Q&A: Entercom Sports’ President on Going From Pro Team Exec to Running the Company’s Radio Business

Mike Dee talks MLB and NFL past and discusses attracting new fans

"We pride ourselves on having a local approach with national scale," Dee says. Chris Loupos
Headshot of A.J. Katz

Adweek: Talk about your move to Entercom Sports.
Mike Dee: Entercom chief executive David Field initially reached out to me. He and I have known one another for about 15 years dating back to my time with the Boston Red Sox [as chief operating officer] and their relationship with WEEI [sports radio in Boston], an Entercom station. I think Entercom’s acquisition of CBS Radio and its vast portfolio of sports stations made it clear to David that he needed someone to oversee these relationships on a daily basis. I’m here to help make Entercom best in class in working with our partners and enable us to aggregate the blue-chip properties we have across the country, and obtain incremental value in the form of national advertising and partnerships that I think had not been previously pursued because legacy Entercom never had the scale the new Entercom will, hopefully beginning later this year after we receive regulatory approval.
What are some of the similarities and differences between running a sports radio business and a pro sports franchise?
The common denominator is ad revenue. Pro teams depend on it a great deal. The sponsorship world is a big driver of local revenues around sports franchises, and the exclusive driver of local revenue and national revenue around radio. There’s more flexibility to expand relationships with corporate partners and advertisers in radio, in our case with the sports talk format outside of play-by-play. It’s not just three- or four-hour-a-week relationships with teams. There’s a wider footprint of time throughout the week where advertisers can extend their relationships. It will be nice to have so many stations where true sports fans can go for play-by-play, along with a 24-hour-a-day sports forum where they can go to engage, get information, even vent and advocate for their favorite team.
How has the relationship between teams and radio partners evolved?
Radio has evolved significantly since I started in the sports business in the mid-’90s. The radio partner was more or less the company that showed up with the biggest check and got the rights. You worked with that company, but weren’t fully integrated. Now, the radio company can provide a year-round promotional platform for teams to get their message out. That’s not just on radio and other digital audio assets, but it’s our websites and social media. Our reach goes beyond radio in most markets, so being able to use the power of the listening and social media base to help the team advance ticket sales, the signing of a new player, really any message a team hopes to penetrate into the marketplace is significant.
You’ve had success attracting fans to a team, doing so with the Padres, Dolphins and especially the Red Sox. How do you bring new fans to Entercom Sports?
It’s a local approach, and it’s at the core of our DNA. There’s nothing more local in any community than sports. To be able to extend the partnership we have with teams in a way that makes us the go-to source for news and information around that team is at the center of our sports strategy. We need to be present in each of our communities. We pride ourselves on having a local approach with national scale, and that will resonate well as we move into the new Entercom post-merger.
Why should national advertisers include sports radio in their media strategy?
The opportunities are vast, and in our case, having stations in 23 of the top 25 markets, we will be able to offer scale for national advertisers that’s unprecedented and unmatched in the industry today. You couple that on a broader context with our local event business, which has been a big growth element, both on the Entercom and on the CBS Radio side. The ability to reach targeted groups in local marketplaces on a national scale will enable Entercom to stand out from our competition, and I think that’s very appealing for national advertisers.
Current gig
President, Entercom Sports
Previous gig
President, CEO, San Diego Padres

This story first appeared in the Aug. 21, 2017, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@ajkatztv aj.katz@adweek.com A.J. Katz is the senior editor of Adweek's TVNewser.