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Radio Stations for Entrepreneurs

Radio Stations for Entrepreneurs

Radio Stations for Entrepreneurs with Christopher Miller

Are local radio stations really in the radio business? Christopher Miller talks about how they are really the lifeblood for the local family of businesses!

Christopher Miller worked his way up in the media business from newspapers to TV stations. He started in sales and moved on to sales management and eventually corporate management. He joined Gammon Media Brokers in 1996, completed his first TV station sale in Owensboro, K, one year after starting work with Gammon Media Brokers. Over the years he has been involved with over a half a billion dollars’ worth of media transactions. Among other ventures, Chris now owns and operates radio stations in California and Kansas.

Website: http://www.gammonmiller.com

LinkedIn: Christopher Miller

Listen to the podcast here:

Read Along as Karla and Christopher discuss Radio Stations for Entrepreneurs

Karla Nelson:  And welcome to the People Catalysts podcast, Christopher Miller.

Christopher Miller:  Hey, Karla, how are you?

Karla Nelson:  Doing fantastic. Great to have you on the show today.

Christopher Miller:  Thank you very much for having me.

Karla Nelson:  Yes. Yes, sir. Okay. So my favorite question is always, what is your entrepreneurial journey? What brought you to the place that you’re at today? Which is really building, developing, and selling media entities. At the same time, we all have a different journey, right, that brought us to the place that we’re at. So, share your story.

Christopher Miller:  Well, it’s funny. I laugh with people. I guess I was an entrepreneur before I even knew that was a word called entrepreneur and-

Karla Nelson:  Even a French word, too, right?

Christopher Miller:  Yeah. I’m actually on the Entrepreneurial Advisory Council for Kansas State University here in Manhattan, Kansas. We joke with the students about that that come through. A lot of them start the classes and they have no idea what the word means, so we have to start over. It’s a really fun …Yeah. It’s fun seeing the look. They’re thinking, well, I have this idea to start a business …

Karla Nelson:  … make something out of nothing.

Christopher Miller:  Yeah. That’s just it. Yeah. It’s doing all those things. I grew up in a family business, so we were always just you try new things, you do new things. If something doesn’t work, you pivot and try and do something else. You’d never give up. Some things fail, some things work.

That entrepreneurial spirit just is an organic thing that gets instilled in you and you just keep plugging away and keep working on it and you keep growing and you keep trying new things. Once you start pulling those strings and one string leads to another string, leads to another string.

I started in the newspaper industry. Then I got into the television in business, the only television stations, and then got in radio stations. In the in-between got into the medium investment banking business. All because of entrepreneurship.

Karla Nelson:  That’s fantastic. Share with us a little bit. I mean, we’ve been hearing for years and years, right? Like TV is dead. I mean, there’s so many different forms of media. It’s not that one is dead. It’s got to work for you. So can you share a little bit of a background in your space in regards to developing and then even selling some of these entities as a broker that says, media is media, right? It might not be that we can forge one specific media, which we did in the past, right?

Christopher Miller:  That’s right.

Karla Nelson:  Everybody read their morning newspaper. Everybody watched the evening news. Now all of a sudden, we’ve got an immense amount of media coming towards us.

Christopher Miller:  It’s on demand. It’s where you want it, but I just thought it was the interesting series of things. When newspaper was the King of the Hill, radio came along. Then radio was going to kill newspapers. Well, that really didn’t happen. They co-existed. They still co-exist today to some degree. There aren’t as many newspapers out there, but it’s still out there. Then when radio was-

Karla Nelson:  They’re a little thinner than they used to be.

Christopher Miller:  I’m sorry?

Karla Nelson:  I noticed they’re a little thinner than they used to be. I always notice when I go into the store…

Christopher Miller:  The newspapers have adjusted and they do a lot more online. So you get them data online and stuff like that, so it’s an adjustment that they’ve made. Now you see the newspapers are probably going to be some of the stuff you got coming out Washington D.C., there’ll be the relaxation of some rules. The newspapers will be allowed to buy TV stations and radio stations. If that happens, there might be another change in the way we see the industry.

