?

“I think there’s room. I sure hope there is,” said Jeff Smulyan, founder and CEO of Emmis Communications, which owns WFNI. He’s also the man who invented the format, launching the first 24-hour sports talk station in New York in July 1987. “Ultimately, it’s up to what the audience wants.”

The hosts of the three shows say that there is a market for all to survive. All three shy away from talking ratings. In fact, all say that they don’t even consider one another competitors, and that the more high-quality shows there are, the better.

“That is smoke,” said Scott Bridge, internship director for the college of communication at Butler University, who teaches electronic journalism and sports broadcasting. “Everybody is being professional and that’s nice. But I think when behind closed doors, they want to kick each other’s asses.”

They are all trying to nab the biggest share they can of the sports talk radio pie in Indianapolis, appealing to an audience that is two-thirds men ages 25 to 54, according to Bridge’s research.

Sterling, who previously worked at WFNI and has been doing his show less than a year, delivers analysis to the diehard sports fan without references to what Lady Gaga did at the Academy Awards.

“We talk about sports. That’s just what I do best,” said Sterling, 52. “It wasn’t a competitive decision to do that. It’s just what I think this format does best and what listeners like best.”

JMV, who moved from WNDE to WFNI in 2010, mixes pop culture and some non-sports stories into talk about the games, teams and players. He wants to grab those listeners who want entertainment beyond sports.

“It’s like the Super Bowl,” said JMV, whose real name is John Gliva, 45. “They don’t have to have Katy Perry because people are going to watch, but I’m trying to get everybody into the club to hang out and have fun. It’s all about trying to fish for what is going to pull in and keep that person that maybe wouldn’t necessarily be listening, while also keeping that person that’s your top-level listener.”

“Query & Schultz,” which started in 2011, combine the two approaches while using the dynamic duo approach to banter, argue and make fun of each other.

“When you have two people, you have a greater opportunity of diversity of thought,” said Jake Query, 42. “One of the benefits of having a two-person show is Derek and I never intentionally disagree. We never pre-write who’s going to take what stance but, because we’re of different ages (Schultz is 11 years younger), because we’re of different backgrounds to an extent, I think that by and large people listening are going to have their opinion expressed.”

None of the hosts would comment on how successful their approach affects ratings. Some voiced concerns that the method Nielsen uses to measure audience listening is inaccurate and doesn’t tell the whole story.

Smulyan said it’s clear that JMV is running away with the sports talk market in Indianapolis.

The ESPN backing, radio signal strength and affiliation with the Colts, Indiana, Pacers and Butler give WFNI a decided advantage, Bridge said. (WNDE broadcasts Purdue.) He doesn’t believe that means the others can’t survive.

“People need their sports,” Bridge said. “We are a nation of rabid sports fans. I think they are always going to have an audience.”

Credit to the Indy Star who originally published this article

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Parker Hillis Named Brand Manager of Sports Radio 610

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Goodbye snow and hello heat! Parker Hillis is headed to Houston. Audacy has announced that he will be the new brand manager for Sports Radio 610.

“Parker is a rising star,” Sarah Frazier, Senior Vice President and Market Manager of Audacy in Houston, said in a press release. “He has impressed us since day one with his innovative ideas, focus on talent coaching and work ethic. We’re thrilled to have him join our Audacy team.”

Hillis comes to the market from Denver. He has spent the last three years with Bonneville’s 104.3 The Fan. He started as the station’s executive producer before rising to APD earlier this year.

In announcing his exit from The Fan on his Facebook page, Hillis thanked Fan PD Raj Sharan for preparing him for this opportunity.

“His leadership and guidance set the stage for me to continue to grow and develop in this industry, one that I absolutely love,” Hillis wrote. “This is a special place, one that I am honored to have been a part of and so sad to leave.”

Sports Radio 610 began the process to find a new brand manager in February when Armen Williams announced he was leaving the role. Williams also came to Houston from Denver. He started his own business outside the radio industry.

