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The 3 Approaches To Summer Fill-Ins

Summer is a great time for vacations. Talent wants time off for fishing trips, camping, college visits for their kids, you name it. As a PD, you want them to take time off to refresh and recharge in time for the coveted fall ratings book/period. So where does this leave the shows and you as a Program Director?

There are three ways to view the summer: budget-saver, maintain status-quo or talent tryouts.

The “budget saver” is no fun, but if you are going through budget cuts or your budget is tight you may need to go this route. A station doing this will have hosts of two person shows working solo or having other full-time staffers (anchors, producers, evening hosts) playing the fill-in role.

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It’s typically ok radio. The upside is that the other full-time staffers typically find this as a big opportunity and prepare their shows accordingly. The downside is that the fill-in won’t typically be as strong or have great chemistry with the host who is not on vacation.

The “status quo” approach tries to fill in for the vacationing host with strong fill-in hosts who are regularly on the station as weekend hosts/fill-ins. The intent is to keep the shows sounding as similar as they can when the regular hosts are together with the hope of maintaining the ratings. It’s a fairly safe approach and will typically keep your P1s happy.

Talent tryouts my favorite of the three approaches. Try different people from different walks of life and hear how they sound on your station. Mix it up. A great caller, a regular guest, a current or former athlete, a local actor or actress. Find a player from your local NFL team who has a good personality and would be interested. Coach him up and make him comfortable. Same with a caller. Bring him or her in and get them comfortable and ready. 

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Whoever you decide to bring in, it is essential that you don’t just throw them in the middle of the pool and hope they can swim. This is important. I’ve seen current, in-shape athletes fade in the final hour or 90 minutes of a show. People who have never hosted a sports talk show have no idea the endurance it takes to have full focus and full energy for a three or four hour talk show. 

This is a great way to build your bench or prepare for future programming changes. You might think two people would sound great together or that a certain caller would add a lot as a host but you just won’t know until you try it and hear it.

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Another upside of this third option is the potential for PR for the shows and reaching people through social media who never listen to sports radio that will check you out. You know your market and you know what’s hot. Why not look at this as an opportunity to grow your audience and take a chance? 

People always sit in meetings and talk about thinking “outside the box!” This is your chance to do that and what’s the worst that could happen? A less than stellar show in the summer? I would take that chance with all the potential rewards available. 

Good luck with your summer fill-ins whichever route you take! 

Matt Fishman
Matt Fishman
Matt Fishman is a former columnist for BSM. The current PD of ESPN Cleveland has a lengthy resume in sports radio programming. His career stops include SiriusXM, 670 The Score in Chicago, and 610 Sports in Kansas City. You can follow him on Twitter @FatMishman20 or you can email him at [email protected].

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