Radio Disney looks ahead by borrowing from the past

August 24, 2010

If radio has even a prayer of winning over anyone born in the 21st‚ century, it'll be thanks in large part to Radio Disney, the round-the-clock network geared to preteens (and their good-natured parents who let them control the car radio).

After all, where else can you hear Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers, Taylor Swift, Demi Lovato, Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez and Mitchel Musso over and over and over again with the energy, personality and listener interaction of an old-fashioned Top 40 station?

Now there's a new man in charge of selling the sizzle and making radio relevant to youngsters here. Matthew Friscia, who most recently was an account executive for Radio Disney, has been named cluster station manager for Radio Disney outlets WRDZ-AM (1300) in Chicago and WKSH-AM (1640) in Milwaukee. He succeeds Dave Pawelek, who resigned last spring after four years as station manager to become director of sales for the Disney Vacation Club sales center at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg.

Friscia, who got his start with Radio Disney straight out of Arizona State University before working in sales for Disney/ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7, Tribune Co.-owned CLTV, and formerly Disney/ABC-owned WLS-FM (94.7), was the choice of Karyn Esken, Chicago-based director of Radio Disney Station Group. Said Esken:

"In the three years that‚ he has been back with our organization here in Chicago, Matt has continually ranked as one of Radio Disney's top local sales performers across the country. Adding to that is Matt's passion for the Disney brand and his commitment to winning.‚ We are very lucky to have such a strong manager in a top market like Chicago, and Milwaukee will benefit greatly from his experience as well."

Esken, who oversees Radio Disney operations in‚ New York, Detroit, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, St. Louis and Kansas City as well as Chicago and Milwaukee, is the heart and soul of the company here. A lifelong Chicagoan and 26-year veteran of various Disney/ABC units, she had been station manager of WRDZ practically since its inception before she was promoted to her current position in 2006.

Despite all odds --  and a ratings system stacked against it --  Radio Disney has succeeded largely by borrowing from the playbook of 1960s' radio, with heavy emphasis on local marketing, one-on-one interaction with its audience, and a full calendar of public appearances and special events throughout the year.

The network took another page from radio's past last month by launching "My Dream," an original serialized drama. The series, which airs multiple times each day, follows the trials and tribulations of Kayla, a teen who "juggles a life of music with school and home life."

It's not just about terrestrial radio, however. In addition to airing on more than 40 stations over the air, Radio Disney also is available on RadioDisney.com, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, iTunes Radio Tuner, mobile phones and on the Radio Disney iPhone app.

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