When Steve Griffin and Frank Frangie met in a delicatessen seven years ago to discuss starting a sports radio station in Jacksonville, they knew they wanted to secure the Jacksonville Jaguars radio rights one day.
“Even in that conversation in the deli, getting the Jaguars was the imperative,” said Griffin, general manager of WJXL (1010 AM and 92.5 FM), which markets itself as 1010 XL.
“To be the number one station in the market, you have to have the number one sports franchise in the market,” Griffin said Thursday at a luncheon held by the North Florida chapter of the Association for Corporate Growth.
Griffin and several WJXL on-air personalities joined with Chad Johnson, Jaguars senior vice president of ticket sales, at the meeting in the Terrace Suites at EverBank Field to explain how the radio station was able to secure the broadcast rights.
Cox Radio’s WOKV (690 AM and 104.5 FM) had owned the broadcast rights since the Jaguars’ first game in 1995, and Johnson said the station did a good job, but the Jaguars were looking for a fresh approach.
“We knew we had to change something because the organization was not growing,” he said.
Johnson said the Jaguars have a great story to tell about the team’s new direction, both on and off the field.
“We need a partner that will support us and tell that same story to the marketplace,” he said.
WJXL realized it needed a unique approach and came up with a 30-page proposal that showed how the sports radio station could provide programming and marketing opportunities to help the Jaguars.
“They’re a ticket-selling business,” said Frangie, who became the play-by-play voice of the Jaguars after WJXL secured the rights this year.
“If we’re going to be a good partner, we’ve got to help them sell tickets,” he said.
The station’s approach includes a weekly show aimed at female Jaguars fans called “Helmets and Heels.”
“It’s the only show of its kind in the country,” Griffin said.
Jessica Blaylock, host of the show, said it’s designed to educate a growing number of female Jaguars’ fans on the nuances of the game.
“That number is growing all the time,” she said.
Blaylock also said the show takes on significant off-field issues, such as Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice’s case of assaulting his then fiancé.
“That’s something a female is going to have a unique perspective on,” she said.
Blaylock said she’s been reporting on the Jaguars for five years and she believes the players have stopped looking at her as a woman entering the locker room and started treating her as a reporter.
“It took a little bit of time but I think that trust is there, that credibility is there,” she said.
The WJXL staff said their reporting of the Jaguars hasn’t changed since the station has become partners with the team, and that Jaguars management has encouraged them to be objective.
“We have to be objective. We can’t be a shill and say everything’s going to be OK,” Griffin said.
“It’s tough to do your jobs if you’re told to say things,” said afternoon co-host Rick Ballou.
Jeff Prosser, co-host of a morning show, said he has been critical about the team’s poor start this season on the air.
“Our point of view hasn’t changed one lick,” he said.
“I think there’s an understanding that you’re going to be called what you are,” he said.
Griffin said it wasn’t the station’s proposal but instead was the Jaguars’ idea to bring in WJXL personalities to handle the game broadcasts, replacing long-time play-by-play announcer Brian Sexton.
“They came to us,” he said.
Although the Jaguars are 0-3, the WJXL staffers seem to be in agreement that they like the direction the team is taking.
“I really believe things are going to take a turn for the better,” said Ballou.
The financial terms of the broadcast rights weren’t discussed at all during the luncheon but after the meeting, Johnson said there wasn’t a big difference between what Cox paid and what WJXL is paying. The Jaguars were more interested in the marketing approach.
“Financially, we’re always in the same ballpark,” he said. “There’s not a lot of wiggle room in there.”
Including preseason games, WJXL has only done seven game broadcasts so far, and Griffin expects the station’s approach to evolve.
“It’s an ongoing thing,” he said.
“What you hear next year will be vastly different than what you hear this year.”