Jeff Chang is president and CEO of Chang Media Group, an owner of radio and TV stations in California along with digital properties.
In this Q&A he discusses how his media group, especially a sports talk radio station is surviving in the Coronavirus media environment. He was interviewed by Suzanne Gougherty, director of MMTC Media and Telecom Brokers at the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council. MMTC commentaries appear regularly in Radio World, which welcomes other points of view on industry issues.
Suzanne Gougherty: How do you oversee the operation of your radio station from a distance?
Jeff Chang: Since we launched, we have actually used a firm which handles the master control for many television and radio stations.
It’s been a vital part of our business model — our team can coordinate with them remotely regarding traffic, spots, and on-air promotions.
Gougherty: During the COVID-19 pandemic what has changed the most on the operational aspect of your station?
Chang: Well, we’re a sports station, affiliated with ESPN. So, the programming has obviously taken a hit. So it’s been a difficult period of predicting when sports will return to some normalcy, where the listeners will be enthusiastic again.
Gougherty: Is your IT person keeping your website and other social media platforms current? How do you manage that process?
Chang: Our IT lead works remotely as well. We’ve been keeping the social media platforms and our website current. While there has been the interruption with live sports, the dialog always continues among sports fans. They still love their favorite teams and players. So, we’ve been a good forum for that.
Gougherty: During the pandemic have you made any changes to your programming?
Chang: We take the bulk of our programming directly from ESPN Radio. So, it’s been a significant change with the programming. The network has made some changes with the talent, and we’re excited with this. Since the NBA and MLB have restarted, we are also very happy that the games are back on the air.
Gougherty: Has your sales team been working from home and able to secure business? Have they been securing political advertising revenue thus far?
Chang: Yes, our sales team has been working at home. In addition to our ESPN Radio property, we also own television stations; so, they have been still active with all our platforms. It may be a bit more challenging now, but we’re a resilient company. We have always learned to seek opportunities as opposed to waiting for them to come to us.
Gougherty: What do you see as the new normal for your stations since the outbreak COVID-19?
Chang: We will probably keep using technology to our advantage, and allow our team to work remotely. Of course, there are some elements in running a station which can’t always be handled miles away, such as engineering or local promotions, so we always want to ensure those needs are always addressed as well. It’s a balancing act.
Gougherty: Since you air syndicated programming — ESPN what has been the benefit of being an affiliate?
Chang: ESPN has been very helpful during the difficult times. They keep us constantly up to date with their programming strategies. Moreover, they were proactive in hosting conference calls where we could receive input on how other ESPN stations were working with the challenging climate.
Gougherty: Do you have a main-studio?
Chang: While the programming is sent to our local market from a central location, we still maintain a local presence. We have team members in our market who work with the sales and promotions, as well as engineering. Since most of our stations are on the West Coast, we can still easily travel to our markets.