After three decades with ABC Radio, Steve Jones is leaving the company. On April 9, Jones will become the President and Chief Operating Officer at Skyview. Jones will help lead Skyview Networks’ growth in sports play-by-play, content creation across platforms, syndication, network sales, distribution of audio, and technology innovation. He will work from both the company’s Scottsdale, AZ, corporate office and its New York office, and report to co-founder and CEO Ken Thiele. We spoke with both Jones and Thiele, Tuesday afternoon.
Radio Ink: Ken, tell us about your relationship with Steve.
Ken Thiele: Steve and I go back to 2014. He’s an amazing individual. He sees the dynamic capabilities that exist inside Skyview from production to sales to distribution to inventory management. I think he’s looking forward to taking this sports car out for a few laps around the track to see what times he can set.
Radio Ink: What will Steve’s responsibilities be?
Ken Thiele: Steve and I are going to be operating on the same level. He’s President and COO and I’m CEO. In our conversations we will be operating together as colleagues. We will be reporting to each other. The existing structure of the company will be reporting up to us. His responsibilities will be everything and more that I do, but he will exist in an office in New York. He will be spending time out here in our corporate (Scottsdale) office on a monthly basis at the beginning, but for the most part he will be in New York.
Radio Ink: Ken, what do you think bringing someone on board with so much experience and one of the largest Rolodexes in the industry can do for a company like Skyview?
Ken Thiele: We exist in Scottsdale, Arizona — kind of in backcountry, where most of the business exists in New York. We have people there but to have a talent like Steve Jones there 24/7/365 is going to be a game changer for Skyview.
Radio Ink: Steve what do you think you can do to take the company to the next level?
Steve: It’s already an outstanding business that has had great success. We’re speaking to you from a sales luncheon. I’m with the team that Jeanne-Marie Condo leads to power the company forward. The sales capability of Skyview is immeasurable. I’m looking at ways in which I can support Jeanne-Marie and her team as they further meet the needs, current and evolving, of the advertising community. We exist right now in this inflection point in media where audio is the hot new medium. Whether it is consumers seeking more information or entertainment from audio or brands that want to engage their customers and create transactions through audio, everybody wants to understand it and execute with it. I’m going to try and build upon this amazing foundation at Skyview to create and expand a strategy to reach more consumers and satisfy more of the agencies so we give them solutions they do not currently have. There are a lot of companies out there as reported in Radio Ink that aspire to be great. They put together business plans, sometimes they hit them, more often they do not. Skyview is a company that has not only been in business since 1995 with an amazing set of play-by-play sports relationships, but in 2014 we chose them to be our partner as we took ABC independent. We did such a good job that our colleagues over at CBS News Radio decided a little over 18 months ago that they wanted the same treatment. Now they are doing very well. You have this underlying foundation of success, proof of performance, tremendous brain trust, and unlimited capability. So I am looking forward to getting in the car and taking it forward.
Radio Ink: Steve, personally why the change? Thirty years with one company is a long time?
Steve: I have had a great career. Every expectation I’ve had, every ambition conceived, has been realized at ABC. I started there as a freelance writer in the 80s and watched the radio business develop. I got to run ABCnews.com for a few years. For the last 16 years, run the radio operation. I can see a lot of opportunity with Skyview. I have gotten to know Ken and Jeanne-Marie well and the rest of team. I felt it was a good opportunity for me to leave what is, I believe, the dominant radio news brand, ABC news radio, with over 1,650 affiliates, reaching more than 72 million listeners age 12-plus a week, in really good hands. Andrew Kalb is an outstanding manager. He runs that newsroom and has terrific relationships with every newstalk radio programmer in America. This is a good time for me to move onto the next challenge. I am very excited about the business opportunity I see with Skyview. I want to work with this team at this time.
Radio Ink: What is it like when you have to make that call to resign after being part of the organization for 30 years?
Steve Jones: I was convinced that the smart people at ABC would understand the rationale for me making this decision. ABC is going from my employer to my client. We have an agreement at Skyview with ABC through 2026 to provide them audio sales and distribution. Initially they were perplexed, but after we spoke for a while they understood the revenue generation they depend on from Skyview is going to be protected by me. I was also going to be in a position to help grow the Skyview business with Jeanne-Marie and Ken that would benefit ABC. I expect, unlike many separations, I will be engaged with ABC news every week, if not more often, as we collaborate on new opportunities. This is a bit of a change for Skyview in that going forward we are going to be spending more time and resources in content creation. Up to this point, Skyview has not been in the content creation space, with a few exceptions primarily in sports talk. Part of this change means Skyview will be expanding its content creation for both broadcast and digital. You have had smart speakers on your cover and we are aware of that opportunity and think there is a lot of open space for a company that has proven expertise in audio that Skyview has to meet the needs of the marketplace when it comes to what brands to reach consumers.