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Thoughts on the Eve of the Launch of Apple’s Beats1

I am pretty excited to experience Beats1 radio, but I’m also interested to see how this launch impacts the media landscape.  As somebody that loves radio, I’m excited about the on-air product and as a media observer, I think Beats1 could provide a platform for reshaping the existing radio paradigm. At first glance, this may seem like just another internet radio station, the likes of which we have seen Pandora, Live365, and Spotify among a litany of others…however based on the marketing thus far it looks like Beats1 will be an entirely different beast.  Being positioned as a global live broadcaster, Beats1 is in the unique position to provide radio with a rebirth and offer listeners a unique experience akin to the early days of FM radio. In the decades since the rise of the FM dial, radio has become overly programmed, music selected weeks in advance or by computer, and the human element has either been entirely lost, or minimized to simple time and temperature updates.  Yet, Apple’s radio offering is the antithesis of this and instead harkens back to the early days of terrestrial radio – allowing the DJ’s to play what they want and what fits the moment – albeit in this case a much larger global moment.  Hosted by talented and experienced jocks, Beats1 is promising to be more then just a computer driven playlist, and can prove to be a valuable channel for artists while providing listeners with a compelling experience. Secondly, it’s that unique experience that will draw listeners in, and in the long-run may spell trouble for both traditional radio outlets, as...

Is @CharlieSheen A Modern @HowardStern

In the 1980's Howard Stern enjoyed tremendous success on the radio, and as portrayed in his 1997 film Private Parts, a lot of that had to do with people tuning in because they wanted to hear what was next. Fast-Forward to today where the paths of communication have expanded and outlets like Twitter give everyone a platform through which to speak. In terms of large-scale movement and attention, sure there was the Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) vs CNN (@CNNbrk) experiment to see who could reach a million followers first.  And it has become commonplace in this current landscape to hear tweets from celebrities quoted in media coverage.  But until now we have yet to witness a breakout personality that has moved both the online conversation, as well as traditional press coverage.  That's changed with @CharlieSheen in the past week.  Sheen's Twitter fueled campaign has been rather divisive, yet it has attracted so much attention across online and off-line platforms, it begs the question: is Sheen a modern Howard Stern? Perhaps previously an unlikely candidate for this role, Charlie Sheen has captivated audiences, who are simply wondering what he'll do next…and now that he's shown the ability to build an audience and keep us on the edge of our seats.  So with that in mind, could Sheen become the next hot media personality?  How does Sheen capitalize on this success, perhaps with a multi-platform approach unlike anything we've seen before?  Maybe a certain satellite radio provider would be enticed to offer Sheen a show, he could continue to use the web to encourage new subscribers to sign-up, while continuing to build...

A Flip Met With a Touch of Class

On Wednesday, New Yorkers said goodbye to K-Rock.  This was actually the second time in the past few years, that the legendary rock outlet, and former home to Howard Stern was flipped to a new format.  This week, in yet another effort to boost the station’s sagging ratings, parent company CBS Radio decided to leave rock behind and make way for a new top 40 outlet.  So, at 5PM on March 11th, 92.3 NOW FM burst onto the scene with the ambitions to compete directly against top-ranked Z-100, with the Black Eyed Peas “Boom Boom Pow.” Now, while these types of flips are common in radio, and the results of the flip will take some time to be determined this particular turn of events brought out the classy side of former competitor WRXP-FM.  Known on the air as New York’s Rock Experience, and led by former MTV VJ Matt Pinfield, WRXP-FM took a very classy approach to the situation and released the following statement on the station’s website: “NYC just lost another rock station…the legendary K-Rock. We are sad that many people have lost jobs and that the new york rock scene just lost an outlet. We play a lot of the music that K-Rock embraced, so we would appreciate your support if K-Rock was previously your preferred station.” (Matt Pinfield, 1019rxp.com) While many outlets take this type of opportunity to tout their own success and celebrate the failure of their competition – ‘RXP actually went in the other direction and took the opportunity to invite former K-Rock DJ’s on their morning show.  Further, they even allowed former K-Rocker,...

