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Feature Interview

David Sams

Executive Producer

Keep The Faith

To contact David click here

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David's Career Capsule

Sams, a 9-Time Emmy winning TV producer, who was instrumental in launching three of TV's biggest syndicated series, WHEEL OF FORTUNE, JEOPARDY!, and the OPRAH WINFREY show, teamed up with Christian music industry vet's John Frost (Goodratings) and Joe Battaglia (Renaissance Communications) to launch CharityOne, Inc., the production entity behind KeepTheFaith. John Frost heads up programming for the not-for-profit venture, Joe Battaglia serves as general manager, and Sams is executive director. All three serve as executive producers of KeepTheFaith.



1.  KEEP THE FAITH ("KTF") is now the #1-rated syndicated faith-based program in America, with an AQH approaching 400,000 listeners, and millions of monthly listeners. The program has become “appointment radio” on Sunday mornings across the country, and is ranked #1 in many markets. To top that, KeepTheFaith is now #1 in several top 20 markets, Monday through Friday, as a lead in to morning drive. Why do you think the audience has embraced the program in such a big way?

First of all, our mission is to make encouragement contagious. We take that mission seriously. In this age of sarcasm, political hot-talk, shock jocks, and screamers, KTF provides an oasis from the noise for listeners. We are hopeful, reassuring, and provide a takeaway with every thought. We also bring a deeper meaning to the music. Each and every song, story, and phone call is carefully programmed. We try to give listeners a fresh outlook on life. The mix of music, story, and listener phone calls provides that gust of wind to pick you up and move you in the right direction. Every show is a soundtrack for life. We take you on a journey...a journey of hope, forgiveness, overcoming fears, dealing with loss, finding your purpose, second chances, overcoming life's challenges.

Editor’s note: To listen to a sample of why KeepTheFaith gets such strong ratings, Click on this link: ( https://soundcloud.com/ktfradio/15-minute-demo)

 

2. But don't you think that just about everybody in Christian radio uses the word "encouragement" to position their station?

Yes. A lot of stations in Christian radio use words like "uplifting" and "encouraging." However, it's all in the execution. While we all generally play the same music, what makes KTF unique is the rich content between the songs, and marrying a song with just the right story. I'm talking great story telling by the world's top storytellers, the encouraging spoken word thoughts woven between just the right song lyrics, as well as phone calls from listeners who have or are going through a tough season of life. True, a lot of stations air phone calls from listeners, but many of those calls feature folks who are calling in talking about how great the station is. We don't do that on our show. Every call has a specific purpose. Plus with KTF co-hosts Keith Stevens (PD and Afternoon Host, KTIS, Minneapolis) and Donna Cruz (Afternoon Drive Host, KFMK, Austin) bringing their unparalleled talent and heart for ministry to the show each week, there is a warmth and depth found in their chemistry that listeners naturally gravitate towards. They have both grown into seasoned storytellers since our debut. Actually, we now have a whole cast of amazing storytellers—from coast to coast—coming from our local stations which contribute to the program. Storytelling is an ART, just as the composition, production, and execution of a song is an ART. Combine the two, and you have a beautiful masterpiece.

 

3. However, a masterpiece takes time to paint. There isn’t that much time in Radio, is there?

You’re right. The other thing that makes us different is that our national show is post-produced, so nothing makes it out over the air without going through a rigorous production and review process, headed up by none other than executive producer and programming guru John Frost and our team of all-star producers. You would not believe the review process. Every word has got to bring meaning. Every story has got to matter. For over 30 years, I’ve produced, directed, written, and distributed both network and syndicated TV programs--over 3,500 hours of programming. However, nothing has given me more gratification than this program, this mission, and the team behind the effort.

 

4. KeepTheFaith's line up of stations primarily consists of music stations, how did you and the team convince so many of these stations to air spoken word content?

