Ryan Hurley tries to build New York’s biggest radio station

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Creating unique on-air sound is something Ryan Hurley has aspired to do since he started his career at 98.7 ESPN New York. A graduate of Hofstra University, Hurley became interested in radio from an early age and is now an integral part of the industry which has helped shape his interests.

“I grew up like a control room rat,” Hurley said. “I loved the content and the creative side of the radio; it is still the most intimate form of dissemination there is. The relationship you create with the audience keeps me motivated.

Hurley was first offered an entry-level marketing and promotion position at 1050 ESPN-AM upon graduating from college in 2004, which, while related to radio, did not did not interest him. Hurley’s interests were really lying, and after declining the initial job offer, he was offered a second opportunity.

Courtesy: Johnny Cigar Sports

“After I hung up the phone I immediately kicked myself because everyone is telling you to say yes to everything, no matter what position,” said Hurley. “I got another call a few days later and they took my resume to programming. I spoke to someone there and got an entry-level position in production / board.

Starting at 1050 ESPN New York, Hurley produced various talk shows and worked directly with on-air personalities and commentators. Eventually, his responsibilities increased when he became the main producer of The Michael Kay Show. Since his first days at the station in 2004, sports talk radio has changed dramatically, something Hurley had to embrace in order to be successful.

“Platforms have changed, especially the way they are consumed, shifting from land-based platforms to streaming and digital platforms,” Hurley said. “[Smart devices] are used by a lot of people, especially over the past year and a half, and during the pandemic we have seen that use increase by a tonne. “

These changes in consumption habits and platform distribution have had a significant impact on the rating system, a primary measure in determining the profitability and popularity of radio stations. As a program director, Hurley had to change the way he qualitatively analyzes numbers, as they currently do not reflect all the methods by which people immerse themselves in sports radio.

“[The] measurement [of ratings] has certainly been asked in recent years about the accuracy of the number of people with meters and the proportion of the audience represented, ”said Hurley. “[Additionally], there is no way to measure … [consumption] through their phones and devices… so there is an adjustment in how that is measured. Ratings continue to play an important role in our business and in how we plan our strategies with trade shows and our sales teams. It’s the same for everyone right now, whether or not people believe it necessarily measures [them] correctly.”

Although much to his chagrin, Hurley acknowledges that sports talk radio has become more about entertainment than reporting and analyzing the latest scores, stats and news. Targeting audience content keeps people engaged and ostensibly indebted to the shows, institutionalizing it as a staple of listeners days.

“We’re here to entertain people and provide content that will keep them coming back,” said Hurley. “When you’re trying to get an audience and develop programming, you want these shows to be like hanging out with your friends every day; you don’t want to miss what everyone else is saying.

As a Program Director, one of Hurley’s jobs is to seek out and cultivate aerial talent, a job that is done both externally and internally. In an age where demand for quality content is greater than ever and people have a plethora of choices about what to listen to, finding impressionable and entertaining on-air talent remains a challenge.

Michael Kay goes to caller for saying he and Peter should show Mike Francesa more respect - YouTube
Courtesy of the YES Network

“I have a lot of people contacting me and… sending me examples of their work,” said Hurley. “We also had members of our staff who came in-house from the production side, or [do] some part time accommodations that ended up being part of our staff and working full time. Entertaining people is the first thing I look for, as well as different and unique shots and angles, and the potential to have insider knowledge and insight into things that others cannot bring to the table. .

Some of these changes occurred before the COVID-19 pandemic, but many were catalyzed by the sudden change in lifestyle and the need for adaptation that occurred after it was declared a national emergency, causing the complete shutdown of sport, entertainment and much of the industrial world. .

“People needed an escape or some sort of exit from all the reality of what was going on in the world,” Hurley recalls. “We had to be creative in how we programmed the content we created and what we discussed. On the other hand, the way we operate has also radically changed; we had to find a way to get everyone on the air basically from their homes. “

98.7 ESPN New York focused on teamwork during the pandemic in order to withstand a pivotal moment in modern history. This is something Hurley particularly appreciates that his team can do.

“Everything was on the bridge for the last year and a half between engineering, production, finding ways to make it all work,” said Hurley. “With everything that has happened and changed, it has been quite impressive to see what we have been able to achieve and keep together for our audience, our staff and our programs. “

Due to the widespread financial hardships endured by radio stations during the COVID-19 pandemic, the presence of content generated by sports betting platforms, such as FanDuel, Bet365 and DraftKings has become significantly more prevalent thanks to advertising.

“It’s a huge opportunity to work with different sports betting companies and clients, as well as for on-air content,” said Hurley. “All around is a big part of what’s happening in the landscape of our industry not only on radio, but on television as well.”

During the extended period without sports at the start of the pandemic, Hurley and ESPN New York had to work to maintain relationships with the professional sports teams they were broadcasting. Once they got back into play, they had to adapt to new guidelines making broadcasts mandatory.

“Relationships are essential… and working with not only the public relations staff, but as a team at the station,” said Hurley. “You have to coordinate the lineup, team talks with coaches and players, setting up potential shows, securing player liners in pre-season, etc.”

ESPN Radio New York is unique among its competitors as it has both FM and AM frequencies on which it can broadcast its programming. These assets allow them to stream multiple games at once. The station currently maintains relationships with the New York Jets, New York Knicks, New York Islanders and New York Rangers.

“Some shows will take precedence over others,” explained Hurley, “and the good thing is we have 1,050 ESPNs that we can use as a listening place for people in times of conflict. It’s crucial to have relationships with the teams and the people behind the scenes – it’s not just the games that are broadcast, there’s a lot of ancillary stuff as well. “

Another unique aspect of ESPN Radio New York is that it is part of the parent brand ESPN, which Hurley says helps the radio station attract talent and guests. In addition, the cluster of distribution platforms helps the station easily produce other sports-related content and stream national games, including tantalizing contests throughout the MLB playoffs and playoffs. the NBA.

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“We have a good working relationship with network television producers and are in good communication,” Hurley said. “There has been an excellent collaboration between television and audio. The ability to have … [the] resources to use and use … [is] a great thing about our company.

Through times of extreme challenge and unforeseen hardship, ESPN Radio has endured, and Hurley remains motivated to take the station to the next level, even in an era of changing audio consumption.

“I want us to be the best resort there is,” said Hurley. “To see where we’ve come from at 1050 AM, where we’re now at 98.7 FM, and the way we’ve developed our products, talent, programming and relationships, it’s amazing. Seeing this progress is what motivates me. “


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