The newspapers that have survived have been the ones that have gone better into digital than others. The ones that have not have been a self-fulfilling prophecy and have cut staff and cut days printing. That just starts to downhill slide. Eventually you burn the ship below the waterline and it turns turtle and it goes under, but the newspapers that have survived have done so because they’ve been creative and they kept their content up.

So, radio was going to kill newspapers and newspapers were still around to some degree, but then television came along that was going to kill radio. Then that was out there. Then we came along-

Karla Nelson:  Radio’s been around for a long time.

Christopher Miller:  Then TV was going to knock off radio. Now there’s radio is still out there, TV’s still out there. Then we had the digital media and the DVDs, all that. Well, that was going to lay waste to television. It’s funny how all these things happen, but there’s still room for more. There’s always going to be a slice for everybody. What’s interesting is the smart people-

Karla Nelson:  I love that there’s still room for more.

Christopher Miller:  The entrepreneurs are the smart ones.

Karla Nelson:  When you look at all these different social media channels too, what’s interesting is you don’t need to be on all of them.

Christopher Miller:  No.

Karla Nelson:  You need to be focused on a couple of them, right?

Christopher Miller:  Correct.

Karla Nelson:  Or where your audiences are. I mean, it’s really interesting that media previously was so one-to-one dimensional, right? Now it’s a real huge conversation of going, okay, where’s my ideal client? Because if you’re selling makeup versus selling coaching versus selling what’s something else that is uniquely different? Probably like a car, right? Now all of a sudden you’re starting to identify, okay, what are those mediums and how do you engage on those different mediums?

Christopher Miller:  We went from the newspaper was the first one-to-many kind of thing. Well, it’s kind of one-to-one than one-to-many because they would send their subscriptions out and it might go to a home where five people would read it. So you’d have that little bit of expansion from then, but then radio was really the broadcast, the width of the one-to-many. One is in the announcer there. One voice went out to the broadcast, went out to many. Then television expanded that even more.

Well now with the data coming back from the internet side of things, with the social media, now it’s cycling back the other way to where they’re actually making commercial and pitches and specific stuff, because they know who the viewers are based on what the social media is that they can actually target that car or that restaurant coupon or whatever, based on your viewing habits that-

Karla Nelson:  How interesting, right? Now when it’s not a blanket.

Christopher Miller:  It’s going almost back to the-

Karla Nelson:  How do I specifically identify right that individual and then have the data to be able to do it, which was never possible prior to social media.

Christopher Miller:  Your biggest television companies like Sinclair Broadcasting, they own the most TV stations in the country. They’re the number one broadcaster. They have, last time I talked to somebody over there, they had, I think getting close to 200 different digital assets that they sell in each of their markets.

Karla Nelson:  Wow.

Christopher Miller:  To their advertiser clients. They are so leveraged into the digital side of the business. That’s besides the 30-second or 60-second television advertising or 15-second television, right? This is just digital products that they’re selling because they have the ability to do that because-

Karla Nelson:  Essentially, take in the digital. Find the print and/or just across the airwaves and figure out how you’re merging them together.

Christopher Miller:  Yeah.

Karla Nelson:  It’s not both. It’s not either/or it’s both/and, right?

Christopher Miller:  Yeah. Then what we’ve got on the horizon and it’s the next generation TV, the 5G rollout in the markets where the TV stations will go together and take their extra bandwidth. They’re going to use a cellular type of delivery. It’s basically think of internet TV on your phone, but it’s going to be free over the air broadcasting of additional channels. Basically, you’re going to get 30 to 45 channels on your phone that’ll be brought to you by your local TV stations in the town.

Karla Nelson:  Wow.

Christopher Miller:  Right now-

Karla Nelson:  Essentially though, isn’t that brought on by the advertisers, right? That want to be in front of those individuals?

Christopher Miller:  Yeah, but there’ll be able to tell by your phone and know who you are, what commercial should run.

Karla Nelson:  Oh my gosh. That’s insane. All right. So you have to share with us, Christopher, a little bit about you shared your background, but then with Gammon Miller, right, there was a story behind the story. Then, how you’re sitting in the place with the particular company. Then where you guys want to go and who you want to attract.

