Think Tank Express: Media’s bizarro summer

smashedTV_w720Radio is experiencing a renaissance  and television in the dumps?

Welcome to the summer of the bizarro world.

You’ve probably read several articles lately proclaiming radio’s resurgence, with Nielsen reporting a record reach of 245 million listeners and usage up from years past, with more reach than any other medium.

Great news, indeed. But what the corporate spinmeisters won’t tell you is the medium is still suffering from the problems its been plagued by in the past – too many commercials, idiotic corporate decisions, and disrespect for the listener. Read this recent blog entry from TV writer Ken Levine, and you’ll see what I mean.

If you recall, yours truly declared Chicago the worst radio market in the country as it continues to hire people who won’t get the hell off the stage. Case in point: The Drive hiring has-been Mike North for a three hour- Bears post-game show – on a music station – in a market already saturated with Bears post-game shows – and all for a team projected to finish 3-13 this year. Last time a music station in the Chicago area stopped the hits to air sports was in 2007 when the former Nine-FM aired high school football games. At least we’re spared North talking about Hinsdale Central vs. Hinsdale South.

These decisions made by Chicago radio executives are just as bad as the decisions Bears management makes. Sometimes, you can’t tell the difference between the two. They both practically deserve one another.

Just because radio can reach 245 million listeners doesn’t necessarily mean they’re satisfied with it – after all, ask WLS-FM fans, if any left. But they tune in anyway  … just like they do with the Bears. Everyone loves a trainwreck.

Meanwhile, fallout continues over comments made by FX chief John Landgraf at the recent TCA summer tour regarding “too much TV” as the debate continues on whether too many good series could lead to the medium’s downfall. As I mentioned in this space, “quality” is something a TV exec doesn’t get to decide -it’s in the eye of the beholder. In this “Second Golden Age Of TV” people keep yammering about, there are over 400+ scripted shows (in this “Golden Age”, does 2 Broke Girls count?)

But as cord-cutting accelerates and with media stocks starting to tank, you knew a glut of programming – especially dramas – would have an effect. Glut of any kind of programming – good or bad – does fracture the audience and with lower ratings comes lower ad revenue. Remember ten years ago when we had a lot of reality shows?

While radio’s reach is growing, cable’s is retrenching – and it may not bode well for the television industry. While Sirius/XM and Internet radio has had minimal impact on radio on a large scale, the traditional television business has been hammered by the advent of streaming services and online video platforms such as YouTube.

Yes, it does seem radio is going one way and television is going another. But since the media business is cynical, it won’t be long before these trends reverses themselves – underperforming shows will get canceled and replaced with NCIS reruns and radio is one format flip/bad exec decision away for listeners to be pissed at it again. After all, does anyone want the hottest thing in media in 2015 to be Mike North?

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