Radio veteran, Pio Ferro, has been Program Director for HOT 97 in NYC since Jan of this year (can you believe how fast this year has gone by?). The station is consulted by former PD Jay Dixon. Ferro, who began his career at WXDJ at the age of 15 became a PD and morning host at the station at the age of 20. He comes to Hot 97 from a varied background that includes: VP of Spanish Programming for CBS, VP of Programming for the Spanish Broadcasting System and he also programmed for Beasley’s Rhythmic WPOW (POWER 96) in Miami before the corporation switched ownership with CBS Radio. Ferro is in charge of one of the greatest stations in the country Emmis’ Hot 97.
ARN: Sans PPM, What is it that makes NY the best or most challenging market to program in?
PIO FERRO: There is nothing like NY on the face of the planet – The diversity is epic! The people, the food, the music. Want the best of anything, it’s here on any day of the week and at any time. The challenges are trying to get all the different tastes together to appeal in mass for music and promotions. Also, there is always something going on, several things / events at once – so trying to cover what matters most for our audience can be challenging.
ARN: What’s the difference in programming for a high energy Spanish station vs Rhythmic?
PF: The fundamentals of programming are the same – great radio is great radio in Spanish or English. Aside from playing the best music, every Programmer’s job should be to make sure the station sounds as good at 2AM as it does at 2PM. I love that we are LIVE 24 hours a day / 7 days a week, I only know of one other station that does it, and I’m happy to say I worked there also. Another important component is to surround yourself with the best people possible. You’re only as strong as your weakest link in the chain.
ARN: How important is it for Programmers to get from behind the desk and meet the listeners? Why?
PF: Very and it’s easier now more than ever before – you can still go to the station remotes or a massive event like Summer Jam and get as much feedback as possible, but now Programmers have social media to connect and get audience feedback. Hot 97 has the biggest digital footprint of any station in the US so there’s always a lot of opinion – some very constructive, some just noise, but there is a ton of actionable feedback from the listeners to work with.
(Here are numbers for you)
|STATION||FACEBOOK FOLLOWERS||TWITTER FOLLOWERS||YOUTUBE SUBSCRIBERS|
|BBC RADIO 1||2,138,669||2,325,833||2,602,552|
ARN: What exciting promotions do you have coming up?
PF: This weekend we’re partnering with our sister station, WBLS 107.5, on the biggest women’s event in the tri-state – Circle Of Sisters at the Javits Center. 2 full days of panels, concerts, expo’s, cooking, you name it – it’s going to happen. We’re currently working on a big Holiday concert for Hot 97, the details are still coming together, but it’s going to be an amazing show. We’re also going to giveaway very HOT items on air that our audience is going to love for the Holiday season. And believe it or not, we’re already setting up Summer Jam 2016.
ARN: How do listeners respond to the combined promotion efforts between Hot and WBLS?
PF: We try to keep co-branded events as separate as possible on air to avoid confusion with the audience. Circle of Sisters is the big event we collaborate on every year
ARN: I’m a big fan of Ebro’s unapologetic, unrehearsed, one-on-one style interviews some of which have been the best I’ve heard in the industry. There are many jocks who are stuck in the “Who inspired you, what’s your favorite song on the Album” interview mode which is dated. What’s are some of the best interviews you have heard from Hot’s jocks since you took over as PD?
PF: I’m also a huge Ebro fan – he, Peter and Laura have incredible chemistry and they ask the right/tough questions. Ebro is one of the smartest people I have worked with; no one gets a point across quite like he can. One of my favorite interviews was when he spoke to Bobby Shmurda from jail – he actually got him on the phone not once, but twice.
Our afternoon host Nessa is also brilliant – her ability to ask questions that would make others blush just comes naturally, her interview with Chris Brown and Tyga has more than 3.7 million views on YouTube.
Funk Flex has a way to just make the listener feel like their hanging out when artists come by. Where Ebro is direct and no-nonsense and Nessa is edgy, Funk brings you into the conversation mastering the art of bringing anyone in that studio to a level where all listeners can connect.
ARN: What are the top 3 to 5 songs in the market right now?
PF: Right now:
The Weeknd – “The Hills”
Drake – “Hotline Bling”
Fetty Wap – “My Way & 679”
Personally, I think the next big ones are K Camp “Comfortable” and Drake & Future’s “Jumpman”.
ARN: If you could spend an entire day with three to five other current radio pros and/or PDs who would they be? (who do you admire most)
PF: If I had a time machine I would love to go back to the 60’s and spend a week with Bill Drake!
I’m lucky enough to have worked or work for people I admire very much. I’ve been a fan of Jimmy Steal since I got to LA in ’94. Really love the way he develops talent and how he puts the sound together on the radio.
Rick Cummings, one of the best strategists/programmer I have ever worked with .
I’ve worked with Dom Theodore who is incredibly creative and talented.
I admire Kevin Weatherly very much, during my time at CBS Radio, he always just made so much sense – and he admits to being a “research whore,” something I myself am proud of being.
And, lastly – the person I owe my radio career to: Bill Tanner. I met Bill in 1992 in Miami and worked with him from then until 2005 – we became a heavy-weight one-two punch in the Spanish market with great success in Miami, LA, NYC, and then again at WPOW in Miami from ’12 to ’14. I’ve been blessed.
ARN: What is it that you think small and medium markets could do better with? What do you find is missing or could use improvement at a lot of those stations? (promotions, social networking, videos of morning shows etc)
PF: Many of my friends operate in small / medium markets. When we talk the obvious/biggest difference is the ratings system. Programming to the diary favors more top of mind awareness versus actual usage you get with passive measurement. Access to artist is obviously more challenging outside of the top 10. With the big conglomerates in the medium and smaller markets, I don’t think their missing much else.
ARN: What industry conferences do you attend?
PF: I have to get better at that – but I definitely want to be at the next NAB.
ARN: I agree, the NAB looked like it turned out great this year in Atlanta.