Armen Williams is the Program Director for Sports Radio 104.3 The Fan in Denver. Williams started in radio as a promotions intern at KPLX in Dallas. And like so many people in the radio business, he caught the radio bug early. He eventually moved up to producer at The FAN in Dallas, gaining valuable experience on the programming side. He then took a PD job at WTMM in Albany before being hired as PD at KKFN in Denver in January 2016. This year Williams has been voted one of Radio Ink’s Best Programmers.
Bonneville Denver Market Manager Bob Call tells Radio Ink he was impressed with Williams the second he walked through the door. “As the third Program Director of KKFN in over 20 years, he immediately jumped in to make the necessary changes helping lift the station to its most successful ratings run ever. KKFN has been a solid number one in men 25-54 every quarter Armen has been here. He rebuilt half of the morning show, bringing Mark Schlereth from ESPN, created brand new shows 9a-12n and noon-3. His imaging of KKFN has been terrific. He has an almost natural sense of leadership. His team took to him immediately and they believe in him. Combined with this consistent ratings performance, revenue for KKFN has more than doubled in the same period. Armen has done a great job and deserves this recognition.”
Radio Ink’s Best Programmers list will be unveiled on May 7. While we will be spotlighting several PDs leading up to that issue, the entire list will only be available in our print and digital issues. Subscribe to our print issue HERE and our digital issue HERE in time to receive this issue.
Here is our extended interview with Bonneville Denver’s Armen Williams.
Radio Ink: How did you get into radio?
Armen Williams: When I was 13 years old, I wrote Linda O’Brian at KSCS in Dallas. I told her I wanted to be on the radio when I grew up and asked if I could help out around the station to get experience. To this day, I’m so thankful that she let me in the door. My parents would drop me off once a week to clean prize closets, load vehicles, and escort artists to the green room. When I turned 16 I was able to drive and immediately was employed part-time for all six stations in the building, mostly in the promotions department. I became a program director in the summer of 2013 when Sports Radio Talent Coach David Brody called me, and in our initial conversation was the first person to tell me, “You need to be a program director!” That August, I became the Program Director of WTMM in Albany, New York. It’s the first time I had ever lived outside of the state of Texas and it’s the gutsiest and greatest career decision I’ve made in my life.
Radio Ink: Tell us exactly what you are responsible for today.
Armen Williams: I’m responsible for the overall sound and messaging of Sports Radio 104.3 The Fan. From the imaging to the content, I try my best to have a pulse on it as much as I can. I’m lucky enough to work with, what I believe, is one of the most talented local lineups in the entire country. We have seven Super Bowl rings on staff with a total of 45 years of NFL experience. I mean, c’mon, what an embarrassment of riches that I get to watch and work with every day. It’s a blast.
Radio Ink: What is your biggest station accomplishment (outside of ratings) over the past year?
Armen Williams: We have a group of nine veteran hosts, who average 19 years of radio experience. It’s gotten to the point where all of them are on the same page of believing who we are and what we do. It would be understandable if this was a group full of egos who all wanted to do their own thing. But they work together, believe in, and actually really like each other. Growing up listening to legendary KTCK in Dallas, I can say that we have a piece of that vibe where we’ve created a clubhouse environment that sounds like a bunch of buddies who truly live for talking sports. When it all comes together like that, it’s such a good feeling.
Radio Ink: Who do you consider your mentors in the radio business, and why?
Armen Williams: When I was in grade school, I started following around Jay Jenson on KPLX. I would make my parents take me to his remotes, sometimes multiple times a week. To this day, he’s like a second father to me. He’s seen me grow up and advises me on big decisions in both my career and personal life. When I was 10, Norm Hitzges was at KLIF and I introduced myself to him in public. He invited me into the studio to watch his show and I still remember the energy he put into his product. He was so excited and so … happy. I knew then that I had to find a way to do Sports Talk radio one day. When I was in college, Scott Masteller was at KEPN and took the time to invite me in his office and listen to my aircheck. For the past decade, he’s answered the phone every time I call and ends every conversation with, “Don’t ever hesitate to ask me for help. I’m always here for you.” What an example of how influential we can be to others in our role as program directors. I was lucky to be under the tutelage of Bruce Gilbert and Gavin Spittle as my PDs at KRLD-FM. They taught me things that would shape me for my entire program director career, and I still can’t help but learn something new every time we talk. Ryan Hatch at KTAR has taken me under his wing and has been influential in my transition to Bonneville. Long-time sports radio consultant Rick Scott has spent an incredible amount of time molding and shaping me into the PD I’ve become. He’s literally one of the godfathers of sports radio and I get to call this guy a dear friend and a mentor. I’m truly so thankful for all of these people, and many others, who have helped me get to where I am today.
Radio Ink: What do PDs have to do this year and over the next five years to have a successful career in programming that leads to their advancement?
Armen Williams: We have to really connect with our local markets. It’s necessary to construct our content in a way that will influence and change the lives of our listeners. We have to make our stations stand out between imaging, content, events, and promotions. I believe networking is key to making it in our industry.
Radio Ink: What is radio’s biggest programming challenge moving forward?
Armen Williams: First, I have two young children and they will never own a radio in their lifetimes. They can both work a smartphone and iPad better than a lot of adults. They’re obsessed with YouTube and watching movies, in parts, but never a full movie in one sitting. This is our future audience and we’ve got to figure out how the heck to connect with them. How are we going to market to them? Most importantly, how can we engage them, the way that radio has done with its audience throughout its existence? There’s more options than ever to consume audio and we’ve got to find a way to cut through it all. Good luck, everybody!
Secondly, it’s more challenging than ever to find experienced people to work in radio. Most internship programs have disappeared and the opportunity for anyone to gain experience has dwindled tremendously. Let’s work to support, mold and facilitate the future radio workers of America. When a young, acquiring mind reaches out and asks about the industry…find the time to call them back or reply to their e-mail. If people didn’t do that for me, I wouldn’t be here today.
Radio Ink: Why are consumers listening to Pandora and Spotify and not radio?
Armen Williams: Instant gratification. Don’t like the song? Hit “dislike” and it goes to the next one. Attention spans are shorter than ever. These platforms are easily customized to each person’s tastes. And, for a premium rate, they offer no commercials. (Ouch. That stings for us radio people.) Local radio will always be able to provide unique, original stories and content that directly affect people. There’s a unique opportunity with terrestrial radio to create local engagement that these other platforms can’t take away. We just have to continue to evolve and be creative in how we reach our audience.
Congratulate Armen on becoming one of radio’s best programmers at [email protected]