Tag Archives: NAB Show

What Business is RADIO In?

This question was last asked at the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) Show in 2019, before a two year shutdown of the world due to a global pandemic. I don’t remember what answer they came up with back then, but no one foresaw the changes that COVID-19 would bring into our lives.

The question was visited again in one of the opening sessions at this year’s NAB Show in Las Vegas and the answer can be boiled down to two words, “very different.”

New Media Behaviors

COVID changed the nature of how people do their jobs, and this got me thinking how my own life changed with my retirement.

From my high school days in the 60s until 2010, I worked six to seven days a week in the radio industry. If I wasn’t listening to my own radio stations, I was listening to the competition.

In 2010, I transitioned into my second career as a college broadcast professor, teaching the process and effects of mediated communications, the history of broadcasting, broadcast sales, on-air radio production and the program’s Capstone management course.

My radio listening was mainly in my car, as my college building wasn’t conducive to receiving over-the-air radio signals, so when I was working in my office I streamed smooth jazz from my iPad to the aux input on my radio.

When I retired from my second career, got married and moved to Virginia, my radio habits would change again, as well as my television habits. Now all of my media would be accessed via streaming on the internet.

The Future of Work Impacts the Future of Radio

Without evening thinking about it, as the nature of my work changed, my media habits were greatly impacted by those changes.

Looking at the future of radio, new studies done by CivicScience really opened my eyes. Their studies have found that 44% of people who listen to radio have changed their habits over the past 12 months.

People are now listening to more audio content via internet streaming, they’re listening at different times of the day, their consumption of podcasts have increased, and while 20% say they are listening more often, a whopping 34% say they are listening less often.

Listening More or Listening Less

When CivicScience looked deeper into the reason people are listening less to radio, they found that the location of where people worked played a big role. Of the 51% that said they listened to radio less, they also were part of the group that was working remotely (i.e. from home) or were unemployed.

Since so much of today’s radio consumption occurs in the vehicle, people who work from home are spending less time in their cars and therefore less time listening to radio.

Post-Pandemic Work Choices

When CivicScience asked people what their future work preferences were after COVID, only 24% said they wanted to return to their office full-time. 37% wanted to work from home full-time and 40% said a mix of in office and at home would be their preference going forward.

These findings present radio operators with a real dilemma. The radio industry depends on a working age population all moving to and from work at the same time, hence the reason that both morning and after drive radio time sales have always commanded more dollars than middays, nights, overnights and weekends.

Moreover, people who stream their audio content are the people who prefer to either work entirely from home or have some kind of hybrid office/work-from-home situation. They represent 75% of the workforce in this study.

Global Supply Chain Disruptions

The global pandemic and the war in Ukraine have caused major disruptions to the global supply chain. For example, GM announced they would be having a two week shutdown at its plant in Fort Wayne, Indiana (it produces the popular Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks) due to a shortage of computer chips. While Russia and Ukraine don’t produce any of the computer chips that are in such short supply, Ukraine is the world’s leading supplier of neon, a gas used in the production of computer chips.

Company business models work on the premise that resources of materials and goods move freely across geography. Both COVID and a war have totally disrupted the way the world was operating. Long term, we will adapt, but the immediate future won’t be pretty.

Now, take this one example and apply it to virtually every area of our lives and you can see how complex things have become.

An Ecosystem-Driven World

Radio used to be such an easy business, just beat the other radio station in town and steal as many advertising dollars from the local newspaper as possible.

Every radio station was like its own little fiefdom, but now in 2022 every radio station is part of a very large media ecosystem and the competitive advantage is no longer how efficient you can run your operation but how connected you are to your listeners on all devices and via all platforms; connections that go far beyond your FCC license to operate an AM or FM radio service to your local community.

For me, Apple is not my iPhone, iPad, MacBook Air, Mac or Apple TV, it’s the ecosystem that all of my devices operate on. For me, that’s what is most important.

What makes our ecosystem-drive world so hard to navigate is that everything is in a continuous state of flux. This makes our deciding what we should pursue unclear, and whether other media properties are opponents or an ally.

“Competitive Advantage” is no longer the sum of all efficiencies, but the sum of all connections.

  Strategy, therefore, must be focused on deepening and widening

networks of information, talent, partners and consumers.

-Greg Satell

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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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