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CBS Sports Radio is On The Air

CBS Sports Radio is now up and running with its 24-hour network which will immediately pit CBS against sports powerhouse ESPN. While Dial Global/NBC, Fox Sports Radio, and David Gow's Yahoo! Sports will also be tough competitors in this space, the major market signals in the CBS portfolio combined with Cumulus's huge roster of possible affiliates is going to put CBS in a position to give ESPN headaches. We spoke to CBS Radio Senior Vice President of Programming Chris Oliviero about  the launch.

Of course, the massive ESPN brand has a head start of more than a decade. They are everywhere. Radio, TV, in your phone, and on your tablet. They have shows like Mike & Mike that have been around forever and have become their own brands. One of the first CBS Sports announcements was the poaching of ESPN's Doug Gottlieb who will hold down the 3PM to 6PM slot on the network. CBS's network morning show will be the three-person team of Tiki Barber, Brandon Tierney, and Dana Jacobson. In addition to, all of the above, there is also Entercom. While not a network, the local Entercom talent in San Francisco, Boston, Buffalo, and other cities is formidable.

CBS, too, has always been strong at local sports. On our recently released list of local talkers, CBS occupied five of the top 10 positions. With stations like WFAN in New York, The WIP in Philly, and WJFK in D.C., just to name a few, CBS will be able to weave network programming into its local affiliates, making those local brands even stronger. We'll see how it goes and hear how it sounds in 2013. We spoke to CBS Radio Senior Vice President of Programming Chris Oliviero about what's happening these final days before the launch.

Less than a week to go. A long time in the making. What are your thoughts? Must be a lot of excitement building. Tell us about what everybody is going through during this final countdown.
We have assembled a first-class staff for CBS SPORTS RADIO, both on and off the air, led by Eric Spitz. The whole team has been working tirelessly this holiday season to make sure we deliver for our affiliates right out of the box on Day 1. The holidays are always a hectic time of year but when you now add to that the task of launching a 24/7 sports radio network, it can get even crazier and stressful, but I must say, despite these challenges, our team has managed it all seamlessly. They absolutely have been running on adrenaline and excitement in anticipation of the inaugural broadcast of CBS SPORTS RADIO at midnight on Jan 2nd.   

Tell us about the massive effort in people and time putting this together. Someone came up with the idea originally. Now, it's about to become a full-blown reality.
It has definitely been a sprint since we announced our plans in June to be 24/7 by January, but again, to the credit of our team, weve not just pulled it off but did so I feel at a very high level of quality content which was our main goal. CBS SPORTS RADIO has hired over 65 people in this time, on-air and off-air, full time and part time, which is another great byproduct of this launch. At a point when our industry has seen more stories about contraction, this is one of growth and expansion. All of these people have contributed to delivering a debut programming line-up that around the clock is filled with recognizable names, compelling personalities, and best-in-class sports radio professionals.   

What should listeners expect to hear that first day and first week (not specific topics)? You think everyone is ready? Will we hear some nervousness, working out kinks, etc?
Listeners should expect to hear great and compelling sports talk on Day 1. Period. It is not about us on Day 1, it is about the listeners; and honestly they could care less about the 'industry chatter' about a new sports radio network and all the inner workings. When people get in their car this week, they want to talk about the NFL playoffs and the BCS Championship plus any other major sports headlines of the day, so thats what we will give them right out of the box. Our talent and producers know this and are ready to roll. 

Was there a lot of practice that your talent did to get ready? Did they do mock shows and things like that?
Of course we had to do dry runs to work out the technical glitches and get the staff comfortable with the equipment in advance of signing on, as would be expected. But in terms of the air talent, as I mentioned, one of the best things about the CBS SPORTS RADIO line-up is that from top to bottom it is staffed with the biggest names in sports radio and professionals that have been doing this for a long time and know what to do when the light goes on. Affiliates are not getting a 'start up' line-up or an 'expansion team' roster, but instead all-stars who have competed in this space at the highest level for a long time. 

On January 2, 2014, what are you hoping to see when you look back?
Simply put, we hope to look back a year from now and see many happy affiliates that feel they have been rewarded with great content each and every day of the year . . . thats our mission. 

Where can listeners go online to listen?
The site is www.cbssports.com/radio which will continue to evolve during the year and will just be one part of our digital strategy that will bring our content to as many platforms as possible, while also working hand in hand with our affiliates in this space as well.


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November 19, 2014 in New York. Click anywhere on an image to advance to the next.

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