On the surface, everything seemed ideal. After nearly two decades away, veteran sports talk show host Tony Bruno returned to CBS Radio’s Sportsradio 94 WIP in January to team up with brash, upstart Josh Innes. In a little more than five months, the duo overtook rival Mike Missanelli of 97.5 The Fanatic in what had been a bitter afternoon drive ratings war.
But behind the scenes, Bruno, 63, had tired of the grind of doing a daily five-hour show and didn’t like what sports talk radio had become. So after four decades spent working for large conglomerates, Bruno abruptly tendered his resignation earlier this month via email as Innes ranted about the situation on the air.
So what’s next for the long-time sportscaster? Bruno said he will turn his focus to podcasting rather than seek a return to terrestrial radio.
Do you regret going back to WIP after leaving The Fanatic last year?
I don’t regret coming back to WIP. I had left 97.5 and I heard Josh a few times at night. I did a few shows with him and it was fun. But once we started, there was all of this constant nonsense. But I would come to work and wonder what was going to happen today. It wasn’t like we didn’t get along. It wasn’t cause he was the alpha dog.
Josh always put people on who were going to rip him. Back in the day, you could have someone disagree with you without hating you. Every time I would go out somewhere, people would tell me how much they hated Josh. But they were listening. And we climbed to the top of the ratings. It’s not the reason I left but it was part of it.
Then why did you leave?
I was worn out from the daily nonsense and the podcasting was growing. I was putting in 10 hour days and coming home exhausted. I thought afternoons would be easier but you can’t do anything during the day, you come home at 7 p.m. and you are exhausted. It was really a quality of life issue for me. I am 63. I am not going to be one of those guys who is going to do this forever. I don’t want to die on the air. When I turn 65, I’m shutting this down completely and enjoying myself. But in the meantime, I can do the podcasts.
How tough is it to replace a host from a business standpoint?
You don’t need to be number one in the market to make a lot of money for your station. I was able to generate more money [via endorsements for sponsors] than they were paying me. So they didn’t want to see me go.
The biggest problem is from a sales standpoint is what happens to the endorsements when someone leaves. I had 13 different endorsements. So I am sure the sales department is disappointed with my departure because there is no guarantee they will hold on to those relationships. Anthony Gargano had a lot of endorsement relationships when he left WIP and I know there was concern that they would follow him to The Fanatic. It’s a big issue.
You can’t have Josh read 20 endorsements in five hours. He would be doing nothing but that. You need more than one person. When you hear the morning show, you hear Angelo [Cataldi], Al [Morganti], Rhea [Hughes] and even Keith Jones doing spots for different sponsors. So there could be a ripple effect. Do you replace 13 clients or will 97.5 swoop in and try and recruit them.
What’s the business model of podcasting?
The business model relies on whether you can sell it. Rita’s Water Ice signed on for six shows with me. I go out to their locations like it’s a public appearance. Except we do a show there and people can interact with us there and ask questions. There are no commercial breaks. I might read something from [a sponsor such as] FanDuel.com.
Podcasts can also tell exactly how many people are listening. And podcast listeners tend to be more loyal and likely to listen to your sponsor reads. They don’t tune out. I heard a stat that 24 percent of listeners to terrestrial radio buy the products of sponsors. For podcasts, that number is 75 percent.
So you can make significant money podcasting?
Adam Corolla makes $5 million a year with podcasting. So, yes. I’ve been doing it since October and it’s been growing, even while I was working full-time. And I’ve seen tremendous growth potential just over the last month. It’s like what DVR or Netflix are for television. People can listen whenever they want. I do one or two shows a week. I have a studio in my home and we also take it on the road. Sometimes it’s sports-related and sometime not.
What is the key to making it successful?
With podcasting, I control the content, brand and marketing. The success is contingent on how hard you are willing to work on it and you don’t have to deal with executives up this massive food chain. You don’t have any overhead. I do it for two hours. I get tons of calls. People want options and they want convenience. Terrestrial radio is about crunching numbers. This is the future.
Credit to the Philadelphia Business Journal who originally published this article