When They Say "Winners Win!"

By - Mike McVay

Jimmy Fallon hosting The Tonight Show on a Sunday night. Following Sunday Night Football.


Do you think Fallon grumbled because he had to work on a Sunday night or if he thought “how do I take advantage of the huge audience that will be watching TV on Sunday Night Football?” 


This is what people mean when they say Winners Win!

How Do You Pysche Out the Competition?

By - Mike McVay

On a recent weekend, a friend and I went to an Atlanta Braves baseball game during their Braves Alumni weekend. We met several former players and spent some time talking to them.

One player that we spoke to was Ryan Klesko … a legendary Braves player who in his late-40s looks like he could still play. Ryan shared that his WALK-UP SONG (the song played as a player walks to the plate to bat) was “Bad to the Bone” by George Thorogood. He said that it psyched him up, but it also psyched up the pitcher.

He wanted the pitcher to be full of adrenalin so that the pitcher would shake off whatever pitch the catcher wanted him to throw. He knew that the song would make the pitcher want to throw a fast ball. Thus, he’d be prepared for a Fast Ball in the strike zone and look for that pitch to hit.

Think about it. He was “Counter Programming” the pitcher.

How do you counter program?

How do you psyche out your competition?

Are you focused more on your station than the competition?

It’s a lost art whereby we, as PD’s, pay attention to what the competition are doing and then work to outsmart them.

So many PD’s that I speak to feel that if they work to make their station as good as it can be, they’ll win. That’s not necessarily true. You need to be that focused on your station, but you also need to know what the competition is doing, and block or counter-program against the station.

Psyche them out.

Study: Stop-Set Conundrum Solved

By - Mike McVay

Programmers have debated where to place stop-sets and how to divvy commercials up in the hour for years. A recent study appears to have finally uncovered the magic formula for minimizing tune-out. The findings may convince some stations to cut spot-loads.

Easily the most-dense, highly nuanced of the half-dozen studies presented at regularly scheduled Nielsen Ratings annual Fly-Ins, “The Impact of Commercials on Station Performance” came to a simple yet pragmatic conclusion: two stop-sets an hour, each straddled across adjacent quarter hours, appear to maximize AQH performance. To reach that elusive answer, Nielsen Ratings VP of customer enhancements John Snyder correlated October PPM data from the top 15 stations in the top 10 markets with stop-set placement and commercial counts.

“Every time a station breaks, some part of the audience bolts,” Snyder said. “The more opportunities you give them to bolt, the more missed quarter hours you’re going to have.” (Five minutes of listening are required for Nielsen Ratings to credit a station with a quarter hour).

The study found a correlation between AQH Differential — or temporary listener bounce caused by
commercials — and missed quarter hours. Although evenly spreading out spots appears to reduce
bounce, more breaks turn listeners away, Snyder said. Placing commercial breaks at the top and bottom of the hour (or at the 15 and 45 minute marks) would minimize bounce and reduce missed quarter hours.

The average station could increase its AQH performance by 35% by getting credit for all the quarter hours in which listeners heard the station, Snyder said.

“Don’t assume that commercial time can be increased without impacting AQH,” Snyder said, adding that he hopes the study leads broadcasters to reduce spot-loads, making radio a more pleasurable medium, thus driving up ratings and demand for spot inventory. The average station in the study places just 9.5% of the hour’s spots in the first quarter, 31% in the second, 23% in the third and 36% in the fourth.

Country, regional Mexican and urban AC run the most commercial minutes per hour among music
formats. There doesn’t appear to be an AQH difference between stations that run higher levels of units vs. higher level of minutes, the study concludes.



The Steps to Winning Programming

By – Mike McVay

To program a great radio station, you must have many different components working together harmoniously. The following are the components that I most strongly believe in. I believe in this formula, given my 40 years of consulting and my most recent experiences working inside a major broadcast company


MUSIC: I feel as though music is the most important part of a music driven radio station. Music selected for the station should be a group decision among the program director, music director, and the VP/Format. Your market’s VPPO should be involved with you (the PD) in setting the stations music direction and essence. It should be a collaborative decision. Your music choices should be based upon local callout (if you have it), the National Research and chart from your VP/Formats, M-Score, Airplay Intel, tracking on-line exposure and trends as well as using BDS for the monitoring of stations similar to the dynamics of your station.  All of our stations have BDS accessible to them. Music should be on-point and should be scheduled so that each quarter hour is representative of the format.


ON-AIR PERSONALITIES: Developing an emotional connection between your on-air personalities and listeners (without increasing the amount of talk) is an effective way of ingraining the station’s brand into the listener’s memory.  On-air personalities need to be disciplined hosts who are providing relatable content to the target audience while keeping the music moving. The more real you are, the better connection you’ll have with your audience. You need to have personalities that the listener can identify with or be greatly entertained by when they listen.


PROMOTIONS: Promotions are one of the most important parts of station awareness. A station needs to be highly visible around town in order to be as successful as possible. When it is time for listeners to fill out their Nielsen diary, they won’t go to the radio and see what station is on, they will recall it from memory. If you’re a PPM market, then you want to develop contests and content that create repeat tune-in. This is why I feel it is so important to always be on the streets, being seen and talked about is what keeps a good radio station on peoples’ minds.  You will need more than on-air promotions, though, if you plan to grow your cume. You will want need marketing to do that. That means on-line marketing via website ads, social media, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as well as the more traditional platform of transit and billboards. I’m not a big fan of TV for marketing as it isn’t cost effective. If you can advertise on Cable or Digital TV platforms, then maybe, but as far as local TV … news is the only thing worth investing in and that’s best for marketing spoken word stations


COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Getting a station with organizations like St. Jude Children’s Hospital or Children’s Miracle Network, Salvation Army, local food banks, and Toys for Tots are great ways to tug at the emotions of listeners, and it makes the on-air personalities “human” and clearly local. A station who takes every opportunity to celebrate the community in which they live in will accomplish much more than a station that is syndicated or voiced tracked.  If you are using syndicated programming, network programming or are voice-tracked, then work hard to be local sounding and really focus on what is important to your market. Do NOT “flip the switch and walk away.” These simple things don’t take up much airtime, they sound great on the air, and most of the time lead to free local press coverage. 


LISTENERS AND THE ADVERTISERS: If you keep harmony with both, then the reward is increased share and increased revenue. When your station is on the air, it should be the one that listeners and advertisers say is their radio station. This is because it not only satisfies their radio listening needs, but also properly reflects the community.


A program director needs to know the strengths and weaknesses of every one of their staff members and use them accordingly. The program director must see to it that the air staff has the coaching and direction it needs to be the best in town. By working with and knowing the goals, personalities and skills of each on-air personality, she/he will send the message that you not only care about the product but most importantly that you care about the individuals’ careers. 


Maybe the biggest most important thing for a Program Director is to keep it fun!  Without fun, morale slips and on-air personalities move on. If you’re having fun, it is reflected on the air. Never forget … a radio stations “personality” is that of the Program Director.