Tag Archives: broadcasting

Revamped Radio

March 18, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When the band Train came to Omaha’s Baxter Arena for a concert in December 2016, there were plenty of flashing lights and excited fans. “But when the lights go out and the audience starts screaming, there’s no rush like it in the world,” says Andy Ruback, general manager of NRG Media. Ruback knows a great deal about screaming fans—when a big concert comes to town the likelihood is that Ruback had his hand in the planning. His role as general manager has evolved over the years from managing radio stations to include managing events brought to town by NRG Media Live.

The business is a natural fit for NRG, which owns stations ranging from Power 106.9 to 1290 KOIL. The company was looking to the future for broadcasting and leaning toward live shows as a way to increase profitability. NRG used their strengths in connecting people to music to expand into the business of concert production. With the radio stations’ on-air talent knowing their listeners’ preferences, the media company naturally knew what acts had potential to bring in revenue, and which ones might not.

Ruback came to Omaha from Lincoln, where he served as general manager for their NRG stations. Upon his arrival at the NRG offices in Omaha in 2012, Ruback went full speed ahead. He says the intention was never to focus on live shows over radio shows; rather, he called his plans a method for “diversifying for growth.”

Concert production is a challenge that Ruback gladly accepted, but in it, found unique bumps in the road. Some of those bumps included special requirements, such as permits, that needed the legal team’s help. Shock rocker Alice Cooper, for example, required the team to acquire special insurance because of the pyrotechnics involved with his show. Ruback and his team figured out how to get the right insurance, and now know who to ask the next time someone wants to light up fireworks onstage.

Ruback says some of the more surprising challenges he and his team have faced come from smaller, more routine details.

“I would say it’s more about the crowd experience logistics,” Ruback says. “How do we try to work with the arenas to make sure there’s enough concessions on the floor? What should be the entry ticket price? What should be the price for the front row?”

Logistics is the simplest description for the business of producing concerts. Is the specific artist available at the time? Is there enough interest in this artist to fill the seats? Is a venue available on the day needed?

“We could have the great idea, and the right price, but there could be a UNO hockey game and a Lancers game on the night we want, and we’re out of luck,” Ruback says.

It is a revenue stream in which many community businesses desire to participate, and there are many ways for them to participate, including attaching their name to experiences such as meet-and-greets with the band before or after the show, and attaching their name to souvenirs. Attendees at the Train concert, for example, vied for flashing bracelets and cups branded with a sponsor’s logo. Signage prominently displayed throughout Baxter Arena featured sponsor logos.

The scenario is beneficial to everyone involved: the band gets to play to a well-attended venue, the fans get to enjoy the band, and the sponsors get to present their message in an effective way.

“On that day, no other media group is producing a concert,” Ruback says. “So you’re looking at content that advertisers want to be a part of, but no other client can do.”

The diversification proved wildly successful. Ruback says that since 2014, more than 100,000 people have attended an NRG Media Live event. Associate athletic director for University of Nebraska at Omaha Mike Kemp enjoys his business dealings with NRG Media Live and says that when Ruback puts on a concert at Baxter Arena “… it’s not just a concert—it’s an event. He has great vision and ideas and that’s the true charm of what he does.”

“I think NRG Media does a great job of engaging the community to get behind the events,” adds Kemp. NRG Media has the ability to promote coming shows using the radio stations on their roster and their strong social media presence. This equals solid attendance numbers at concerts and happy sponsors.

“Andy’s full of energy and great ideas,” Kemp says of Ruback. “He’s an honest guy with great enthusiasm for what he does.” Rubak’s vision has evolved NRG Media into much more than an organization simply running local radio stations. In fact, the next time there is a popular concert in town, there is an excellent chance that Ruback can be found there, smiling and enjoying the rush.

Visit nrgmedia.com for more information.

This article was printed in the Spring 2017 edition of B2B.

Malorie Maddox

July 3, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The alert of “stand by” is called out as the seconds tick away to the top of the hour. Moments later a red light bursts to life.

Malorie Maddox is on the air once again.

On this particular day, the WOWT anchor/reporter proceeds to report on one tragedy after another. The broadcast leads with an update on a 6-year-old girl hit by a stray bullet and is followed by stories of a 3-year-old boy kept in a cage by his parents and a piece on yet another school shooting.

“I often take home with me the emotion of an interview,” says the Kansas native who has spent the last 10 years of her career at the station. “I believe that if you’re going to tell a story, you have to feel that story. But I also know that I need to let go of that…to let go of that emotion before I go on the air.”

Nothing, it would seem, can dent the indomitable spirit of this professional. Especially not on this day. Only hours earlier, Maddox was among 10 women feted by the WCA at their 27th annual Tribute to Women luncheon. The longtime WCA supporter and guild member normally emcees the event, so this year her on-air colleague, veteran anchor John Knicely, did the honors.

“The women we serve at the WCA are most often victims of domestic abuse or sexual assault,” says Maddox, who also gives of her time in the fight against cancer, among other nonprofit work. “They are in horrific, unimaginable situations. The WCA is there for women who are in their absolute
darkest hour.”

She and husband Greg, an attorney and two-time cancer survivor, have a 3-year-old son named Moss. Her nightly wind-down ritual once she gets home is a simple one; “Sweat pants and a single, very cold beer,” beams the otherwise always perfectly coiffed and attired newswoman. She enjoys running and working out in the station’s gym, usually with Knicely at the neighboring machine. And usually with some gentle ribbing from her co-anchor. “He gives me a hard time,” Maddox quips, “especially because I like to listen to really loud rap music when I work out.”

Back in the studio, the red light goes dead. Time for a commercial break.

“That’s the toughest word for me to pronounce,” she says in reference to a segment that included the words ‘rural Nebraska.’ “Rur-al,” she enunciates. “Two syllables. Rur-al. Rur-al. Rurrr-al!” Maddox then directs her attention to the control room so she can see the owner of a disembodied voice chattering away in the anchor’s ear buds. “No, I’m not poking the bear,” she says in replying to a question rendered overly cryptic due to the fact that no one else on the set can hear the voice in her head. And then the red light pops back on.