Q/A with Dino Costa: Mad Dog host says his show offers alternative to ‘homogenized garbage’ of sports talk radio

First of two parts:

At one point during our interview, Dino Costa said, “I don’t want to sound braggadocious.”

I’m thinking, he doesn’t want to sound braggadocious? This is a guy who has been telling me for the better part of an hour that he is the best thing going on sports talk radio. And the vast of bulk of programming in the format, he says, is a bunch of “homogenized garbage.”

Then again, listeners of The Dino Costa Radio Show wouldn’t be surprised.

His evening show on the Mad Dog Radio channel on SiriusXM (7-11 p.m. ET) is the sports talk version of UFC: Anything goes. Supremely confident and “fearless,” Costa has a strong opinion about everything and anything, and that includes slamming the guy whose nickname is the title of the station, Chris Russo.

Recently, Costa called Russo “a has been.” And that was on Russo’s show.

Costa, 48, has had a curious life and career. He didn’t even break into the business until he was 33. It is all well-documented in a piece by Michael Hastings in Men’s Journal. Hastings has a great description of Costa’s style:

Costa makes Colin Cowherd or Skip Bayless, two of ESPN’S best-known Angry Male alphas, seem mild and  reasonable. Compared with them, Costa is more like a militia leader broadcasting direct from Ruby Ridge under siege, an army of liberals blasting away from the other side of the barbed wire.

The fact that Men’s Journal did a story on an evening sports talk host on satellite radio shows the impact Costa is having in the market since he joined Mad Dog in 2009. And since it hasn’t come easy for him, and since he wants a much bigger slice of the pie, if not the whole thing, he feels compelled to blow his horn as if it were an air raid siren.

Drawing the inevitable sports radio comparsions to Rush Limbaugh (“a huge compliment”), Costa can be extremely polarizing and hardly is for everyone. But despite all of Costa’s personal slams, even Russo concedes “he’s a helluva host.”

Here’s Part 1 of my Q/A with Costa in which he takes apart the sports talk radio industry.

How would you explain your show to people who haven’t heard it before?

I can answer in a way that talks about the industry of sports talk radio. On balance, all sports talk radio sounds exactly the same. There is a status quo that underwhelms me. It’s homogenized garbage that deals with the lowest common denominator. The predictability is frightening. The same subject, same comments every day. It stays in the same lane and drones on and on.

I’m amazed at people who think this is good sports talk radio. I find most people involved in the format are completely bankrupt from a creative point of view.

You look at the people they are bringing in for (the new CBS and NBC Sports Radio Networks). There isn’t a compelling 3-4 hour block in there. It’s all the same. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think there is some kind of conspiracy out there.

I heard you once devote the bulk of your show ripping Jim Rome. He’s wildly successful in sports talk radio. Why would you have issues with him?

Jim got in on the ground floor when sports talk radio was starting to flourish. His show is highly overproduced. There is a significant amount of authenticity that is lacking. I find his show to be scripted and then he turns it over to a bunch of callers he calls “clones.” How is this compelling radio? It’s the same stuff every day.

What about Mike and Mike at ESPN Radio? They do big numbers.

I have great respect for them, but that is an incredibly over produced show. It’s broken up into segments, and they have 10-11 guests, most of them the same people from ESPN. It’s the same stuff over and over again. They never say anything controversial. They stay within the politically correct line.

There’s just a lack of courage in this business. Everything is a carbon copy. What I do is distinctly different from the status quo.

OK what do you do? Let’s gets back to the original question of how would you describe your show?

I present a completely different look and feel to sports talk radio that is absent anywhere else. The show is unique in that it attracts more than the hardcore sports fan. I’ve had people tell me, ‘I don’t listen to sports radio, but I listen to your show.’ That’s the biggest compliment I can get.

My show transcends the craft of sports talk radio. I resonate with people. It doesn’t matter if you love or hate what I say, the bottom line, people listen to me. The show is impossible to ignore.

SiriusXM provides a forum for the most liberated kind of sports talk. There’s no calibrator. Nothing is taboo. As a talk show host, I find it incredibly liberating.

It’s about two hours before your show. What is on the agenda for tonight?

I don’t know. It’s completely organic. I have some thoughts that I want to discuss in my mind, but it is a stream of conscious kind of show. This is a national show. In order to do it properly, I read up to 100 newspapers per day. I’m constantly taking notes.

I could go an hour without taking calls. I don’t have many guests. I get emails from people saying, ‘Stop with the guests. We want to hear what you have to say.’ I’m a different beast. I’m way outside the box.

If your show and presentation is so unique, why has it taken you this long to get on this stage? You’ve had several stops along the way.

