ESPN Deportes Radio is gone, signing off this past weekend. The Spanish language Sports radio gap is being filled by a new player with old roots. UNANIMO Sports is the brainchild of Lino Garcia, the first GM of ESPN Deportes TV/Radio. Launching a new network is a daunting task, however the President of UNANIMO Sports found time to talk with Radio Ink.
Radio Ink: How did you get involved in this?
Garcia: Basically the countdown clock started on June 11th. The day I heard about this, was the day after I graduated from the NAB Broadcast Training Group in Washington, DC. I started running with this as soon as I heard what was happening. I started assembling a team, reaching out to the talent, reaching out to the people on the operation side, and trying to put it all together
I’ve been involved with everything Deportes since the beginning. I worked with a lot of the people who are affected by the change, they were my crew. Anybody who had anything to do with ESPN Deportes; essentially it was all radio in Miami.
Even large corporations if they were given a 90-day countdown to launch a brand new business, wouldn’t find that ideal. They would feel their resources being stretched. So imagine that happening to a guy like me. That’s been my task, but I’ve been very energized by it.
Radio Ink: How did you manage to swing this financially?
Garcia: I put in some of my own money, and some other outside funding sources. Right now it’s just me as far as the equity on this — which is a good thing. For an individual, having to raise the capital, it hasn’t been easy. It made sense to all the people I talked with and gotten funding. If anybody can do this, it would be someone like me who not only has experience in the business and the network, but actually work with the people that this is their specialty. The know me, they’ve worked with me and they trust me. That’s really gratifying to me.
Radio Ink: How many affiliates do you have now?
Garcia: This is going to be a rebuilding process for us. There were a few key affiliates that sort of went their own way for a number of reasons. Some said they were already contemplating doing this to begin with. Others don’t know yet what we are bringing to the table, so they are going into a temporary format on their own and hopefully come back after they see what we have.
So we are still working on the affiliates. A key thing is that we are launching the network in Miami where Deportes had their operation. We are launching out of the Miami affiliate station location. WMYM 990 AM, formerly the ESPN Deportes affiliate which will change to UNANIMO Deportes 990 AM. It will not only be an affiliate, but a station that we manage locally. I felt that was a good way to go because we are here in this marketplace.
Radio Ink: How important is that local link?
Garcia: On the network you are out there, but it is very important to have a strong presence in the local market that you are in. This allows us to do some interesting things locally and nationally that not too many, or any, network has done before.
I’ve always been a network person, mostly TV, but I am a very strong believer in how important local is. We are launching from here, the talent is here, and being able to manage a local station is key for us.
There are several other markets that we’re in. We’re growing the base. We are in some of the yop 10 markets for Hispanic broadcasting.
Radio Ink: Tell us about your digital presence.
Garcia: We are also going to be on TuneIn for radio. They have been, from the very beginning, very interested in doing things beyond what they’ve been doing with a network that they have, say, been carrying passively on their stream. They were very keen on being affiliated with us going forward.
TuneIn is our very first big-marketing partner, so to speak. They have stepped up and really see the potential of the Hispanic market. They are able to see all the streams that they have and the numbers. We will have network coverage with them and local coverage with other affiliates around the country. We are looking forward to gaining more affiliates. So we are looking forward to building something with them, further on down the line.
Radio Ink: What type of a programming lineup are you starting with?
Garcia: We start off the day at 6 a.m. when the familiar voices of Eduardo “El Vikingo” Martell and Kenneth Garay are heard, this time on a new program, El Despertador, until 9 a.m., followed by Los Mero Meros de la Raza (9 a.m.- Noon EST.), ¡Sin Filtro! (12 p.m.-4 p.m.), Libre Directo (4 p.m.-7 p.m.) and Camino al Fútbol (7 p.m.-10 p.m.).
We will offer some play-by-play with Mexican soccer. We are working on getting some other soccer leagues on the air. Our local affiliate also has some play-by-play; they carry Miami Hurricane football. Other national sports options are being explored.
We are also going to be offering one-minute sports updates at the top and bottom of the hour, and at 15 and 45 we will offer soccer updates. We are offering that to other stations that may not want Sports Talk 24/7, but want an Hispanic sports update element.
Radio Ink: So what do the “powers that be” at ESPN think about your new endeavor?
Garcia: It hasn’t been tenuous at all. They have maintained a certain separation between what I am doing and what they are doing. It’s been cooperative. I mean, all of these people, about 20 or so, many of whom have worked for the company for 15-plus years, were going to be out in the street. Here I am, someone they’ve worked for, giving them a chance to continue to work. I think it would callous for a corporation to not look positively at this.
Radio Ink: Going forward, how do you feel?
Garcia: It’s something I’m really excited about. It’s not every day that a new radio network gets launched. I think a lot of people are disbelieving that a former executive at the company — that is going out of business, so the speak — could take this on and make it happen. We are working with a fabulous group of talent that are well known to listeners and we are going to see what other interesting things we can do to serve these fans.
You can contact Lino Garcia, President, UNANIMO Sports: [email protected]