Image of radio station logo on a window
Lincoln sports talk station 93.7 The Ticket will relocate its offices from 48th and R streets to 11th and O streets in the summer of this year.

In a little more than a year, 93.7 The Ticket will take a big step. The Lincoln radio station is taking its accessibility and engagement to a whole new level.

The Ticket will relocate to a brand new building located on 11th and O streets in the heart of the Star City during the spring of 2024. Fans will be able to watch shows from inside the building or outside through the street view of the main studio. 

The station’s operators, Derrick and Rebecca Pearson, purchased The Ticket in September and hope to make the new building a hub of community activity. There will be space for a coffee shop, retailers and new food vendors in the space on a daily basis.

“They’ll be able to walk in and have a place where you come in and get coffee,” Derrick Pearson said. “We’ll have space for meet and greets. We’ll have a patio area. We’re street level so people will be able to walk in every day and get to us every day.” 

At one time, stations could serve their listeners purely from a brick and mortar location or with an over-the-air signal. Expectations have changed significantly in the last decade. The mission in some ways is the same. Radio has to meet listeners where they are. Today, that means providing video streams, exclusive podcasts, apps and replays of segments on platforms such as Spotify. Sports-talk radio is not excluded from this new era and has made the adjustments necessary to evolve into the digital age.

The Ticket’s upcoming move is an example of a potentially innovative new step toward the listener.

Radio is based on community at its core according to Jim Timm who serves as the president of the Nebraska Broadcasters Association (NBA).

“If you think about a radio or TV station, they’ve always been content creation hubs,” Timm said. “Now there are more platforms to put that content out. So, that has to keep happening.”

The NBA fulfills a number of roles for the state’s radio stations. It serves as an advocate to both state and federal governments, provides training services and offers scholarships to young broadcasters in Nebraska. 

Timm said the scholarships are designed to find a crop of future broadcasters for the industry. They also help to generate new ideas on how to revitalize radio. Each applicant must write an essay detailing how the broadcast industry needs to change in order to remain relevant to listeners and advertisers. 

The returns deliver one clear headline.

“Radio stations need to make sure they’re distributing their content on multiple platforms,” Timm said. “Over-the-air alone is no longer enough. A website is no longer enough.”

Podcasting, streaming and social media activity need to take center stage.

“That’s where people live these days,” Timm said. “If you think about a radio or TV station, they’ve always been content creation hubs. Now there are more platforms to put that content out.”

Sports talk stations throughout the state are embracing the change.

That includes 1620 The Zone in Omaha which was the first radio station in the state to adopt a full sports-talk format. John Bishop hosts “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” from 2-6 p.m. each weekday on The Zone and has over 25 years of radio experience in the Omaha and Lincoln markets. There’s been a lot of change in that time.

“We’ve had to work harder promoting the website, promoting our social media pages, and promoting the different ways you can get the show,” Bishop said.

Bishop said The Zone has had an internet presence for approximately 15 years. Initially, its website served as a platform for visitors to stream the station’s audio feed. Now listeners can easily find a live video stream of The Zone’s shows embedded in the home page. The station has streamed all three of its local shows for the past two years on YouTube and Twitch. 

“It’s given people the chance to hear us from far away,” Bishop said. “It used to be that the only way you could get us is if you were in range of the radio station. Now they pick us up anywhere and they can see us now anywhere.”

Video streaming and text lines are two major tools stations use to engage with their audience. Lines allow listeners to share their feelings on a topic instantly with the on-air talent. Services such as StreamYard help stations put together a quality visual broadcast with relatively low cost.

Both The Zone and The Ticket incorporate these two approaches. Pearson said The Ticket receives hundreds of texts per day, while Bishop said the video adds new avenues to share with the audience.

“It has changed the way that we present some things,” Bishop said. “We now show a lot more videos, graphs and charts. We like to quote a lot of statistics. Sometimes it’s easier to throw those statistics up on the screen and so there is more of a video production element to it.”

Yet, he’s always cognizant of radio’s core.

“You are still primarily an audio medium,” Bishop said. “So you can’t rely too much on that, because you still have people in the car that literally can’t see what it is you’re talking about.”

The Ticket takes advantage of its proximity to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to provide additional unique content for listeners. 

With the advent of name, image and likeness, the station began a wide variety of student-athlete shows. Husker athletes like Coutney Wallace, Kyle Perry and Sam Hoiberg host their own talk shows on a weekly basis. Pearson sees it as another way to build and connect with the Ticket’s audience. 

“The greatest part of a great athlete is their humanity,” he said. “So learning the journey, how far they’ve come, how hard they work, the things that they go through, the things they’re good at and the things they struggle with, makes it easier to root for them more in full.”

Throughout the platform’s 128-year history, there have been a number of ‘radio killers.’

Broadcast TV, cable, satellite radio, Pandora, Spotify and others were all supposed to usher radio out the door. None have so far. Yet, radio hasn’t endured on the basis of dumb luck. Adaptation is the key factor in the platform’s survival.

“If it’s a good thing, you can’t get enough of it,” Pearson said. “So, we continually learn to provide more good things. That’s the connection, being accessible so we learn each day pretty quickly whether we are headed in the right direction or not.”

Timm said he feels that radio, not just sports talk, is in a good place throughout the state. Nebraska’s rural makeup is part of the reason why. 

“I think the local factor is the difference for our industry,” Timm said. “Sirius XM, they provide a service absolutely. But, you’re never going to hear them talking about what’s going on in McCook, Nebraska. That’s just not their business model.”

Bishop believes that no matter the medium, it all boils down to personalities. The most informed and compelling broadcaster will win the most ears. Sports talk has staying power as long as entertainment remains at the center.

“Great music is great music whether it’s on vinyl, cassette, CD or digital,” Bishop said. “If it’s great content, people are going to go to it.”