Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Book Hasn't Been Written, but Clear Channel Still Doesn’t Like The Ending

Joel Hollander doesn’t have a clue.

Or maybe he’s just saying what Sumner Redstone wants him to say.

Either way, in an interview downplaying the rise of satellite radio in today’s New York Times, Hollander, who is the CEO of Major Mainstream Generic Radio Company Infinity Broadcasting, sounds exactly like Wile E. Coyote looks when he realizes the light at the end of the tunnel—which the Coyote just finished painting on the canyon wall to thwart the Roadrunner—is in fact a train coming straight at him.

“At the end of the day, people want to hear what’s going on in their local markets,” Hollander tells the Times, disputing the importance of satellite radio. “People are emotionally involved with local radio.”

Now, I understand what Hollander means when he says local radio is important: I wake up every morning to the local radio station, first for the weather—especially this past winter when schools in New England were cancelled every three days—and second for news about whatever Connecticut politician got indicted the night before.

But, “emotionally involved” with John LaBarca of WICC Bridgeport?—I don’t think so.

And besides, once people get in their cars, they’re not listening to that local news station anymore: they’re listening to a syndicated national program like Imus in the Morning or Howard Stern, both of which are, incidentally, brought to you by that Major Mainstream Generic Radio Company, Infinity Broadcasting.

Furthermore, the biggest radio draws the rest of the day are, likewise, nationally syndicated shows such as Rush Limbaugh, Delilah, and Casey Kasem. Not local radio.

Me, I don’t drive to work—and when I do drive, it’s either Civil War books on tape or conference calls, so I don’t have satellite radio. But every time I rent a car I get a Ford with Sirius Satellite Radio: it’s indispensable.

As today’s Times article points out, Sirius has six country music channels—that’s almost as many regular Major Mainstream Generic Radio channels you can pick up on a car radio. I’ve never counted but there are at least that many rock channels—hair metal, thrash metal, metal metal—not to mention a 60’s channel, a 70’s channel, an 80’s channel and a 90’s channel, plus reggae, ska, blues, Elvis (literally: an entire channel devoted to The King)…or, talk radio from left wing to right wing and everything in between.

Meanwhile, on my “emotionally involving” Clear Channel Major Mainstream Generic Radio Station, I can, if I get tired of the limitless choice and unheard of variety on satellite radio, hear pretty much any commercial ever made, with a few songs squeezed in between. And sometimes the songs aren't even the same twelve songs they were playing yesterday!

Which is why satellite radio has grown faster than cell phones, according to the article.

None of which Joel Hollander wants to hear. After noting the competitive response from Infinity, Clear Channel and other radio-killing corporations—including expanded playlists and fewer commercials—the article gives Mr. Hollander the last word. He says, “This book won’t be written for another 10 years.”

On that I agree: the book about the demise of Major Mainstream Generic Radio won’t be written for 10 years.

But the business? It’s already dying. Long live satellite radio.

Jeff Matthews
I Am Not Making This Up


bubbles said...

I just drove across country in a car that had XM radio, while it was nice, it was not great or something I'd pay for. One problem was I could not get the Final Four games through XM, had to surf the AM channels to get the games poor reception and all. As for the music channels, I found that 90-95% was not something I’d ever listen too, so I was left with only a handful of stations that I’d tune in too and these were not great. I found the music on these channels to be of a very specific genre, so I found myself jumping around the few stations that play the music I like. There was quite a few times I just got fed up with the selections and I just popped in a CD.

I probably listed to CD’s for over half of my 2000 mile trip and less than half the time I listened to XM radio and as I said before I had to listen to the B-Ball games on AM radio. I did like the fact that I could listen to Bloomberg or Bubblevision (aka CNBC), but this is only during the business days. I also liked the ESPN stations, but then again you can get ESPN radio somewhere on the AM dial.

The bottom line is you still get hit with the commercials, even the music stations you have to put up with babbling promos, so overall I was not impressed enough with XM radio to purchase it in the future. I might be the exception to your thoughts about the future of radio, because I’ll be sticking with the free channels.

bubbles said...

Oh and I don’t listen to babbling idiots like Stern or Imus either.

Its_strange said...

Britney Spears & hubby to star in reality show. ...I guess they follow CNBC and Wallstreeet. .

Thanks for the great blog

Cody Willard said...

Great stuff as usual, Jeff. If you haven't, pls heck out my columns on the topic at Realmoney. Broadcast is dead. Long live, broadcast.

Its_strange said...

Cody..interesting piece on Google getting into the video blog business...I wonder if Cramer's new show is a view of the future and CNBC is to dumb to see it ?

BelowTheCrowd said...

That article certainly touched a nerve. I see the whole "local content" issue as mostly being a political hoax, designed by the lobbyists of the local stations who don't want to lose their advertising monopolies (they're already losing to calbe though) which has been forced down our throats by the FCC.

Ultimately, not sure that satellite is worth the values it is commanding in the market today though. Internet radio -- especially if supplemented by wider area wireless connections -- is likely to be a competitor. However, the existing broadcast guys on both radio and TV are likely to be run over by a steamroller of new options. More extensive comments on my blog. http://www.belowthecrowd.com.