Christopher Miller:  Yeah. Well, I happened to be in the right place at the right time to meet Jim Gammon. I mentioned he was a FCC attorney that got into the brokerage business just because he saw some guys that have …

Karla Nelson:  Well, I love what you say. It’s like, he was an FCC attorney and said, “Hey, wait a second. All these guys making these big checks.” What the heck are they doing?

Christopher Miller:  Yeah. The investment bankers came in and picked up the big checks and he decided he wanted to be on their side of the table too. So, he started what was called Gammon Media Brokers back in the late, mid-eighties, I guess it was, but-

Karla Nelson:  Yeah, I think it was in ’86 or something.

Christopher Miller:  Yeah. I joined the firm in ’99, but where I joined the firm was he represented Fox Television stations. Our group was selling a station in Kansas City. We ended up selling our station to the Fox TV station group. I’m sorry. We sold to the NBC stations that the people that owned the NBC. We didn’t sell it to his client, but he had told me during one of the conferences that if I ever wanted to get into the media brokerage businesses, give him a call.

So I thought, well, that’s kind of one of those negotiating lines. You try to pitch the guy that’s selling to offer him a job type of thing and try and maybe get him to move the deal your way.

But we didn’t. We sold the other people, but afterwards I called him up and said, “Hey, were you serious about that offer? It’s okay if you’re not. If that was just a negotiation deal. I’m okay with that too.” He said, “Oh no.” He goes, “You’d know the industry so well and you’ve been in newspaper and you’ve been in other backgrounds. We’d love to have you join our firm.”

I’m like, Oh, okay, well. So I joined his firm. It took me a year and I sold my first TV station a year after I joined the firm. A TV station in Owensboro, Kentucky, that was my first TV deal I did. I’ve been doing it ever since. Still doing it today, helping people buy and sell TV stations, radio stations, we do cable systems, do internet companies.

Karla Nelson:  Awesome. Share a little bit more about that. I mean, that’s so fascinating I think to a lot of us that we know media is necessary, right, but how do you get in there to where you’re building your audience? You’re creating something. Even more today than ever, right, where you’ve got social media. I haven’t even checked out this clubhouse thing that I’ve been pinged on probably 15 different times. All these different Roku and all these different avenues. How can individuals that have something to share be able to take advantage of that, and then work with somebody like you?

Christopher Miller:  There’s opportunities to buy in small markets. You can buy an AM an FM radio station. It’s an FCC license. You can’t be a convicted felon or something like that. But if you’re normal, you have American citizenship and you have to find a willing buyer or you’re the willing buyer, but find a willing seller. There’s stations for sale all across the country. But they’re not in the big markets. They’re in a smaller market.

But the nice thing is, run them correctly, you can do a nice return on your investment. The communities still love their local radio because there’s no other way to do the local high school sports, the local weather, cover the local events. Then, the other thing that radio does well is they host their own events. So whether you do your local home show, you do your local gun show, the women’s show, the whatever the car show, all those events are owned by the radio station, or the ownership of the radio station can own their own events. They can run as many commercials as they want to promote it because they own the event. Versus if a promoter comes to town, promoting the hot rod car show, he’s got…

Karla Nelson:  All of a sudden you’re paying all the amount to, so with that said, what would you think in a local community the range of the cost of being able to acquire a radio show or radio frequency?

Christopher Miller:  There’s for sale some as less than a hundred thousand. Some are 200, 300 thousand for a radio station. It just depends on the size of the town and if it’s making money. What we call break even is if they’re just it’s they’re making as much as it costs to run them type of thing. Then there’s the ones that are off air on air. Then we call them stick values.

Karla Nelson:  Because they’re not a hundred percent on air?

Christopher Miller:  Yeah.

Karla Nelson:  Yeah. And not managing that which-

Christopher Miller:  Those are a little bit tougher to budge, but you get a better entry-level. You can get a better price point to buy them. The seller seller knows they’ve got to sell them because they might be on the air for six months and something happens and they’ve been off the air for a month or two. Those are the, if you’re looking for the best quote deal deal, is to buy something like that.

Karla Nelson:  And then be consistent, right? Buy something like that, and then be consistent.

