Justin Chase, Beasley Media Group’s executive VP of programming, joined the company in 2009 as program director for country KYCE and CHR KFRH in Las Vegas. After several moves that included the selling off of KFRH, additional oversight of classic hits sister KKLZ, and the acquisition of KVGS and KOAS, he was upped to operations manager of the cluster in 2010.
In 2013, when Beasley created the new position of VP of programming, Chase was recruited to move to the company’s Naples, FL corporate office to fill the role. He has been working alongside the Beasley family through their multi-market swap with CBS Radio in Philadelphia, Tampa and Charlotte in 2014 and the most recent purchase of Greater Media last year.
Just prior to its closing on the Greater Media purchase, Beasley upped Chase to executive VP of programming, and brought in some programming expertise to help with the growing company with the retention of Greater Media’s Buzz Knight, who assumed Chase’s former role at the company.
An active member of industry groups such as the Media Ratings Council (MRC), the Nielsen Advisory Council and the Council for Research Excellence (CRE), Chase took some time from his busy schedule to chat with Inside Radio about the merger of the two companies and cultures, the many changes at the corporate office over the last year and how one of the company’s newest stations in Tampa is performing in its early stages. An edited transcript follows.
Now that the initial integration between Beasley and Greater Media is done, what still needs to be accomplished so the two companies are truly operating as one?
As we expected since the cultures were similar, Beasley and Great Media came together beautifully. The next step is a refinement of our digital strategy, which is being led by our new executive VP of Digital, Steve Meyers.
What has been the most challenging aspect of combining the two company cultures? And what has been the most rewarding?
Much like when we entered the Tampa and Charlotte markets a couple of years ago, we discovered so much amazing talent, brilliant ideas and innovative ways of doing things within these new markets of Boston, Detroit, Philly and New Jersey. So, I would say both the most challenging and most rewarding aspect of this integration was determining the best approaches and ideas and utilizing them company-wide. Without question, this exercise made Beasley a far better company.
Since the purchase of Greater Media, a number of appointments have been made within the company, yourself included. Fill us in on all the changes.
Yes, it has been quite busy here at the corporate office. We’re all very proud to work for our new CEO Caroline Beasley who challenges us daily to be better. Longtime Beasley employee Marie Tedesco, who is one of the smartest and hardest-working people I know, was promoted to CFO. Just recently, we promoted Steve Meyers to executive VP of Digital and we have a lot of confidence in his ability. And a couple of days ago, we brought Heidi Raphael into the company as our VP of Corporate Communications. Heidi served in a similar role at Greater Media and she did it brilliantly. Obviously, I was thrilled to have the chance to bring Buzz Knight into the company as the VP of Programming. Greater Media was well known for their amazing programming and brands and he’s already helped us improve all of our stations in the company. In fact, I’ve learned so much from Buzz in the couple of years that I’ve known him. There have been numerous other additions here at the corporate office and all of them have made us better.
Besides a bunch of new markets and programmers that you’re working with, what’s the difference between your former post of VP of Programming to now executive VP of Programming?
The number of stations that I get a chance to work with is certainly the biggest difference. Beasley has never been a larger company and I’m proud to be a small part of it.
How have you and Buzz Knight split programming oversight responsibilities?
For the first six to nine months, there was a lot of dual work happening as we were both involved with everything. Of course, this was part of the plan as Buzz helped me get ‘up to speed’ at the incoming Greater Media stations and I did the same for him with the legacy stations. But today, we have split up stations, in general, by formats. While there are some exceptions, Buzz is handling the more ‘male-targeted’ formats like rock, classic rock, sports, etc., while I am handling the ‘female-targeted’ formats like AC, country, CHR, etc. As you may know, Buzz has a long and successful history in the rock arena and I have been more focused in the AC and Country formats during my career.
In addition to the revenue opportunities that came with the merger, the company inherited a number of well-known and high-performing personalities. How involved are you in managing and coaching these veteran talents?
Beasley has always put a high emphasis on hiring and developing great personalities, even long before I joined the company. This is one of the reasons why the union of Beasley and Greater Media was such a perfect fit, since Greater Media valued great talent too. And that’s why it’s such an honor for me to work with legendary personalities like Preston & Steve at WMMR in Philly, Pierre Robert also in Philly, Dave & Chuck the Freak at WRIF in Detroit, Loren at WROR in Boston, Carl Craft at WRAT in Jersey, Ramiro & Pebbles at WBQT in Boston and so many more. While many of these seasoned personalities need very little coaching, I do enjoy getting the opportunity to work with some of them when needed.
There was some turnover at the former Greater Media stations just prior to the companies combining—not something many of the company’s long-term staffers have seen much of. For some it may be their first taste of working for a publicly owned company. What’s your role in reassuring the company’s acquired employees that they’re part of the team going forward?
I think we’ve done a good job of making the transition as smooth as possible. One thing that has not changed from Greater Media to Beasley is the ‘family’ culture. The people at the top of our company truly care about the employees on the local level and want them to be successful. There are few people in the organization that Caroline Beasley, Bruce Beasley and Brian Beasley don’t know personally.
Since taking over some of the former CBS stations in Tampa, a number of changes have taken place on the 98.7 signal. First “Bubba Radio” gave way to “No Rules Rock”—which was jettisoned in favor of AC-formatted “b98.7” in January. It’s still less than six months into the station—but what is the consensus on how it’s doing?
While it’s been less than six months, the feedback has been fantastic about the station and the longtime Tampa husband-and-wife morning duo of Chadd and Kristi. As a company, we are committed to providing the best listener experience in all the markets we serve.
Besides your day-to-day responsibilities at Beasley, you’re involved in a number of groups within the industry.
Yes; I have a lot of passion for all of them. Beasley is committed to the long-term health of our industry and we’re always happy to work with other companies and organizations that are working to innovate and improve our business. One of my favorites is the MRC [Media Ratings Council], which strives to audit and improve measurement in all areas of media.