“I’m excited to join the Sports Radio 610 team in Houston,” said Hillis. “The opportunity to direct and grow an already incredible Audacy brand is truly an honor.”

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Schopp & Bulldog: NFL Has To Figure Out Pro Bowl Alternative That Draws Same Audience

“The game just could not be less interesting.”

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After years of criticism and declining television ratings, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell publicly stated this week that the Pro Bowl, as it is currently contested, is no longer a viable option for the league and that there would be discussions at the league meetings to find another way to showcase the league’s best players.

Yesterday afternoon, Schopp and Bulldog on WGR in Buffalo discussed the growing possibility of the game being discontinued, and how the NFL could improve on the ratings it generates with new programming.

“The same number of people [who] watched some recent… game 7 between Milwaukee and Boston… had the same audience as the Pro Bowl had last year,” said co-host Chris “The Bulldog” Parker. “….Enough people watch it to make it worth their while; it’s good business. They’ll put something in that place even though the game is a joke.”

One of the potential outcomes of abolishing the Pro Bowl would be replacing it with a skills showdown akin to what the league held last year prior to the game in Las Vegas. Some of the competitions held within this event centered around pass precision, highlight catches and a non-traditional football competition: Dodgeball. Alternatively, the league could revisit the events it held in 2021 due to the cancellation of the Pro Bowl because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which included a virtual Madden showdown and highlight battle, appealing to football fans in the digital age.

Stefon Diggs and Dion Dawkins of the Buffalo Bills were selected to the AFC Pro Bowl roster this past season, and while it is a distinct honor, some fans would rather see the game transformed or ceased entirely – largely because of the risks associated with exhibition games.

In 1999, the NFL held a rookie flag football game on a beach in Waikiki, Hawaii before the Pro Bowl in which New England Patriots running back Robert Edwards severely dislocated his knee while trying to catch a pass. He nearly had to have his leg amputated in the hospital, being told that there was a possibility he may never walk again. Upon returning to the league four seasons later with the Miami Dolphins, Edwards was able to play in 12 games, but then lost his roster spot at the end of the season, marking the end of his NFL career.

“You might not want to get too crazy with this stuff, but there’d have to be some actual contests to have it be worth doing at all,” expressed show co-host Mike Schopp. “Do you not have a game? I don’t know.”

The future of the Sunday before the Super Bowl is very much in the air, yet Goodell has hardly been reticent in expressing that there needs to be a change made in the league to better feature and promote the game’s top players. In fact, he’s been saying it since his first days as league commissioner in 2006, evincing a type of sympathy for the players participating in the contest, despite it generating reasonable television ratings and advertising revenue.

“Maybe the time has come for them to really figure out a better idea, and maybe that’s what’s notable [about] Goodell restating that he’s got a problem with it,” said Parker. “If there’s some sort of momentum about a conversation [on] creating a very different event that could still draw your 6.7 million eyeballs, maybe they’ll figure out a way to do something other than the game, because the game just could not be less interesting.”

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Iowa Adds WCKG As Chicago Radio Affiliate

“The Hawkeyes open their season at home on September 3 against FCS power South Dakota State.”

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Iowa City, home of the University of Iowa, sits just over three and a half hours from Chicago. It makes sense to assume plenty of alumni move to the Windy City after school and that other Iowa fans live in the metro area as well. That is why the Hawkeyes have struck a deal with WCKG to become their radio affiliate in Chicago.

The station, which is heard on 1530 AM, will air the entire season of Iowa football.

“Iowa Football’s storied history, continued success, and loyal fan base and alumni network throughout Chicagoland made this move a no-brainer for WCKG,” WCKG Sports Director Jon Zaghloul said in a press release. “I’m excited to bring the Hawkeyes to Chicago, and can’t wait to start airing games this Fall. It’s a huge acquisition for our brand, and, more importantly, our devoted listeners.” 

The Hawkeyes open their season at home on September 3 against FCS power South Dakota State. Gary Dolphin has called all of the school’s sports on radio since 1996. Ed Podolak is his partner in the booth during football season.

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