Co-founder/CEO of Contagious Audio Networks
Producer and Distributor of KeepTheFaith
Career Capsule: David Sams is a 9-time Emmy winning producer, director and writer. As head of global marketing and creative affairs for KingWorld, he launched WHEEL OF FORTUNE, JEOPARDY! and THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW. He has produced and supervised over 3,500 hundred hours of television programming in his storied 45 year career. He also founded a direct response company which garnered over $150,000,000 in sales, winning numerous awards, including Infomerical Of The Year. In 1995 he created the KeepTheFaith brand which became a hit TV infomerical featuring recorded CCM music. The series is certified Platinum by the RIAA and, to this day, is the #1 highest grossing multi-disc set ever released in CCM history. In 2011, he teamed up with fellow broadcasters and friends Joe Battaglia and John Frost to launch KeepTheFaith Radio, now syndicated on some 300 radio stations. Sams and his team now program and provide content for nearly 150,000 hours of radio annually. To contact David, call 818-939-1008 or email him at [email protected].
IS PODCASTING FOR YOU? IF NOT, YOU MAY WANT TO READ THIS…
HisAir.Net exclusive interview with David Sams. Here he reveals why the company is doubling down on its podcast and Smart Audio efforts.
HisAir: David, why did you opt to expand in to podcasting?
Sams: It was a natural for us. We’re all about producing and distributing premium content and exhibiting that content wherever there is an audience. We continue look at RADIO as our top #1 priority, and will for the foreseeable future. Our broadcast radio footprint now reaches hundreds of radio stations in the U.S. and Canada. This year alone we will occupy 150,000 hours of airtime with our KeepTheFaith branded-content. We are now expanding to Country radio with our family friendly Contagious Country brand. That being said, millennials highly favor audio-on-demand content that is readily available on their smart phones. This really shouldn’t be a surprise, it’s now ALL ABOUT MOBILE. We see similar change in the way people view TV content. It’s all about ON DEMAND–“give it to me when I want it and on my terms.”
Let’s face it, listeners don’t always need “the radio” to hear the music they love. They can find what they want on Pandora, Spotify and other streaming services. Everyone has access to the same songs. However, when you mix powerful content, specifically well-crafted stories in around the songs, it’s the unique, highly produced spoken word content that makes the difference. I’m talking about great storytelling, great inspiration, great insight, great motivation. We are the best at producing this content for the faith-friendly and family friendly audience. Our team combined with our vast archive library is second to none. Millennials want long-form content that’s engaging. Podcasts can deliver that, while it’s difficult when it comes to radio due to “sticking to the clock,” “following the format,” “going by the rules.” However, it’s important that I clarify something you said. We are NOT expanding into podcasting. We are expanding into SMART AUDIO. Podcasting is just a part of that bigger picture. Big difference.
HisAir: What do you mean?
Sams: We are about producing sticky, engaging, premium audio content. This content is designed for exhibition on multiple platforms. Podcasting is just one of these platforms. Our bigger focus is on SMART AUDIO. Soon there will be 100 million smart speakers in the marketplace. People of all ages are buying these things for the home and office. My mom is nearly 80 and she has two of them. Unlike a podcast, with Smart Audio technology all you have to do is to tell your speaker what you want to hear. There is no need to touch a button or follow instructions to access anything, as there is when explaining to people how to access and download a podcast. So, the steps to ENTRY are so much simpler. Also, smart speaker technology is now creeping into cars. You’re going to see the likes of Alexa integrated into vehicles over the next couple of years. Over time, you are going to see major changes when it comes to a car’s dashboard. Within the next decade, people will simply get into their vehicles and then ask for their favorite shows, personalities, content. As with TV, it will be about hit shows, not about networks, call letters or frequencies. We plan to be at the center of this transition.
HisAir: So you think it’s going to come down to Stars and Hit Shows?
Sams: Yes. It’s going to be about THE STARS and the strong FRANCHISES, just as with TV. People look for the shows they love, not the networks they’re on. The same is about to occur with audio content. Since I spent decades in TV and in Hollywood, this way of looking at things comes so natural to me, so it’s not a stretch for me to make these predictions. I’ve seen it all happen before. Just look at the audience Howard Stern took with him from broadcast to SiriusXM. The audience will always follow the stars and hit shows they love.
HisAir: Seriously, you see a day where there is no need for call letters, frequencies, towers?
Sams: Look, I’m a broadcaster, first and foremost, but you have to wake up and smell the coffee. There are now only 2 AM stations in Los Angeles that significantly show up in the ratings. One is an all-star talk station, the other is the all news station. There are even automobiles readying to roll off the assembly line for 2019 without an AM radio included! Stations that report the weather and traffic are fooling themselves that people actually care unless, of course, there’s a tornado or hurricane on the way. We all have smart phones that have up-to-the-second traffic that actually tracks the route we’ve chosen to get from Point A to Point B, as well as a minute-by-minute weather forecast pinpointed down to our own backyards. I think that within 5 years, drivers will get in the car and say, “Alexa…play AT40,” “Alexa…play theFishAtlanta,” “Alexa…play KLOVE.” 71 percent of radio is consumed in the car. The car is about to turn into an entertainment center. Just wait until AI (artificial intelligence) totally takes over and there’s no reason to have your hands on the wheel. What’s that going to do to radio as we know it? The landscape is changing. It’s going to send shock waves throughout the radio world. However, we can be prepared for it, but we must begin to act now–before it’s too late. I know the key players are doing just that. We’re fortunate to be working with a handful of players, including our station partners and many of our affiliates, who are really opening their eyes to all of the real possibilities.
