Picking Partners

May 6, 2014


Peter Smyth

We were very pleased to recently announce the partnership of our station, Detroit Sports 105.1, with the Detroit Pistons organization.   Next season, 105.1 will be the radio home for all Pistons play by play games, home and away.

The Pistons are a great addition to our on-air lineup and fit well with our partnership with the ESPN Radio Network.  Greater Media is no stranger to sports broadcasts, with both The Fanatic in Philadelphia and WBT in Charlotte acting as flagship stations for major professional sports teams, a fact that we are very proud of.

But I want to focus on this newly-minted partnership in Detroit because it gives us a glimpse into the framework and spirit of partnerships now and in the future.  This agreement was the work of Palace Sports and Entertainment CEO Dennis Mannion and Greater Media’s Detroit Market Manager, Steve Chessare.  These gentlemen have crafted what they call a “content creation agreement”.  In the course of their conversations, they shared the mission and long term vision of each organization with each other.  What they found is much more than simply a home for play-by-play.

What does a content creation agreement encompass?  First, it contains a spirit of openness and cooperation.  There will be the standard game broadcasts, pregame and postgame shows, as well as “Pistons Minutes” broadcast throughout the week.  And Detroit Sports 105.1 will be the originating station for the Pistons Radio Network.

But there’s more depth to this partnership; together we will explore new and innovative ways to work together.   We are going to utilize our HD2 channel to create an on-air home for Pistons superfans, where they can get in-depth information, updates, profiles and highlights whenever they choose.    While the station staff will host and create a portion of the content for this new channel, the Pistons organization will also provide original content tailored for the devoted fan audience.

Video is part of radio today, and now video from games, locker room, practice and player profiles will be part of the online presence at detroitsports105.1.com.  This is another opportunity for station personnel to collaborate with Pistons staff and provide insights and up-close portraits that fans will not see on broadcast television.  These collaborative pieces will be part of both the Pistons.com and Detroitsports1051.com websites. The station will also integrate the Pistons into our mobile app, and game broadcasts will be streamed live.

The way this partnership is structured allows for creativity on both sides and innovation both on air and online.  Our PD, Jason Dixon, is thinking about new ideas such as alternate play by play targeted to younger listeners or new basketball fans.

Greater Media will also bring to bear the influence of our two powerhouse rock stations, WRIF and WCSX, to help Palace Sports & Entertainment with their extensive concert schedule at both the Palace and DTE Energy Music Theater, Detroit’s summer concert venue.  The long-standing promotional relationships that the rock and classic rock stations have with the venues, promoters, and artists will take on added dimensions.   Both partners will win.

Why is this partnership important?  Because it can serve as an example and a laboratory for new and innovative ways to approach our business.  For many advertisers, radio stations are “suppliers” or, even worse, “vendors” to their business.   We are on the outer edge of the decision-making, and work to fill specifications or demographic rating points without getting the opportunity to put all of our assets at the service of the advertiser.   We are dependent on the judgment of the business owner or the buying service to make informed and measured decisions about the best way to approach our listeners.  Creative approach and execution come to the station a few hours before airtime, and we meet the criteria. Not exactly what I would call an intimate customer relationship or a partnership.

With a bit more time invested, and plans shared and respected in confidence, our radio station staffs, both sales and creatives, can do a far better and more integrated job for our clients.  Of course, that will not happen if our salespeople pursue only transactional relationships in the media buying department.  But if we invest the time and effort to present our capabilities and the possibilities for specific clients, we can begin to create a relationship that could blossom into a partnership like the one we are embarking on with the Pistons.   It is our job to convince the client that there is a valuable, measurable return on that investment of trust, as Nielsen and Clear Channel demonstrated with the recently-released study quantifying the ROI on brand radio advertising.

These are the relationships that will keep radio vital and profitable.  They will also be the way that we can maintain and extend our spirit of innovation and service to our clients.  Not every innovation will be a world-class success and not every partnership will be profitable.  But it is the path forward.