Entercom details national strategy for Radio.com Sports
With designs on becoming a bigger player in sports, Entercom is shedding the CBS Sports Radio brand and embarking on a national sales and editorial strategy around its 25 all-sports radio stations under the Radio.com Sports banner.
The company, which bought CBS Radio 15 months ago, will continue to operate its stations locally. But it plans to use the Radio.com Sports brand across each of its sports radio stations, taking advantage of its national footprint as a way to push ad sales and programming initiatives onto these local channels and their digital platforms.
The initiative, led by Mike Dee, president of sports and a longtime sports executive, is intended to create a powerful national platform by threading together the company’s local expertise and personalities. Executives believe this move will create a national platform that will rival the country’s biggest radio company, iHeartRadio, and immediately make it an even bigger player in the sports marketplace.
“It really starts with the extraordinary platform that we have built,” said David Field, Entercom chairman, president and CEO. “Just as important is the extraordinary lineup of local personalities in great markets. It’s about local connections at a national scale. Nothing is more powerful than the engagement and passion of the local sports fan.”
By becoming more national in scope, Radio.com Sports believes it has a better story for advertisers. It has already signed Mercedes-Benz to a seven-figure deal as a launch partner for Radio.com Sports. Jimmy McCloud, executive vice president of sports strategy, said he is close to announcing two more sponsors.
Listeners will notice the change in several ways. The company’s popular local sports radio stations will be encouraged to use out-of-market guests that are part of the Radio.com Sports family. The group is in the process of hiring several “Sports Insiders” that it will push its stations to use regularly. It already has hired The Athletic’s Ross Tucker for NFL-related appearances and former Yankees manager Joe Girardi for MLB-related ones. The goal is to create national, authoritative voices on sports that it can use at the local level.
“We want 50 percent of our guests to be Radio.com ‘Sports Insiders,’ which we’re going to build from the inside out,” Dee said. “We’ve never had a national schedule for guests, so this enables us to go out and sell against them.”
Company executives had been growing frustrated with the number of appearances its stations give to outside reporters and their outlets. Dee specifically referenced The Athletic, whose writers frequently appear on his stations’ shows to promote stories, even as The Athletic is building an audio business that could be seen as competitive.
Radio.com also plans to use its hosts as guests on other shows in different markets. For example, a host of a show on KRLD in Dallas should be a guest on Mike Francesa’s show on WFAN in New York before the Cowboys-Giants game, Dee said.
Each of the stations also plans to roll out Radio.com breaking news alerts, which will be sponsored.
“Very few of our stations had a breaking news mnemonic — a sound and a specific program and a sponsor,” Dee said. “Now we’ll have Radio.com Sports Breaking News, whether it’s a local story or a national story … It really creates new inventory and new opportunities for advertisers.”
But don’t expect Radio.com Sports to make its stations be national, especially when the bulk of advertising revenue comes from local sources.
“We are not extracting ourselves from being the local sports authority,” Dee said. “We’re building on that … The other part of it was to really start to manage our content differently. We have an enormous amount of content, you know, most of the leading sports talk shows in every market where we do business are ours. But with the example I just gave you, there really hasn’t been a 40,000-foot view to say who goes on our air, how are they identified.”