Radio Isn’t Dead; But It’s Close…

In the past few years, there have been increasing signs that radio is on the verge of being dead.  Now, listen I love radio, I grew up listening to outlets in the Big Apple, and dialing in to win free tickets and to this day I still listen to and follow several radio stations.  However, with the 1996 Telecommunications Act, the ensuing conglomeration that took place, and now with the belt tightening brought on by the economic downturn, radio has taken its final steps toward its death.  Perhaps, in time we’ll look back and mark this as the end of the corporate era of radio, and the pendulum will swing back toward community owned and operated outlets, but for now radio is changing and it isn’t for the better. The story isn’t necessarily unique or new, as a matter of fact on this very blog we discussed Satellite radio’s demise back in early 2007.  Now, we observe a similar demise for over-the-air radio, which has changed dramatically over the last decade and given audiences fewer and fewer options, and limited creativity for professionals. Today, we find ourselves with markets that are filled with competing music outlets that serve the same audiences, syndicated talk shows, and what seems a Top 40 has been boiled down to the Top 10, which has the Jonas Brothers and Beyonce on repeat on virtually every station.  The result is detrimental on a number of levels; it’s hard for new music artists to break through, listeners are challenged to find any differentiating factor between most radio outlets, and talk radio has become monotonous making it...

RIP: Satellite Radio 1997-2007

Remembered for its once youthful promise of delivering a wide variety of content to listeners coast-to-coast; for its sales pitch of over 100 channels; music for and from every generation; for its false promises of “commercial free radio” (19 public service announcements an hour don’t count as commercial free); and its promise of providing a venue free of the traditional regulations and limits that accompany traditional broadcast media. Satellite Radio leaves behind some 15-million subscribers, an untold number of discouraged employees, and the dream of a modern rebirth for radio. Cause of Death: Satellite Radio suffered a final blow when it conformed and succumb to pressure to regulate its own content, which resulted in censoring its own jocks. The deathward spiral for Satellite is not expected to be immediate but it is expected to push Satellite in the direction of becoming a collection of boring, unoriginal, and bland channels programmed toward the lowest common denominator. The Analysis: With satellite and traditional radio under such scrutiny, other new media outlets are bound to grow and develop. Perhaps with new tools and delivery mechanisms such as iPods and Podcasting, niche content will start to become available either via ad-supported mechanisms, or with a subscription model through private websites, iTunes, and the many other content distributors that are available today. Since the development of Satellite, the environment has changed dramatically and today’s audiences are increasingly technically educated and savvy, which will allow listeners in their own homes (and more and more in their hand via the evolving cell phone) to tap into any number of content options and delivery mechanisms. With the...

SiriusXM: Merger News Updated

This morning XM and Sirius executives shed some more light on yesterday’s shocking announcement that the two satellite radio rivals would merge. Here are the highlights on the merger from today’s press conference: * Provides consumer with best-of-breed programming and innovative products and services; broader content choices. * Company better positioned to compete in rapidly evolving audio entertainment marketplace; Greater program diversity can address underserved population groups. * Merged company is more attractive to large national advertisers that have a significant number of media alternatives 13.6. * Best-in-class combined management team with proven leadership. * Potential for meaningful value creation through cost savings. * Merger accelerates and enhances cash flows. * Anticipated to close by end of 2007. From an investors stand point, with reduced subscriber acquisition costs and combined back-end operations there are certainly some efficiencies to be gained from this merger. In terms of combining the assets of both firms and serving audiences across the country the outlook probably is not as strong. Instead, for consumers the merger probably means fewer content choices, which is quite contrary to what led to the rise of this new format. However, it’s hard to buy into the argument that by eliminating duplicate channels it creates an opportunity for "greater program diversity." This sounds too similar to an argument made by Clear Channel in their path to dominate terrestrial radio, which has only resulted in homogenization of local radio across the country, is that what’s next for satellite...