Again, everyone can make spaghetti. Just buy it in a box, pour in some water, boil it, and you have spaghetti. Well, the secret is in the sauce! John Frost, Joe Battaglia, Denise Payne, Dave Senes, Doug Hannah, Don Buettner, Steve Shore, KC Wright and our staff of all-stars producers and writers is that secret sauce. We’ve assembled an incredible team from all around the nation. They understand that we are in the business of telling good stories. Stories matter. Stories that are so good, and worth repeating, makes KeepTheFaith CONTAGIOUS. And, yes, we know that we are on "music stations." Got that. I ask, how good would a movie be without a great (musical) score? At the same time, how good would that (musical) score be without a great story? They go hand in hand. KeepTheFaith reaches a broader audience through the art of compelling storytelling. We believe that stories told one way reach a smaller audience, but stories told in a different way can reach a broader audience. Jesus used parables to communicate many of his ideas. We are simply taking a page from his playbook by communicating simple truths to folks by means of good storytelling. In addition, we have great storytellers--from artists to authors, renowned pastors to movie stars. KeepTheFaith general manager and executive producer Joe Battaglia has been very instrumental in getting the stars of major faith-based movies to guest host our show. Whenever a new faith-based movie comes out, the producers knock on our door first.  

Editor’s note: To listen to a sample of why KeepTheFaith gets such strong ratings, Click here: (https://soundcloud.com/ktfradio/keepthefaith-takeover-show).

 

5. You spent three nearly decades in LA producing, directing, and writing TV shows--winning 9 Emmys and various other awards. You were also the marketing and creative affairs head at King World, working directly with the legendary King Brothers--who literally defined modern day syndication. While there you launched the two biggest syndicated series of all time, WHEEL OF FORTUNE and JEOPARDY, as well as the OPRAH WINFREY SHOW. How in the world did you get into Christian radio?

I've always had a love for music, including Christian music. I'm originally from Ohio, or should I say a "P.K from Ohio." My dad was one of the first preachers in the country to hire a rock band to play at a summer church revival in the 60s. I was a young kid, but I remember he took a little heat because band members had long hair and came with guitars and drums! Fast forward to the mid-90s. After producing shows for the major networks, cable, and syndication, I started a DRTV (direct response) company. Rather than sell kitchen gadgets, I licensed and sold a lot of music product on TV. In 1995, I wanted to produce a CCM box set. However, I knew that if I referred to the collection as "Christian music," I wouldn't get my 30 minute infomercial on the big cable networks--including Lifetime, Discovery, Bravo, and so on. So, I called it "KEEP THE FAITH--The Quest for Love, Happiness and Purpose". Who doesn't want that! I got it cleared on virtually every channel I went after. The collection went on to become the biggest super box set in Christian music history. We sold over 25 million dollars of CDs, the collection was certified "Platinum" by the RIAA, and it helped to bring Christian artists to the attention of the mainstream because the infomercial aired over 16,000 times across the nation. From a ministry perspective, 92 percent of the people who purchased the collection had never purchased Christian music before. Ironically, our number one market for sales was not Atlanta or Dallas, but San Francisco! One thing I learned was the power of great story telling. Since most viewers had never heard of the 60 some artists in the collection, we relied heavily on great story testimonials to convey the power of the message in a song. Then, fast forward 15 years or so. I experienced the unforeseen loss of my marriage, the heartache of the break-up of my family, experienced a financial tsunami, and then had a stroke. Some way to enter your 50s, don't you think? I knew that I needed to get out of the Stress Zone epicenter, so I packed up and moved to Nashville. I had been coming to Music City for years, licensing songs for my various TV music projects. Over the years, I had made many friends here, so I felt right at home upon my arrival.

 

6. How did you team up with Joe Battaglia and John Frost?

I've known Joe for nearly 20 years. I meet him right after I launched the original KeepTheFaith music collection. I licensed the DOVE AWARDS from the GMA for a couple of years back in the mid-90s. I then ran it as THE DOVE AWARDS HOLIDAY SPECIAL on the PAX TV stations, Thanksgiving weekend, sponsored by the KeepTheFaith music collection. Ironically, these were the highest-rated broadcasts of the Dove Awards—ever. Bud Paxson introduced me to John Frost, who was a top executive in programming at the network. Over the years, John, Joe, and I became great friends--and we did a handful of projects together. When I moved to Nashville we got together for dinner. Shortly thereafter, we decided to launch a new radio show. We collectively decided to re-launch the KeepTheFaith brand as the title of our program.