Christopher Miller:  Yeah. Well, as you said, then you make the commitment to get part of the community. You have some local buy-in with the local advertisers, do the local sports and those types of things, and make sure you follow through and do what you say you’re going to do. The-

Karla Nelson:  So what would your top couple tips in regards to local businesses? Because it seems like with radio, it focuses locally, right?

Christopher Miller:  Yeah.

Karla Nelson:  What would your tips be to not only to engage with local radio, maybe even acquire a local radio station?

Christopher Miller:  I’ll explain. There’s two kinds of radio businesses. So people don’t think you can do this everywhere. There’s two kinds of radio business.

There’s the radio business that’s in the top 50 markets or top maybe 75 markets. That’s what’s called transactional business. That’s going to be most of all those companies that own radio stations in that markets are publicly traded radio groups, which means they’re their own on the stock with companies that are owned by publicly traded companies on the stock market. That’s what we call transactional business, so those companies have salespeople in those markets. They’re dealing mostly with agency salespeople that place advertising from ad agencies that the ad agencies represent the local car dealer groups, the local carpet guys, or the plumbing companies that they deal with 95% agency work.

All it is, it’s a negotiation. What we call transaction, they’re talking about the rating points versus the airtime. So they get points per dollar. It’s that type of thing. So point air dollars per point is how they’re purchased. It’s all negotiating with an ad agency if you’re the salesperson with the radio station. There’s no relationship at all because they will jump ship and go to the other radio station across town, if they can get a better deal. So, there’s really no relationship.

Now the rest of the country is under a model called the relationship model. That’s where if you own the radio station in town, your general manager, your sales person, you’ll make sure he takes the Ford dealer out to lunch, finds out what he needs to get done this month, whether he needs to make sure he sells fifty cars or a hundred cars to meet his Ford quota. Then you design a plan to make sure you help him meet his Ford quota.

Karla Nelson:  And that whole online aspect really comes into play here, too, right? Now all of a sudden you’ve got the information that you can utilize through the radio station, but the data and correlate that data to be able to help and support them.

Christopher Miller:  Yeah, no. It’s a combination of digital social media. So if it’s the Ford dealer and he comes in and he drives over to the radio station. Say he’s got the new F-150 pickup trucks out. Well, he comes in and the guys take their phone out from the DJs do, and they do a Facebook Live walk around and have the Ford guy talk about the new stuff that’s on the F-150. They put it on the Facebook page and they put it on the station’s Facebook page, and the Ford guy puts it on his Facebook page. That’s just common sense how you get things done.

He’s on the morning show doing that. Well, that’s just it’s part of his monthly package, knowing that he comes over once or twice a week or one or twice a month to do those things. Then he has a regular schedule of commercials that he runs on the radio station. Then he also makes sure he’s a sponsor of the local high school sports. He gets a package of that. Maybe he’s the halftime sponsor or maybe he’s the Player of the Game sponsor. Then he gets his name on that and gets…

Karla Nelson:  Essentially nothing has changed. It’s just adjusted, right? I mean, it’s the same thing. How do you get in front of individuals? How to use the data you can have? Which is more data than we ever had before, right? It’s not one dimensional. It’s actually cool when you think about it, because you have so many more ways of getting in front of your potential client than ever before.

Christopher Miller:  Yeah. Yeah. You just do whatever it takes to make sure that client gets what he needs done each month and then everything else takes care of itself.

Karla Nelson:  Love it. All right. So Christopher, how can our listeners get ahold of you, especially if they’re looking to, in their local communities, connect with radio stations and/or digital media and combine the two?

Christopher Miller:  My email is on my website, but probably the easiest is the website is: GammonMiller.com. It’s just G-A-M-M-O-N Miller, M-I-L-L-E-R dot com.

Karla Nelson:  Fantastic.

Christopher Miller:  My email’s on there probably too.

Karla Nelson:  We’ll include it in the notes as well. So Christopher, this has been fantastic. Thank you so much.

Christopher Miller:  Thanks, Karla.

Karla Nelson:  Thanks for being on the show.

Christopher Miller:  You’re great.


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