Good question. In terms of style and format, there’s been a great reluctance by upper management to embrace somebody as opinionated and irreverent as I can be. I’ve talked to many people in the industry about this question. One person, who I respect, told me, ‘With your show, you put people at risk in upper management.’

Programmers aren’t intelligent. Oh, they’re intelligent in selecting people who won’t have people complaining about them. They make the same predictable hires, and it’s all so vanilla.

You take a wildcard like me, you’ve got to be willing to let the phone ring or field the complaints.

You had to try out for your show on Mad Dog and weren’t even hired initially. Again if you’re so good, why didn’t you get hired right away?

That was a big mistake on their part. I give (program director Steve Torre) a lot of credit. He recognized that I could be something big. I’m going to be the best hire SiriusXM ever made.

You did meet with NBC. How did that go?

I (also) met with ESPN three times. The fit at NBC wasn’t a good one. It would have been a truncated relationship.

When I met with NBC, I asked, ‘What are you going to do that is different to distinguish yourself from ESPN and CBS? Is adding Dan Patrick going to be your big move?’

They said they needed people who are representative of their brand. What does that mean? Does that I mean I can’t criticize the commissioner of the NFL? They told me I would have to reposition my commentary within the guidelines of acceptable criticism. I couldn’t do that. I refuse to let some kingmaker try to define me. I’d have to castrate my show to provide them with the same corporate radio I often complain about.

How do you envision your future?

I do want a bigger platform that allows me to become the dominant voice in sports talk radio in America from a national standpoint. I think it’s possible.

Part 2: Costa discusses his relationship and criticism of Chris Russo and his desire for a dramatically increased role at SiriusXM. Perhaps even a Dino station.







Jim Rome: New Showtime show key piece in his CBS puzzle

Tonight is a big night for Jim Rome. His new Jim Rome on Showtime series will debut at 10 p.m. ET.

It is a weekly one-hour show featuring interviews with athletes and celebrities. Rome has an impressive guest list for the opener: Kobe Bryant, Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Perry, and Hollywood producer and franchise owner Peter Gruber.

But mostly it will be about Rome, as you can see in this clip.

Rome says, “I don’t think I’ve had my best broadcast moment yet. I’m still chasing it.”

The Showtime show is a big reason why Rome left ESPN for CBS earlier this year. The package includes a Monday-Friday show on CBS Sports Network and his radio show will be moving to the new CBS Sports Radio Network in January.

In a Q/A with me in May, Rome discussed his big move:

Am I a risk guy?  Doing nothing would have been a greater risk. But I’m pretty calculating. Sometimes, you have to push yourself.

I’m trying to get in and hopefully make a difference. It’s a big swing. Guys like us who have done this a long time, you’ve got to take a shot.

Showtime now gives him the best platform to pull it altogether. He could reach a large audience and won’t have to work within the constraints of conventional television. “Unconventional” is a word Rome uses over and over in describing the show.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Rome said:

One of the biggest pieces of the puzzle is the Showtime show. I think it’s going to work. It’s different in a lot of ways, far and away the most challenging show I’ve ever taken on … there’s nothing else like it on television. I’ve always done that daily topical half-hour show, come in, rant, interview, panel, rant, thanks for coming. That’s not what this show is. It’s nice to know if I want to go to another place and push another envelope, I can do that. There’ll be a crossover element. People in the arts, politicians, literary people … who have an opinion on sports.

And Rome added this comment to Eric Deggans of the National Sports Journalism Center:

“I can go with an f-bomb if I need it,” he said, laughing again. “I never felt the need to go with that on the air before. But it’s nice to know it’s there if I need it.”

A successful Showtime show could help him attract viewers to his daily show on the CBS Sports Network. While he already has a healthy radio audience, Showtime provides him with a chance to reach new listeners.

Yet pulling off this kind of hybrid sports/entertainment vehicle isn’t easy. If it is a flop, it will be a big black mark on his move to CBS.

Rome, though, is confident he can get it done. If there’s one thing he doesn’t lack, it’s confidence.

Should be interesting to see if he can pull it off.



It’s official: Jim Rome to host show on new CBS Sports Radio Network

The new venture added a big hitter to its lineup. Doug Gottlieb already is in place for the late afternoon slot.

Also, you have to figure this was part of the deal for Rome when he jumped from ESPN to CBS.

Here are the details:

CBS Sports Radio today announced the newest member of its line-up for when the nation’s largest 24/7 major-market radio network launches next year. Jim Rome will serve as host of The Jim Rome Show, broadcast live weekdays from 12:00Noon-3:00PM, ET beginning on Wednesday, January 2, 2013.

