Sports Radio 610 has enjoyed a long storied run as the premier sports radio brand in Houston. But in recent months, local competitors have been making their reign at the top a little unsettling.
When Nick Wright announced plans to depart the radio station to join Fox Sports 1, it created an opportunity for Program Director Ryan McCredden to take stock of his inventory. The lineup was performing fine, but with a couple of adjustments, could the brand ascend to an even higher level?
One way to get a read on how the audience felt about the radio station’s personalities was to give them a chance to express it by taking part in a promotion titled “Trade Deadline”. The station received tons of feedback, and for one on-air broadcast day, mixed up their lineup combinations, and placed a few of their key people in different timeslots, and roles. This served as a great opportunity for McCredden to hear some of his key people in different situations.
Over the course of the next two months, McCredden would exhaust numerous options to retool the lineup at Sports Radio 610. Internal candidates were given a look, in-market options were discussed, and out of town personalities were talked to, and flown in for auditions. Many of them with proven track records in other top markets. BSM is aware of at least eight candidates who received consideration.
“As a programmer, it gave me a lot of joy to know that there were a lot of really strong young talent out there”, said McCredden. “The process was extensive, and I learned a lot about a lot of people, but ultimately I felt like we had a lot of the answers under our own roof. Unfortunately there isn’t any silver medal available for the person who comes in second”.
610 has done an excellent job at developing talent over the past few years. No better example exists than that of the station’s former midday show “MaD Radio” hosted by Mike Meltser and Seth Payne, which is now moving into mornings. The program earlier this year was identified by Barrett Sports Media’s panel of programmers as one of the top 20 midday shows in the country.
What convinced McCredden though that the duo would be well suited for a move to the earlier timeslot?
“Mornings tend to be a timeslot where people want to laugh and be entertained,” said McCredden. “Mike and Seth can certainly make you laugh, and their chemistry is excellent. There were a few days when John was off, and I moved them into mornings, and I heard the energy, and the fun, and they sounded like they belonged in there.”
By moving up Meltser and Payne though, that would create a hole in middays, and leave John Lopez in limbo. McCredden tested Lopez with some out of town personalities, and had to decide whether to bring in a more polished out of town host, or roll the dice on a young talent inside his building.
The one personality that jumped out the most from his roster was Cody Stoots. Lopez and Stoots had a great relationship which helped, but it was something Stoots said during the process which struck a chord with McCredden.
“Cody told me, the Astros took a chance on a young shortstop Carlos Correa and it’s paid off. The Texans are taking a chance on a young Quarterback (Brock Osweiler) who doesn’t have a lot of experience, and they’re hoping it pays off. I just hope you’d be willing to do the same with me because I believe it’d pay off”.
Feeling good about Stoots and Lopez, McCredden still had a hunch about someone else he spoke to during the process. That person was Houston native, and former Texas A&M Aggie, and former NFL wide receiver and special teams superstar Dante Hall. The questions though were whether or not Dante could transition into talking all-sports five days per week, where would he fit best, and would a trio be the right mix in middays?
McCredden explained his logic. “The way the mornings were set up, I didn’t think that was the best fit because then we’d have 5 voices on the show, and that’s too many (Jim Mudd, and Robert Henslee are also involved as contributors). I also felt Mike and Seth were ready for that jump”.
“When it came to Dante, his confidence gave me confidence,” McCredden continued. “His desire to do this was overwhelming. The positivity he has is impressive. He’s personable, and although our listeners don’t know him well, I think he’s going to really connect with them. He may be raw but he has a lot of natural talent and energy, and I think he’s going to have a bright future with us.”
After giving it a lot of thought and talking to a large pool of candidates, it became clear that “In The Loop” with Lopez, Hall, and Stoots were the fit McCredden was looking for in middays. The show may not have the immediate polish of Meltser and Payne, and it may lack experience that a few others have, but that hasn’t reduced McCredden’s enthusiasm.
“There were guys who were more polished, but everyone needs an opportunity to show what they’re made of,” added McCredden. “Cody has the skills to do great work, and with John and Dante involved it will help him grow even more into the position. Lopez is a big fan of Cody’s, and sees him as one of the fastest growing young talents in the market. What I really love about this show, is that it’s a hardcore Houston show. I think the audience is going to enjoy it”.
The final layer of the 610 puzzle to solve was finding a way to further capitalize on the relationship between the radio station, and its flagship partner, the Houston Texans. As they worked on stabilizing their daytime lineup, conversations also took place with the football team to make them a bigger part of their daily programming.
The result was turning “Texans All Access” into a nightly program from 6pm to 7pm. The voice of the Texans Marc Vandermeer will continue serving as host of the show. Vandermeer is also a former weekday host on Sports Radio 610.
The afternoon show (Triple Threat), featuring Rich Lord, Ted Johnson, and Sean Pendergast, and the evening program (Gallant At Night) hosted by Paul Gallant remain unchanged.
As Sports Radio 610 celebrates their new day today, they do so while knowing that a long and extensive process was necessary to make sure the right formula was discovered. If McCredden’s instincts are right, the real winners in all of this will be the Houston sports radio audience. It’s now up to Meltser, Payne, Stoots, Lopez, and Hall to prove him right.
Here’s a complete look at SportsRadio 610’s new programming lineup:
6:00-10:00AM – MAD RADIO
10:00AM-2:00PM – IN THE LOOP
2:00-6:00PM – TRIPLE THREAT
6:00-7:00PM – TEXANS ALL ACCESS
7:00-11:00PM – GALLANT AT NIGHT