SBJ/February 13-19, 2012/In-Depth

Sports Junkies keep the focus on content

The Sports Junkies’ new Lanham, Md., studios have all the bells and whistles of modern radio. One of the Washington, D.C.-area’s longest running and most successful morning radio shows, the Sports Junkies moved into WJFK’s new digs at the end of last year.

The FM station’s new studio has high-speed Internet lines attached to laptops in front of all four of the hosts. It features high-tech lighting and room for TV cameras, should the radio show ever cut a deal with a local TV channel.

Four childhood friends form the Sports Junkies crew. They say growing their audience all comes down to improving the quality of their show, not relying on technology.
Photo by: CBS Radio
While the studio has all the technology to help WJFK compete for the next several years, the future of radio was not much on the minds of the four Sports Junkies when SportsBusiness Journal visited their studio in early January.

Some of the group have blogs and are active on Twitter. But when asked about how to grow their business, the hosts remain focused on over-the-air radio. They believe the best way to grow is to improve the quality of the show.

“We’re more focused on maintaining success where we are,” said John Auville, who goes by the name of “Cakes” on-air. “Nothing’s guaranteed here. You get a couple of bad ratings books, and you’re gone.”

That focus on content is one of the reasons the group has developed a following in D.C. The premise of the show is unique: Four childhood friends from the D.C. suburbs get together and have a conversation about sports (usually), entertainment (sometimes) and politics (rarely).

The Junkies are all in their mid-40s, and the camaraderie and chemistry they have developed is strong. They know each other so well they can finish each other’s sentences. They sometimes talk entertainingly about times when they were all together as kids in the 1980s.

They started on radio in 1995 and in many ways their view of radio hasn’t developed much since then. They make podcasts available and their show is streamed over the Internet. But their focus clearly is on terrestrial radio.

“It’s the way that the ratings are compiled,” said host John-Paul Flaim. “That’s the reality. You need people listening to you live.”

The station’s program director, Chris Kinard, agreed, saying his focus is on the content, rather than the technology. If the technology evolves, he believes his content will be able to make the switch.

“Until they put computers and streaming audio into every car, radio is going to be very, very strong,” he said. “Even after that, stations like this will still provide local content, whether it’s over-the-air, podcasting or streaming. We’re a local product. You can’t replace that.”

The Sports Junkies produce a bawdy and fun show. During a show on Friday, Jan. 20, they moved from talking about the upcoming Ravens-Patriots AFC Championship game to a story from a British newspaper about a woman who was born with two vaginas.

“If I had to talk about sports the whole show, I’d blow my brains out,” said one of the hosts, Eric Bickel.

But those types of conversations have limited the platforms where the Sports Junkies can take their show. TV networks have shied away not only from some of their risqué content, but also from their no-holds-barred view of Washington-area sports teams that have business relationships with many of the networks that would carry their programming.

Said Flaim: “You’d never see that with Comcast SportsNet. They’re nuts-and-bolts.”


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