Also at the start of the new year, Rome will provide his unique take on the day’s sports headlines via theCBS Sports Minute, sixty-second commentaries that can be heard hourly on CBS Sports Radio affiliate stations.  Rome recently signed a multi-year agreement with CBS contributing across a variety of platforms.  In addition to his weekday ROME show on CBS Sports Network, he provides commentary for CBS Sports and CBSSports.com.  Further, Rome will also be hosting a talk series for Showtime, which will air later this Fall on the premium network.

“Jim would be at the top of any list highlighting sports radio’s most authoritative and opinionated hosts which is exactly why we’re thrilled to welcome him to CBS Sports Radio,” said Dan Mason, President and CEO, CBS RADIO.  “We are building a network that showcases the incredible assets of CBS RADIO and CBS Sports, and creating a strategic opportunity for growth in this untapped marketplace.  Jim’s presence in this marquee timeperiod adds strength to our lineup and exceptional value to our advertisers.”

“I am excited for the continued opportunity to extend my personal contributions to the various platforms that this incredible company has to offer,” said Rome. “I am proud to be a part of the CBS family and look forward to the successful launch of CBS Sports Radio.”

Perhaps the most respected voice in the world of sports broadcasting, Rome is one of the leading opinion-makers of his generation.  Best known for his aggressive, informed, rapid-fire dialogue, Rome has established himself as the top choice of athletes and fans when it’s time to know what is going on beyond the scoreboard.

For more than 15 years, Rome has hosted a nationally syndicated radio program,The Jim Rome Show, a.k.a. The Jungle, reaching millions of listeners nationwide.  His show on ESPN,Rome Is Burning, signed off in January 2012 after airing for six years.

Rome previously served as host of the popular programThe Last Word with Jim Rome, broadcast nightly on Fox Sports Net, for five years.  Prior to that, he spent a two-year stint hosting ESPN2’sTalk2, a nightly one-hour interview show.  Rome began his radio career at KTMS, Santa Barbara as the “5 dollar-an-hour” traffic reporter and covered UC Santa Barbara’s sports. He left KTMS for San Diego’s all-sports station, XTRA Sports 690 where he created The Jim Rome Show. The show was first syndicated in 1996.

In addition to his extensive sports broadcasting career, Rome has made cameo appearances alongside Al Pacino and Matthew McConaughey inTwo For The Money, with Adam Sandler in The Longest Yard and opposite Michael Jordan inSpace Jam; appeared in blink-182’s music video; appeared on HBO’s “Arliss;” and released a CD,Welcome to the Jungle, which features memorable sound bites from frequent callers and the hip music regularly used on his radio show.

CBS Sports Radio will offer around-the-clock national sports coverage and programming, harnessing the power and resources of CBS RADIO and the award-winning CBS Sports.  High-profile figures from CBS Sports, CBS Sports Network and CBSSports.com will play a prominent role onCBS Sports Radio which will reach more than 10 million listeners at launch.  Original programs across multiple weekday and weekend time periods will feature expert sports commentary and interviews with major sports figures along with listener calls and fan interaction.  It was previously announced that Doug Gottlieb will serve as host of afternoons (weekdays, 3:00-6:00 PM, ET) onCBS Sports Radio.


Split decision: High-profile Twitter reaction to Rome-Stern

Just did a Twitter search for Jim Rome and saw some interesting high-profile reaction to his contentious interview with NBA Commissioner David Stern yesterday.

@BonnieBernstein: Jim Rome‘s NBA “fix” question could’ve been positioned more tactfully. But Stern’s retort w a personal attack? Inappropriate

Mike Greenberg@Espngreeny: If you ask David Stern if he fixed the lottery, you’re asking if he is a felon.It’s fine if you want to do it,but don’t expect him to laugh.

Chris Mad Dog Russo @MadDogUnleashed:  Was Jim Rome right to ask Stern “the question” about the NBA lottery?” Terrible question, talked about it yesterday.

Seth Davis@SethDavisHoops: David Stern handled his Jim Rome interview very badly. But I have to say that Stephen A. Smith line was pretty funny

Jason McIntyre@TheBigLead: Not sure if it’s because of the Finals, but Jim Rome vs David Stern http://is.gd/gzOXXU resulted in the biggest hour in site history

Harvey Araton@HarveyAraton: There are things David Stern says that upset me but his retort to Jim Rome wasn’t even close.

Adrian Wojnarowski@WojYahooNBA: Column: At a time the Finals should be about the NBA’s real stars, Stern reminds everyone why it’s time to say goodbye. http://tinyurl.com/6nx836w

Maury Brown@BizballMaury @I_am_orange You know what? If you’re going on @jimrome then know what you’re getting into. Stern should know better than get into baiting

Paulsen@paulsen_smw: Even when agreeing with David Stern (any claim that that the lottery is fixed is moronic), he comes off as a horribly obnoxious bully.