How Radio Is Like Satellite Radio

What happens when you dominate a market, offer the majority of your programming to an audience you don't have and then fail to deliver young listeners? You have satellite radio! Wait. Increasingly, you also have terrestrial radio. It's a losing formula in a time of great change that is begging for a remedy. Satellite radio operators have hit the wall as witnessed by unusually slow sales at their traditional busy time of the year (Christmas). They've done an excellent job in finding their market -- the pay subscription market -- but there's not enough consumers willing to subscribe. Satellite programs some excellent channels for young people. In fact, most of their cutting edge music channels are for young people. Yet, their subscribers are older and they are offered less channel choice. They are relegated to talk and sports. Terrestrial radio is their close relative. Their DNA is the same. Lots of youth oriented stations on a medium that is seeing a steady decline in young listeners. Go figure. After selling Inside Radio four and a half years ago, I joined USC as a professor of music industry. I was shocked when I saw the utter disregard most young people had for the business I still love. But I've come to discover that it isn't radio that they dislike, it is what has happened to radio. Young people now are unusually aware of the big consolidators, don't care for the lack of music variety, feel the djs are not knowledgeable about the music and that the commercials and promos are insulting. This is not new to radio execs. The question is why haven't they done something about it. Many radio people when faced with this criticism say "we're doing those things". They are not. In the end, satellite radio will fall out of orbit if it can't find a sustained way to win over young listeners -- no small task for consumers who don't like paid subscriptions and in many cases can't afford them. And terrestrial radio towers will come crashing to the ground unless the owners go to school and take their bitter medicine on what will have to be done to bring 12-24 year olds back -- no small task for a demographic that has gone on without radio. Who would have thought -- kindred spirits -- radio and satellite radio.