DenverSportsRadio.com prepares to launch ambitious online station

According to talk-show host Dino Costa, one of the principals behind DenverSportsRadio.com, a new online project that will be introduced at a press conference today in advance of its scheduled Monday, April 20, launch, the sports-radio offerings in Denver at present are "below mediocre." He adds, "We're confident we can provide an independent, fearless talk-radio model that will eclipse anything that's available now."

Of course, Costa has never lacked for confidence, as he made clear in "Dino's Sore," a February 2006 Message column/profile. It's no surprise, then, that in talking about DenverSportsRadio.com, he portrays it as a can't-miss blockbuster in the making. Still, he and the on-air talent he's assembled -- a team that includes well-known radio and print-journalism figures as well as relative newcomers -- face significant challenges. Funding a personnel-heavy, locally focused outlet available solely on the web won't be easy, and although Costa claims the operation "will be very close to making a profit when we hit the air" (or at least cyberspace), he concedes that "we're in the infancy stages of trying to figure out how best to monetize products all over the Internet, let alone a sports-radio station."

The DenverSportsRadio.com morning show, bowing at 7 a.m. on the 20th, is Getting Down to Business, a program that doesn't concentrate on the portal's primary subject -- a quizzical move, albeit one that makes a certain amount of sense given that it's co-hosted by Dave Kaiser, Costa's partner in the project. The owner and operator of a company called Pinnacor Financial, Kaiser appeared on the Radio Colorado Network, Costa's former broadcasting home, and in February, he approached his former colleague with the idea of them purchasing a station together.

Costa, who says he's spent the past couple of years assembling groups that tried and failed to accomplish this same goal ("We were close on two of them," he says), was receptive. But after identifying an outlet to target, Costa notes, "we looked at the economic landscape, and even though we knew what we would produce would surpass the status quo, we also realized it would be a while before we came out of this recessionary period we're in. And because of that, we felt that this wasn't the best time to invest upwards of $10 million" -- an amount that, in Costa's view, would have been required to do things right -- "in a regular, commercially run radio station."

Not that the twosome were ready to give up on their dream. "We recircled the wagons and came back with what we feel is a better model for Denver's first-ever, high-level, all-sports radio station on the Internet," Costa says. "It made sense, because not having the cost of infrastructure of a regular station allows us to be creative with our marketing dollars and air talent, and allows us to do a lot of other things we wouldn't otherwise be able to do."

When it came time to selecting hosts to staff the station, Costa "didn't want to give people the same-old, same-old. I wanted programs that were different." Hence, his decision to bring aboard Bobby and Junior Mauck, a brother combo with a style to which he's sure longtime Denver sports followers will be able to relate, as well as Doog and the Franchise, who've been doing their bit on the Internet for a while now; their old site can be accessed here.

In addition, Costa is attempting to place known quantities in new contexts. For instance, the midday team is JJ McKay and Rick "The Coach" Marshall, who previously paired on a general-interest block at KOOL 105. "They did mention sports on that show, but they have a real passion for it, and now they'll be able to concentrate," Costa says. Former Rocky Mountain News baseball writer won't have to change topics: He'll be at the microphone for what's termed The REAL Rockies Pre-Game Show two hours prior to the first pitch at every Colorado Rockies home night game. And Costa also reached out to Chad Andrus, formerly with what was then AM-950/The Fan, who Costa considers to have been severely underutilized, and put him together with Denver Post sports columnist Mark Kiszla. "To think that no one in this town was smart enough to secure Mark on the radio," Costa says. "He's been out there for years like a hanging breaking ball just waiting to be crushed. We've had arguments on the air; he's hung up on me. But when we decided to do this, he was one of the first people I thought of."

And who preceded Kiszla in his mind? Costa doesn't say, but he does point out that "this dickhead, this jackass by the name of Dino Costa is going to have a show, too."

These folks aren't yapping for free. Costa emphasizes that everyone's getting paid, as well as being offered "generous opportunities toward the marketing end of the spectrum. We're providing them with marketing splits on whatever money they bring in, which they're very enthused about. That's not something available at most commercial radio stations." As for advertising, Costa acknowledges that it'll have a place on DenverSportsRadio.com, but he hopes most of it will be folded into the programs in a seamless way. Meanwhile, affiliations are in place with AudioNow, a mobile provider whose expertise should make DenverSportsRadio.com easily accessible on the iPhone and other similar devices -- and Buzz Coffee Shop in Longmont, Jackson's Sports Grill in LoDo and the Hooters on Colorado Boulevard are on board, serving as the locales for the Kiszla/Andrus duo, Etkin and JJ and The Coach, respectively.

While that's a good start, none of the sponsorships in place will create the sort of cashflow needed to keep the ship afloat over time -- which is why Costa and Kaiser are searching for other approaches. "We're talking to a lot of people regarding what's the best angle to take," he says. They're not "clearly defining" what those angles might be, "but we feel they're going to evolve over time -- and we like the fact that we're the first in the market to do this. So we'll go along and see how the market is responding, and listen to what the market is telling us."

The parties involved are going into the enterprise with eyes wide open, Costa maintains. "Every decision has been thorough and thoughtful. We don't have a bottomless reservoir of money, but we are solidly funded and committed to making this work. I've been here for five years, and the plan is to be here for the rest of my life. Colorado's my home. So this will not be a flash in the pan. We're building this for the short and the long term, as an enduring enterprise that will continue to thrive well into the future."

Expert more dialogue like this from today's press conference, slated to get underway at 12:30 p.m. at Katie Mullen's Irish Restaurant & Pub, 1550 Court Place, in the Sheraton Hotel on the 16th Street Mall. "We'll introduce our entire air staff, our multiple-platform distribution system and talk about the plans for the station," he announces. Even Costa admits that "the proof is going to be in the pudding" -- but he's glad that "we're in the proving-ground part of our development now. And we like our chances."

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