Tag Archives: ESPN

Evolve or Lose Relevance

23In two months, the world’s largest radio meeting will once again be taking place in Las Vegas; the 2016 NAB Show. Ironically, since leaving the radio industry and entering academia at Western Kentucky University, I attended my very first NAB show in 2011 and have every year since. So as visions of massive crowds and very sore feet dance in my head, I thought I’d look back over those past years and see how the theme of these meetings has evolved.

In 2011, the NAB highlighted that media consumption had become more digital and connected. TV everywhere strategies, mobile TV, the connected TV and the use of social media dominated the show.

In 2012, everyone was shouting about 4K video, ISP content delivery and the evolution of special effects technology. Everywhere you went you were shown 3DTV (I didn’t care for it, personally.)

In 2013, the NAB show hosted its first ever 2nd screen Sunday and the impact of more than one screen (the television set) vying for the viewer’s attention was fully recognized if not totally embraced by broadcasters.

In 2014, the NAB show wasn’t so much memorable for what it had but for what it didn’t have 3DTV. What had once been prolific throughout all the convention halls was now nowhere to be seen. 4K video & TV was now all the rage with Japan’s NHK demonstrating 8K video & TV. NHK said they will be recording the Rio Olympics in 8K and plans to televise (in Japan only) the 2020 Olympics in 8K. When you see TV pictures this detailed, you can instantly see why 3DTV bit the dust. 4K and 8K feels three dimensional and you don’t need any funky glasses.

Which brings me up to last year’s NAB show in 2015 where the theme was “Evolve or Lose Relevance” voiced by NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith. Smith urged broadcasters to embrace the new technologies like ASTC 3.0 & 4K for TV, and NextRadio’s mobile app for FM radio on mobile devices. Smith also talked about the spectrum auction which begins in March 2016 and characterized the auction as both “exciting and daunting.”

What may have been most daunting and certainly not exciting was to have been an AM broadcaster at this meeting – or any of the meetings of the last five years. Move along guys and gals, there’s nothing for you to see here. HDRadio was there every year and I think they had more cars outside of their convention hall than any previous year featuring their spiffy HDRadios, a technology that has been better embraced by the automakers than radio broadcasters for the most part. And of course, there were drones. Lots & lots & lots & lots of drones. Big drones, little drones…a drone for every size and budget. I’m wondering if the FAA will start coming to these meetings along with their friends from the FCC.

The only thing I haven’t seen addressed over these past five years is what seems to me to be the elephant in the room. Everything is supported on a business model that has been around since commercial broadcasting began in 1920, that being the selling of advertising. The covenant with the consumer of radio/TV programs was we will give you the programming for free if you allow us to expose you to our advertisers; a business model that worked extremely well through the birth of the Internet and dial-up connections. It would be the introduction of broadband and its rapid expansion that would challenge everything.

Blockbuster vs. Netflix is a good example. 2004 Blockbuster has 9,000 stores and almost $6 billion in revenue and only 4.4% of American homes had broadband. Netflix was mailing DVDs to its customers. 2010 Blockbuster files for bankruptcy, 68% of American homes have broadband and Netflix had been streaming to their customers for three years. Today Netflix has a market cap of almost $33 billion.

That really brings home the concept of “evolve or lose relevance” doesn’t it?

So what will the business model for media be evolving to? That’s the billion dollar question. Nobody knows. But what we do know is that Apple gave up its free iTunes music streaming at the end of January 2016 and now will only offer a paid subscription model. Disney’s ESPN is suffering the “agony of defeat” as more consumers cut their cable bundle (for which it’s reported that ESPN gets $7 per sub) and is causing this revenue stream to dry up while the cost of bidding for live sports events continues to escalate. Everything appears to be moving in a direction of asking the consumer to pay for what they want – like they do for HBO, Showtime, and Netflix etc.

So what’s the plan Stan for broadcast radio and TV? Or for any advertising supported medium for that matter? I think about this a lot.

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“We Never Called It Content” EXTRA

1My latest blog post has gone viral.  Plus it’s been picked up and re-published by the radio trades, other blogs and today I just finished appearing on a podcast – along with Colin Cowherd – talking RADIO.

The podcast ends with a really interesting segment on why broadcasters use funny voices. It’s FABULOUS!

You can hear this podcast here:  https://soundcloud.com/radio-stuff-podcast/radio-stuff-113

You can read the blog post that started it all here:  https://dicktaylorblog.com/2015/09/06/we-never-called-it-content/

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Will Programmatic Buying Help Radio?

My good friend Pierre Bouvard circulated an article on LinkedIn that was published in Ad Age titled “Programmatic TV: Lots of Talk Lately, Not Much Real Action.”  We know what happens in TV land trickles down to radio. That’s what got me thinking about the impact that programmatic buying might make on the radio industry.

First, if you haven’t heard the term, programmatic buying is letting computers buy advertising time. This type of advertising placement is already pretty commonplace in the online world. It can take the form of data-driven real-time purchasing, online auctions or private exchanges, with transactions handled by machines according to Rino Scanzoni, chief investment officer at GroupM. It’s fast, efficient and needs no human sellers.

The large radio companies have been trimming the work force since the beginning of the “Great Recession.” Don’t waste a good crisis was the way one radio industry leader put it at a meeting I attended. Meaning, when the economy is in the dumper and all companies are trimming their expenses to survive, you can use this type of environment to make lots of cuts; especially through RIFs (Reduction In Force).

Computer automation equipment, voice-tracking, syndication, and networking has all replaced live and local radio program origination. However, when it came to ad revenue, the personnel has largely remained intact. Could programmatic buying do to radio sales staffs what the aforementioned computerization did to programming staffs?

The short answer is yes.

At the end of the last decade I watched Google’s ad insertion system place ads onto my radio stations in the very early morning hours. Google’s hardware recorded air checks of every ad they placed on my stations and Google was able to give their advertisers not just a paper verification of the ad running but air checks of every ad, run on every station. Something my local sellers could not do for their clients. It was impressive.

The downside was Google had no idea where anything was in my state and so many of the ads were not appropriate to be airing on my stations for any number of reasons; the most important reason was that business was a hundred miles or more away.

Now while I realize that what I’m talking about here is more programmatic ad placement than programmatic ad buying, I’m making the assumption that the selling of those ads were executed in a similar manner; via automation like Google sells online.

The Ad Age article stated that one big reason that programmatic buying of TV would be a ways off was due to “TV networks also still need to approve the ads before they run, both for standards and to make sure they fit with the surrounding programming. That step doesn’t exist in programmatic ad sales online.”

Remember when radio stations had program directors that listened to everything that would go out over their airwaves to make sure that it met their standards and made sure it fit with the surrounding programming? Ah, the good old days of radio. That attention to detail is why radio sounded so good.

The Google experience taught me that even as a market manager, I no longer had any control over what might be heard over my air. Automated ad insertion is why streaming commercial breaks might air the same commercial multiple times during the same break. It’s a reason that many listeners find listening to over-the-air radio stations online so annoying. (I know I do)

ESPN’s Eric Johnson put it this way: “Programmatic buying means a lot of things to a lot of people. It includes providing some automation to the buying and selling process.”

For radio, only one thing has ever mattered; what comes out of the listener’s speaker. My fear is that as radio continues to abandon this critical aspect of its product in the pursuit of saving money it will kill the goose that lays the golden egg. No one is looking out for the radio listener and in a world of infinite choice, the listener will simply go elsewhere.

You can’t save your way to success.

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