Tuesday, April 8, 2008

To Syndicate or Not to Syndicate.. That is the Question?

“Roy Williams from the Wizard of Ads writes in his April 7th “Monday Morning Memo” that syndicated morning shows are the way of the future for local radio stations. An interesting thought with a lot of merit.

William says….

Syndication came to television 50 years ago. Networks like ABC, CBS and NBC offered local TV stations better shows than they were able to produce themselves. And these better shows were cheaper than local productions. The viewers won. The stations won. Television became much more profitable. National advertisers loved placing ads in hot, national shows.

In the past, national shows have been the exception in radio, rather than the rule.

They’re about to be the rule.

I predict that half of America’s morning drive jocks will soon be replaced by 10 or 12 syndicated morning shows beamed in from somewhere else. This will happen in other dayparts as well.

Frankly, I’m in favor of it.

Wait! I hear the voices of broadcasters clamoring, “But radio is local. Our listeners want local. Syndication is anti-radio.”

I respond, "Listen to the people of your town. Are they saying, 'We don’t want Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy, American Idol, and Lost! We want the local TV shows?'

"Are they saying, 'We don’t want Spiderman, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Lord of the Rings in our theaters! We want the local movies?'”

"Are they saying, 'We don’t want Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern, we want a local political pundit and a local shock jock?"

Read Williams Memo….

Before joining MEGA five years ago, I was running The Edge in Phoenix. We carried Howard Stern. We simulcasted his show on two bad signals. I can tell you now, it was a pain in the ass to listen to, especially if you were driving across town and the signal would fade away and then you would have to change frequencies to pick up the station again. Guess what? People listened!!!! Howard was consistently #1 in key demos. Why? Because his content was compelling, relevant and entertaining to the listeners. We also did a good job localizing the show with “Pistol Pete” interacting with listeners on the street each morning and doing call-ins during local breaks.

Today at Mega, we have seen great success airing the Art Laboe Killer Oldies request and dedication show syndicated every Sunday night from Hollywood. When it became available during the week, we sat on the sidelines for a while to see what happened in other markets. Interestingly enough it did quite well in the key female demos in markets that we watched. In mid February, we added the show to our weekday line-up from 8p – 12m. Not surprising, our phones lit up with callers excited about the change. The preliminary research that we have seen indicates that we made the right decision to add this syndicated show.

Through the years radio has always had to adapt to the changing environment. Radio has and will change with the times. For years I have been a strong proponent of live local radio shows and I still believe that today. Although, I do feel that there can be a place on local radio stations for syndicated programs. The key is, it has to be relevant to the listeners.

Mark Ramsey of Mercury Radio Research and “Hear 2.0” blogger has an interesting perspective…“Goodbye local talent (unless it really is "talent"), hello syndicated talent (which will really have to be "talent"). Broadcasters will increasingly distinguish between providing local service and having a jock in the local studio, which are certainly not the same thing.”

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