Welcome to the new year! Oh, and since we’re less than 365 days away from a year of lame 20/20 references, I thought you and I should get the pun party started early while taking a look at where we’re at in The Jetsons Future.

My radio friends will enjoy this: y’know how all those nice TV people have been looking down their noses at us for the last six decades or so? Here comes some data that will make you feel a little better about our business. Y’see, I know you weren’t expecting this, but if you thought terrestrial radio was being hit hard these days, check out TV, courtesy of the latest Nielsen Total Audience Report.

With Adults 18+ everyone’s reach continues to be basically flat – radio is at 92% with TV at 91%, but with Adults 18-34 – and we all know that young’ns just don’t listen to the radio – radio reaches 91% of them whippersnappers, while TV is down to 82%. It’s not just that 18-34’s are using their phones more than they’re watching TV – both live and time-shifted combined – it’s also that one-third of the time that they’re using their television sets, they’re not using them to watch television.

But…but…when you dial up the TSL ATE, radio is really taking it in the shorts, right? Actually, radio TSL (or ATE, or whatever you want to call it) is flat. TV? They’re down another 9%.

Holy cord cutting!

So, how is TVLand reacting (and what can radio steal learn from this experience)? Well, the good folks at Turner have dropped some serious bank on a sponsored content piece and a related website explaining their vision for the future present. How spot on is their vision? I love this quote from their We Make Fans website: “Viewers tune out, fans tune in.”

Let’s take a deeper dive with some excellent thoughts from Turnerstan. Here are their quotes with my interpretations in italics:

  • Turner President David Levy says: “You really have to starting thinking about how can you capture the fan, and if you can capture the fan, then that’s how you’re going to win.” Your goal isn’t just to built a great show or radio station. Your goal is to build something that connects with a fanbase.
  • Christina Miller, President of Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, and Boomerang: “People who are fans of the brand will consume it in multiple places.” Y’all need to develop content across all platforms, not just the ones you’ve always worked on. Said differently, you’re no longer a radio station (or talent), you’re a content brand.
  • David Levy: “You’re going to see ratings come on all different platforms, not just TV.” No seriously, you’ve got to stop thinking in the same one-medium terms you’re used to.
  • Christina Miller: “What we know about our audience is that they’ll evangelize for you if you give them a way to participate.” Help your fans help you grow. Make it easy for them to promote you.
  • Chris Linn, President of TruTV: “We’re creating as many touchpoints as possible for the fans to connect with our talent, with our shows, and with the brand…It’s better for our advertisers. We know that they get a higher return on their investment.” This isn’t just about building relationships to drive ratings.
  • Donna Speciale, President of Turner Ad Sales: “When you have a passionate fan, it resonates with the client’s brand…The clients want premium content. That’s what they want to attach their brand to.” You’re going to need those relationships in order to survive financially.
  • Lenny Daniels, President of Turner Sports: “We look at this from a content-first point of view, and then we incorporate brands and figure out the best way they can use what we’re creating, which is authentic and real to the person they’re trying to sell something to. We always have a long-term view of everything. Nothing is short-term.” We love our clients, but you can’t force this stuff. You have to think product-first, and you can’t damage the product’s long term viability in order to get one deal done. 

Okay, now the last three that sum it up quite nicely.

  • Kevin Reilly, President of TNT and TBS: “In this era of many choices, engagement is the key metric. Nothing is more important to engagement than original content…We’re not now making just a television show for a time period. We are managing a piece of talent or a particular idea that may find multiple expressions in different platforms.”
  • David Levy: “This isn’t about just watching a show on a Tuesday night at 8pm and then forgetting about that person. That person has to be thought about each and every day because a fan is the most valuable consumer we can have in our whole portfolio.”
  • From the We Make Fans website: “If [our content] doesn’t find fandom, we put it out of its misery…it’s survival of the fervent”

Let me translate those into a few points that you may not be thinking about:

  • Investing in content is necessary, but it’s not enough. Are you investing in all the ways you need to bring your talent and content to their fans?
  • You’re not thinking (for example) that AM Drive happens from 6-10am and then goes away for 20 hours, are you? You don’t think your “radio station” is only about audio content, do you?
  • Most importantly: Are you guarding your investments wisely? Are you ready to kill what needs to be killed so that you’ve got resources (both time and money) to invest in more and better content?

If you’re at a radio station, please sit your airstaff down and tell them: “Whatever you think your daypart is, you’re wrong. Your daypart is Whenever You’re Awake. Also, you’re not a radio personality any more. You’re an entertainment personality. Think about how you want to entertain and bond with your fans when you’re not on the radio.”

Equally important, whether you’re at a radio station or not, sit yourself down and decide what content isn’t working. Then, put it out of its misery and try something new.

In 2019, entertainment really is about survival of the fervent, and if you’re making content, you’re in the entertainment business.

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