A Win-Win Deal

Pistons, 105.1 FM team up to bring fans more content in more ways

Among the many changes ahead for the Pistons before they get back on the court in October is where you’ll find them on your radio dial. Both the Pistons and new carrier WMGC 105.1 FM see their marriage as much more than a traditional broadcast partnership.

“There were several things that were very appealing about it,” said Charlie Metzger, Palace Sports & Entertainment executive vice president of creative and communications as well as chief marketing officer. “First was Greater Media’s view of the relationship, which was broader than just a radio deal. It really is a content partnership deal. We will be using multiple platforms.”

Among the fan-friendly changes coming: You’ll now be able to listen to Pistons broadcasts on-line at both the team and station’s websites as well as on mobile devices via Pistons and 105.1’s apps.

“It’s much more than a rights deal; it’s a true partnership for content, marketing opportunities and events for sports and entertainment fans,” said Steve Chessare, Greater Media market manager. “And also social media. I don’t want to leave that out, because it’s a huge part of both of our success stories.”

Both Pistons and Greater Media management are keenly aware that the growing sophistication of sports fan bases and rapidly evolving technology change the way their audiences can and choose to access information. So the innovative pitch WMGC gave the Pistons, and the way it was received, inspired a shared vision that their partnership is poised to benefit both sides.

“We’d like Pistons fans to understand we view this as more than a radio rights deal,” said Jason Dixon, WMGC program director. “It’s a content-generating agreement and we’re going to be creating more team-related content than has ever been done for the Pistons.

“Our HD 2 channel is going to be dedicated to Pistons programming – everything from game replays to player features to extended pregames. We also understand this is a digital age, so it will be distributed on multiple platforms – the 105 app and website and the Pistons app and website. It’s a huge win for Pistons fans.”

WMGC launched last August with longtime Pistons pre- and postgame host Matt Dery anchoring weekdays from noon-3 p.m. and Detroit radio icon Drew Lane from 3-7 p.m. ESPN national programming is also offered, with the popular “Mike & Mike” morning show recently hosting from Ford Field on Tigers opening day. The format includes caller input but also insight from sports insiders, coaches and players. A big part of the appeal for the Pistons, Metzger said, was WMGC’s affiliation with ESPN.

“The ability to partner with a station directly tied to ESPN made sense for us, given the NBA’s relationship with ESPN,” he said. “For the true sports fan in Detroit, that allows us to be able to share ideas and for them to bring ideas to us.”

“ESPN is a national rights holder with the NBA,” Dixon said. “We had an instant relationship with the league. We have the rights to the playoffs, the Finals, the NBA draft. All of that is already built into what we do.”

The Pistons and NBA basketball will be integral to WMGC’s future and Metzger said incentives were built into the contract to encourage each side to help the other thrive. Greater Media management is equally excited for the potential the partnership represents for Palace Sports & Entertainment’s concert venues, including DTE Energy Music Theatre, and the company’s two longstanding FM rock stations, WRIF and WCSX.

“WRIF and WCSX are iconic brands, not only in the Detroit marketplace but in radio,” Chessare said. “It was a natural partnering with Palace Sports & Entertainment, not only because of the Pistons but also DTE. We’ve been doing a lot of partnerships with DTE and RIF for the last 25 years. This brings it all together and allows us to benefit from the strengths of our brand and the strengths of Palace Sports & Entertainment’s brand.”

And Greater Media management is thrilled to continue airing the play-by-play call of Detroit veteran Mark Champion with analysis from Bad Boys favorite Rick Mahorn.

“Those guys do an incredible job,” said Dixon, who has childhood memories of Champion calling Tampa Bay Bucs games. “I’ve known Mark for quite a while and he’s a great pro. Rick is a legend. The Bad Boys have had a resurgence with the ESPN ‘30 for 30’ special. To have those guys as part of the package is huge for us.”

Champion and Mahorn will lend an air of familiarity next fall to Pistons fans, who otherwise can anticipate a number of changes. Where you’ll find them on the dial will be one of them, but once you tune it to 105.1 you won’t have to worry about changing the channel.

That’s one more simple but terrific benefit for Pistons fans: You’ll never have to wonder where to find the games again. They’ll be on 105.1 FM for all 82 games, not bumped to AM or up or down the dial due to programming conflicts. Or we should say “all 82 games plus the playoffs,” a change Pistons fans are most anticipating.

“We felt our two organizations could grow together,” Metzger said. “It’s about giving fans the access and content they want on their terms.”