Interview With David Sams, Co-Founder and CEO of Keep The Faith Radio, on Expansion Into Country and AC Radio.
HisAir.Net: A few days ago we noticed on facebook that you had signed multiple stations outside of the traditional CCM format to carry the “Keep The Faith! Country Christmas Marathon” including the top-rated country station in Nashville, Cumulus’ WSM FM, which is “NASH ICON.” In addition, you signed “Hippie Radio, 94.5 FM, in Nashville to carry the AC version of the marathon. What’s your strategy here?
Sams: Simple. Our strategy is to provide premium content, the very best programming, wherever there are ears. Taking our programming and going beyond the signal of traditional CCM radio is no different than mega churches launching multiple campuses, including non-traditional facilities such as movie theaters and community centers. A lot of people will never listen to Christian radio, or their musical tastes happen to be more eclectic than just CCM. We want to engage these listeners, as well as our core audience. The marathon gets our foot in the door.
HisAir.Net: But “Hippie Radio”?
Sams: Ha..obviously, you aren’t old enough to remember the “Jesus Movement.” Seriously. God is everywhere, not just on Christian radio. It’s time to let our hair down, chill out, and put on our Dashikis! (yes, that’s a Dashiki that Sams is wearing in the photo at left). And, by the way, before DC TALK made it a big hit, the song “Jesus Is Just Alright” was a huge hit by The Byrds, Underground Sunshine, The Doobie Brothers, and many others. Like I said, God is everywhere. We want to be there, too!
HisAir.Net: Why would you mess with a winning formula? Keep The Faith is already the #1-rated show in CCM with an AQH of well over a half a million listeners. You’re on hundreds of stations in the U.S. and Canada. You control nearly 150,000 hours of radio airtime annually. From what I hear, your spots are nearly sold out on commercial stations, and you’ve grown your non-commercial network to nearly match the reach of your commercial network. So why tinker with success?
Sams: That’s like saying, “We won the World Series with the team we had, so let’s just keep the team together until everyone grows old.” Look, you’ve got to keep growing, evolving, reinventing yourself. I always say, “you’d better be a chameleon or you’re a dinosaur. The world is changing faster than the speed of light, and you’d better change with it!” We never take our success for granted. In addition, we need to think and grow outside of the box because, from time to time, we lose a station or two or three to the likes of a KLove, which ends up acquiring one of our affiliates. We can’t just throw up our arms and say, “Oh, well!” We’ve built an incredible audience in that market, over a period of time. We’re not going to abandon our listeners. Therefore, we will find another outlet in the market that is looking for premium content and a built-in audience. We have the best talent, producers, writers, and programmers in all of radio. We love bringing these assets to our radio affiliates.
HisAir.Net: So, are we hearing that you plan to expand Keep The Faith programming into multiple formats beyond the Christmas marathon?
Sams: Well, you heard it here first. Yes, in 2018, we will begin to expand into other radio formats, with the first being Country.
HisAir.Net: Why Country?
Sams: For one thing, I personally love Country radio. I find it to be exciting and authentic. I also find the audience to be fully engaged. Most of all, I believe a lot of Country listeners are receptive and hungry for our content, as long as they get to hear their favorite artists and songs. Face it, a lot of people who pray on Sunday happen to party on Saturday. You aren’t going to tell me that a lot of college football fans in the south and mid-west who are tailgating on Saturdays aren’t the same folks who are worshiping on Sundays. There’s a lot of crossover. Besides, we are based in Nashville, so we have access to many of Country’s biggest stars.
HisAir.Net: So where does this expansion leave your existing CCM affiliates?
Sams: Our long-time CCM affiliates are–and will remain–our first priority. We are so honored to be in business with the best of the best. This expansion is to simply extend our footprint in markets where we have little or no broadcast presence. In addition, we are exploring with some of our existing CCM affiliates to launch Keep The Faith Country HD stations in select markets.
HisAir.Net: Before we end this interview, did I hear this right? That Keep The Faith did over 200 stories on the air this year about “special needs.”
Sams: Actually, we did just under 200 of them–all on special needs champions. We call our initiative “Contagious Love: Turning Disabilities Into Possibilities.” We are encouraging churches to step up their game. One such church launched a special needs ministry for those with Autism and added over 300 families within 6 months. People simply had no place to go until this one church stepped up their game. We love telling these stories. We have nearly 20,000 of these amazing stories in our archives from the past 7 years of being on the air. We are fully committed continuing this effort for many months and years to come. (Editor’s Note: For more on Keep The Faith Radio’s “Contagious Love,” click here: http://keepthefaith.com/page/contagious-love ).
Also note, if your station is interested in airing the KeepTheFaith Christmas Marathon, it’s not too late! Just call Denise Payne or Shelley Richardson at 615-610-2980.
David Sams is CEO of KeepTheFaith Radio (which he co-founded with Joe Battaglia and John Frost) and the newly formed Contagious Audio Networks. He’s also a 9-time Emmy winning producer, director and writer. He is best known for launching the Oprah Winfrey Show, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! while head of global marketing and creative affairs at King World. For more on Sams, go to DavidSams.com. To find out more about the Keep The Faith Christmas Marathon, go to www.ContagiousRadio.com