What Can Radio Learn From The Sports Format?


(By Buzz Knight) This is a fun time of year for sports stations all across the country.
Playoff football is in high gear. Games go down to the wire. High wire drama unfolds regularly with tremendous emotion.

Yes, to do the sports format correctly it requires tremendous investment, but the returns can be huge.

As we consider the fate of other difficult formats within music genres, I believe there are some great lessons to take from well-run sports stations.

Engagement, Engagement, Engagement!
What is frequently missing from other formats that sports stations have in spades? Engagement.

When I was privileged to speak with my friend Dr Janet Gallents graduate students at her “Consumer Adoption of New Media Technologies” Class at Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business that word kept popping up from these terrific students. They crave engagement and interactivity from the medium and generally they aren’t getting it.

Sports stations are all about engagement and interactivity.

Just like hanging out at the corner bar watching football with friends, great sports hosts bring you into the conversation and engage with the audience.

This is a big lesson from the sports format and programmers of all type need to make this a priority. Find ways to tap the interactivity and engagement button.

A fan base for a team drives the conversation in the sports format but the hosts on these stations generally know how to bring the best AND THE WORST out of the audience and make it entertaining. Passion drives this performance, and this is another big learning that other formats can embrace.

Frequently the narrative from music hosts on many stations is the equivalent of a hostage tape video. Rote and trite are two words that come to mind when describing what is often out there. You can choose to disagree with their view, but sports hosts have passionate opinions.

Loyalty is rewarded
How do Sports stations reward loyal listeners? By allowing them to be frequent callers on shows. Granted there are times this is a cliche reach for content but many times these “regular” callers can be quite entertaining. Just think of how cool it is to make it in the regular caller pipeline.

Cross promotion of shows is organic.
Sports hosts do a great job of cross promoting shows by naturally referencing what was said by a host regarding a particular topic. This cross promotion provides excellent recycling of audience and is something that other formats should aspire towards.

Content can’t be duplicated.
Maybe in closing this is one of the biggest lessons other formats can learn from the sports format. In an era where music is accessible from so many other places how can these formats find ways to make their content non duplicated.


Buzz Knight is the CEO of Buzz Knight Media and can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]


  1. The way you pointed out cross promotion is a good one and perhaps it is under utilized. Used purposely, sparingly or in cycles?

    So…local sports couldn’t hurt. Local anything beats generic.

    Audiences know heart-felt passion and creativity when they hear it….so don’t berate the talent! Oh, wait! That was my problem at two #4 stations long ago.


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