The Score is celebrating its 30-year anniversary this month. The iconic Chicago sports radio brand was launched on January 2, 1992. Initially, it was a daytime signal, meaning the power actually had to be shut off when the sun went down. I absolutely love this detail. Imagine if that were the case today. Think of hearing a station in Atlanta saying, “Georgia fans, what a win for the Dawgs. The 41-year championship drought is over. Well, it’s 5:28 so we’ll talk more about it at sunrise tomorrow.”
The Score has grown tremendously from those early years. It’s similar to the NFL; it’s hard to imagine when the Green Bay Packers were thumping the Kansas City Chiefs in what would eventually be called Super Bowl I, that the game would advance so much and become the spectacle it is today. There is also no way the person in charge of shutting off the power at sundown in ’92 could foresee the internet and apps and Twitch and streaming. The Score is in a much different place today.
Mitch Rosen is the operations director at 670 The Score and has been with the station for nearly 17 years. His vision and leadership have played a huge role in the overall success of the station. In addition to his duties at The Score, Mitch also oversees 1250 The Fan in Milwaukee, and Audacy’s BetQL network. We chat about all of the programming hats he wears, the it-factor when making a hire, and the evolution of the sports radio industry over the past 30 years. Enjoy!
Brian Noe: Now that we’ve arrived at the 30-year anniversary of The Score, from where it was to where it is right now, how would you describe the evolution of the station?
Mitch Rosen: It’s really incredible. I’ll be here 17 years in February. This is truly, I believe, an iconic Chicago sports brand. When The Score signed on in January of 1992, it was a day-timer. Literally, the station would sign on each day at sunrise and sign off at sundown. Could you imagine a Bears-Packers Sunday, great game, you’re on the air all day Monday, then the sun goes down at 4:50 on a fall afternoon and you have to stop talking? At that time the internet wasn’t really happening and no way to interact with your audience.
The evolution of this brand — and it’s been on three frequencies. It started off at 820 AM, 1160 AM, and now for many years we’ve been on 670 AM, a 50,000-watt blowtorch. The evolution of this brand has just been incredible. All the producers and on-air personalities and sales and marketing people, just to be part of it and to see it develop over all of these years is just incredible.
Add to that the sports franchises that we’ve been partners with. We were partners with the Blackhawks, partners with the White Sox. Then one of the most iconic franchises in all of sports, the Chicago Cubs had not won a World Series since 1908. Our first year of partnering with the Cubs was 2016, and for the Cubs to win a World Series their first year on The Score, a lot of people say we’d rather be lucky than good. How about that? It was just an incredible year. To hear Pat Hughes, the voice of the Cubs, literally say on The Score, the Cubs have won the World Series, you can’t describe the feeling.
BN: When you think about some of the names throughout the years that have helped build the station to what it is today, what comes to mind?
MR: One of the most valuable people that I can think of, Russ Mitera, has literally been here minus three months of existence at the station. Russ is our creative production director. He images the station I think better than anybody else in the country. Obviously, he and I have worked together every day that I’ve been here for 17 years. He makes this station sound great from an imaging standpoint. The sound, the music beds, the imaging voice, his voice. Besides being a great human being, he’s so talented at what he does.
The founding fathers of this radio station, Mike North, Dan Jiggetts, Terry Boers, Dan McNeil, Brian Hanley, and so many others. Doug Buffone, who passed away a number of years ago. The station hiring Mike Ditka when he was still coach of the Bears. Those are things that people still remember to this day. Modern-day Score, Leila Rahimi, a great asset who co-hosts our midday show with Dan Bernstein. Danny Parkins who joined us about five years ago from outside the market and has done a fantastic job in afternoon drive. Staples like Les Grobstein who hosts our overnight show. We’re fortunate to have a live overnight show. So many great things.
BN: What’s one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced over the years?
MR: There have been a lot of challenges and good challenges along the way. For me, it’s continuing to follow new technology, new ways to interact with our audience, and finding a new audience for our station. Being a standalone AM frequency where sometimes new cars that are manufactured don’t even offer an AM band, so it’s the power of our audio stream, our video stream on Twitch. Our company does a great job from a technological aspect of finding new ways to communicate with our audience on all different platforms. It’s just great. Being a standalone AM, people find great content and they find it throughout all different platforms.
BN: Over the last 30 years of sports radio in general, what do you think has been the biggest positive evolution in the industry?
MR: I think the audience has become smarter. I think when sports radio in Chicago first started, it was caller after caller. Now people interact and communicate whether it’s via text or social platforms. I think the audience and the hosts have become smarter over the years, more intelligent. I think data shows that. I think it’s a more educated audience and we reach out to an audience that interacts in different ways. I think that’s how it’s changed.
I think people want to be educated. There’s an X’s and O’s factor to it, but they also want to be entertained. I think that’s what our brand does. On a Bears Monday, we’re going to talk some X’s and O’s, but I also think we’re going to entertain our audience. I think we provide great experts to analyze games, but our hosts are entertaining, they’re informative. Whether the audience loves or doesn’t always love our hosts, they respect them and they respect our brand. At the end of the day, The Score brand is a powerful brand that our audience continues to come back to.
BN: When you’re operating three different brands, in what ways does your message differ to each of your staffs?
MR: I think you react to different markets. Chicago is different than Milwaukee, but at the end of the day, I really think we’re in the opinion business. Hosts have to be opinionated and you have to interact. People here in Chicago, they have fun with it. I like to say we play the hits. What are people talking about today? If we were at a bar today in Chicago, it’d be about the Bears. The changes they are making with the head coach and the general manager. Those are the hits today. And the Bulls. The Bulls are in first place in the East.
We play the hits, have energy, have opinions, that’s the business we’re in. I think that’s vital. That’s really in any market. Whether it’s Milwaukee or BetQL, which I’m involved with in operations, it’s wager-tainment. We entertain people and we give them data to make them better bettors. Same type of thing; we’re talking NFL, we’re talking NBA. Those are the hits in that format too.
BN: Why was Ryan Porth the right candidate for the APD position at The Score?
MR: In my 17 years it was the most dedicated time I put into that hire. It was the most important hire I’ve made. I took my time. It’s the most people I interviewed for that position ever. I wanted to find the right person. The right person that had experience, that understood the medium, that quite frankly I could learn from and that I could teach some things to. This person will help me bring our brand forward to the future. Ryan really checked all those boxes.
I had great candidates both internally and externally. After really doing a lot of research on Ryan and the success that he’s had in Nashville, I felt that he’s the right person. Like anybody, time will tell. We’ll see how things go. He is a terrific person. I love having great people that I work with, and he’s a smart person in radio and in the audio business. I think he’ll fit right into our clubhouse.
BN: When you have so many…