HisAir: So what do you recommend to radio programmers?
Sams: Invest in CONTENT. Whether it’s local or syndicated, create and archive the best content possible. Build your brand without pounding call letters and frequencies. I know what I’m suggesting is going to be controversial, but it’s a really important conversation to have in order to survive and thrive. If you don’t have a unique brand, create one. Using your call letters and frequency is not a strategy that you want to set your future on. You need to create your own unique KLOVE brand, theFish(City) brand, KeepTheFaith brand, WAYFM brand, and so on. Smart Audio knows no boundaries, so your brand needs to make a statement locally and nationally.
HisAir: That’s asking for a lot of stations that have invested decades in creating brands that include their frequency.
Sams: I’m sure the guy who invented the horse and buggy combo was not to happy when Henry Ford decided to mass produce the automobile. Blockbuster could have purchased Netflix for less than 50 million back in the day but saw no value in the concept of the little red envelope. Kodak could have owned the complete world of digital photography but chose to bet its entire company on FILM–and lost. I don’t want to see radio get into that head on collision of now defunct or near defunct companies. I’m telling you right now, with 71 percent of radio being consumed in the car, the automobile is about to go through the biggest change we’ve seen since the invention of the steering wheel. When I speak to technology groups, one thing I tell them is that the world is changing faster than the speed of light. You had better be a chameleon…or you’re a dinosaur. Stations should consider this as an opportunity not a threat.
HisAir: What Podcasts and Smart Audio content do you have in the works?
Sams: We recently launched CIA: Contagious Influencers of America. It features well known believers who are in the world of business, sports and the creative arts. We’ve had amazing guests over our first 10 episodes including Emmy winner Mark Burnett (Shark Tank, Survivor, The Voice); acclaimed actress and producer Roma Downey; world champion figure skater and broadcaster Scott Hamilton; recording artists Matthew West, Amy Grant and Bart Millard; actor Jim Caviezel; film studio executives Rich Peluso and Devon Franklin; actress Sarah Drew from Grey’s Anatomy, just to mention a few. I host the show along with Tim Storey, a SoCal pastor and Life Coach to the Stars. He actually life coaches me in the last third of the program. It’s raw and I’m vulnerable. Tim works through those things with me. The objective with this show is to show successful believers who are out there fighting a good fight and keeping the faith. These are very REAL contagious influencers.
In addition, we are currently working on a KeepTheFaith Daily program which will feature long-form stories and pre-produced listener phone calls. This show is modeled after NPR, in a way, but will only be 10-15 minutes in length. Basically, people can snack on it as it fits their lifestyle. We have several other concepts in various stages of development including third party programming that we are licensing.
HisAir: How are you monetizing this?
Sams: Through advertising. Advertisers cannot get enough of this. CPMs are 10x what they are in traditional radio. Of course, the audience is smaller–for now. However, you cannot just stick a 60 second pre-produced spot on the front end of a podcast. It’s a whole other world if you want response, but that’s a conversation for another interview.
HisAir: I understand that you are working with select stations to help guide them into this new frontier?
Sams: We are working with some really smart clients and radio affiliates on a major white label effort in this arena, just as we did a few years ago when we created HyperDriveLocal.com, giving stations the tools to make great local programming. This is going to equip stations to produce podcasts using 5-Star content from us, but utilizing their brand. This is going to be a monumental gamechanger!
HisAir: You speak all over the country to technology, TV and Internet groups and work with the top broadcasters in CCM, why do you shy away from speaking at Christian seminars and conventions?
Sams: I always welcome the opportunity! My number is 818.939.1008. I’ll always make myself available to industry groups who share our passion of spreading the Good News of Christ to the masses. Again, CHANGE is difficult to accept. Sometimes it’s hard to meet the challenges of the future when that Future is starring you in the face. I’ve made a career of looking at What’s Next. Let me take you to back to 1985-’86….I was marketing the show of an African American woman as a lead in to your local news. Again, this was 1986. Outside of major urban markets, there was a considerable amount of resistance to putting somebody on the air who didn’t look like Ken and Barbie, Phil Donahue or Johnny Carson. And, to top it off, people had no idea what an “Oprah” was! But, we know how that turned out. I’m here to help make Christian radio better, so I welcome any constructive discussion.
HisAir: Thank you for your time, David.
Sams: Thank you Ted. Keep up the great work. You are a gift to the industry. We appreciate you so very much.