By RICK NOLTE
Sports radio listeners now have outlets with programming centered on Georgia’s college and professional teams with commentary on it all offered by a Waycross native.
Bill Shanks, who graced the radio airwaves in his hometown as a teenager in the 1980s, and later on TV in Brunswick, has acquired radio stations WFNS-AM 1350 and Wz53CI FM-98.5 in Blackshear/Waycross as part of a deal with Southern Interactive Media.
The purchase was finalized last month with the stations debuting a couple of weeks ago along with four others in Brunswick and Savannah as part of Shanks Broadcasting, which the broadcaster founded in 2016. The company now has 11 stations that produce signals from north of Macon to the Georgia coast and everywhere in between.
“The SuperStations” offers ESPN-based programming along with locally produced and syndicated shows. The company also has broadcast rights for the Atlanta Braves, Falcons, Hawks as well as Georgia Southern football.
Shanks said the goal is to bring as much state of Georgia sports talk to the radio airwaves as possible.
He said talks about the acquisition had been on-going for about a year and came together the last couple of months.
“The frequencies in that area were attractive because we were a similar format with ESPN and the Braves, Hawks, and Falcons so there was a lot of the same things we do,” Shanks said in a telephone interview last week from Macon where his company is based. “I thought we could come in with the focus of our programming and the teams we cover and make a difference.”
That approach is daily doses of all things relevant to state sports at the college and professional level, and when appropriate, high schools during championship runs. Content will be simulcast across the properties.
One of the local entries is “The Bill Shanks Show,” which airs from 3 to 7 p.m. weekdays.
Shanks, along with show partner Russ Brown has a variety of guests daily who cover Atlanta’s pro teams as well as writers and broadcasters with the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern, and other college programs in the Southeast.
The show also takes calls from listeners on related subjects for at least an hour of the program.
Brown, who’s been on the air in Macon with Shanks for 15 years, teams with Daniel Shirley for the other locally produced show from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily. Brown is a color commentator for Georgia Southern football while Shirley, former Sports Editor of the Albany Herald and Macon Telegraph, is Georgia Editor for The Athletic. The show takes calls from its guests.
Shanks said Christian Goeckel and P.J. Zucco, who were involved in a variety of programming for the Brunswick-Savannah stations, will team to host a college football-related show in available time slots during the evening. He also said Rich Stiles will continue with his “Back Nine Boys” golf broadcast on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
The company also has syndicated early morning programming from Bill King, who’s based in Nashville, Tenn., with a focus on college sports, as well as The Dan Patrick Show. Chuck Oliver, whose Atlanta-based show covers only college football, is the lead in for Shanks in the early afternoon.
“It wasn’t like we were taking over a country station to make a core change to sports,” said Shanks, who’s had an afternoon sports talk show in Macon since 2007. “We felt like we could make an improvement with a fresher approach under our umbrella.”
Transitioning programming to new stations always presents challenges, especially with so much automation now involved, and this one was no different.
“Slowly, but surely we’re getting there,” Shanks said. “We’re not near 100 percent where want or need to be, but we’re on the air and looking forward to a long association.”
All programming can be heard at the company website TheSuperStations.com.