 

7. So KeepTheFaith started out as a weekly show, then grew to a daily show. Why did you take that leap?

Simple. The weekend edition of KeepTheFaith quickly became the highest-rated program on many of our stations. In some cases 65 percent higher. As much as we're all in this for ministry, it does matter that we reach as many ears as possible. Without reaching ears, you can't change lives. Without changing lives, you can't save souls. So, ratings DO matter. The first two stations to add our daily show were KFSH in LA and WFSH in Atlanta. Since then, we've added many other markets. We encourage stations to air the daily version of KeepTheFaith as the lead-in to morning drive. This makes us a true content and programming partner with the station. Why? Because we take that hour prior to the start of morning drive seriously. We cultivate a new and larger audience in that hour, especially with Adults 25 to 54. This audience tunes in for the content...the encouraging content...to start their day off right. This audience then gets funneled right into morning drive. This strategy has worked. In many of our pre-morning drive time slots, we are #1 in total audience or #1 in Women 25-54. In Atlanta, for example, since last spring, we have grown the 4-5 am time period on KFSH by well over 300 percent in total audience. The AQH has skyrocketed by thousands at 4 in the morning, which leads right into morning drive. In Seattle, we're now number #1, 5-6 am, with Women 25-54. This is happening all over the country where we are positioned as the lead-in to morning drive. This is a programming strategy that we used while launching Oprah back in 1986, when I was at King World. We didn't market Oprah as a "daytime show," rather we specifically placed her as a lead-in to local early evening news. As a result, her show became so incredibly valuable over the years because she delivered a lot of 25-54 year old women direct to the doorstep of those local newscasts. So, we became a true programming partner with our affiliate stations. Joe, John, and I have done the same with KeepTheFaith. We design programming based on the needs of our affiliate partners.

 

8. What is KeepTheFaith "HYPERDRIVE LOCAL"?

Our stations have asked us for more of KTF, but in a different sense. Many have had their budgets cut. Many have let production staff go. On-air hosts now must wear multiple hats. For many, the idea of having producers and screeners is such a foreign idea in this day and age. However, these on-air folks are expected to compete for listeners in the broad market. Some compete with other CCM stations in the same city--and everyone seems to be playing the same music. So, how do you differentiate your on-air versus the guy across the street? So, we created a solution.

With KeepTheFaith HyperDrive Local (KTF HDL), we deliver to stations, in advance of each day's show, production elements and rich story content that is produced by an all-star team of nearly a dozen folks. Each day, our affiliates get several hours of pre-packaged opens, teases, bumpers, stories featuring the biggest and best artists and authors, life-changing testimonials and amazing phone calls (handpicked from thousands in our archives). We deliver this content via our ProducerInTheSky.com proprietary on-line dashboard. Again, it’s a win-win. We deliver what stations can’t afford to produce; while they get to keep their local “voice” by hosting the show locally. They also maintain control over their music play list.

We launched the beta version of the KTF HDL in Atlanta in February. The show is hosted locally by a fantastic on-air talent ("Penny") and airs 7p.m.-12midnight eastern, Monday through Friday. The ratings have been spectacular. In Cincinnati, KeepTheFaith Cincinnati, has been airing in the afternoon drive timeslot, 2-6p.m., Monday through Friday, since March. Again, the results have been nothing short of amazing. We are true programming partners with these stations. They give us feedback, we make tweaks. We give them ideas and then hear them executed on the air. It's really something. It's so refreshing. Even when Robin Williams died, our producers fed a dozen stories and phone calls on Hope and Overcoming Depression to our HDL stations for use on that day's show. Timely and very topical.

As a result of the success in both Atlanta and Cincinnati, we are ready to roll out KTF HDL in the fourth quarter of 2014. Some stations are using HDL and calling it KEEP THE FAITH (their city name), while others are using it to add valuable content to their existing morning, midday, or afternoon shows. We just produced a preview video for KTF HyperDrive Local, and what it can do for stations. We're debuting it here on HisAir.Net!

Editor's Note: For the world premiere of the KTF HyperDrive Local Preview Video, Click HERE

 

9. Where do you see KeepTheFaith going from here?

Where God takes us. Every time we come up with a "strategic game plan," God challenges us to STRETCH that plan. I don't believe you can become a true champion unless you STRETCH. So, we do a lot of just that. We STRETCH and STRETCH. I can tell you this much, we’re developing a product for mobile phone applications that will be a game changer. One more thing. It is our goal to get KeepTheFaith Radio into every DMA across America. Currently we’re in 50 percent, including 22 of the top 50 markets. Ironically, in Canada, we’re already in 90 percent of the country!


To find out how to get KeepTheFaith in your market, contact:

Joe Battaglia: (201) 847-1292 / [email protected]
David Sams: (818) 939-1008 / [email protected]
Denise Payne: (310) 877-1114 / [email protected]

 

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