Intelligent TV -- Why Not Intelligent Radio?

By Steve Meyer, Inside Music Media™ Contributor
" If you're not failing every now and again, it's a sign you're not doing anything very innovative." - Woody Allen
While watching the season finale of "Rome" on HBO this past week, I realized yet again that the cable channel's slogan, 'It's Not TV...It's HBO' was truer than ever.

The HBO brand is now synonymous with the quality of the shows it airs - "Six Feet Under", "Sex And The City", "The Sopranos", "Entourage" and the incredible movies made for the channel (many of which are better than most theatrical releases).

This quality alone has made HBO the channel to have in your home.

The success of these shows and HBO proves that there's a very respectable sized audience out there that likes intelligent television, will watch shows like these in big numbers, and is starved for something other than the fodder being served up on traditional television networks.

Maybe the same things applies to radio.

Logic would lead anyone who's done focus groups and more to believe that something -- anything new and different that would offer listeners more than what is currently on the air, would have to be successful.

Increasing numbers of people are spending more time online and the Internet is the new media of choice. Young people listen to Internet radio without commercials and they have no affinity for listening to their local radio station, other than to get free concert tickets or to enter a contest.

So, what if somebody, preferably a really talented programmer out there, could sell one of these monoliths on launching a great radio station that was focused on developing audience by executing a format that would focus on the quality of the music. I'm not talking about playing esoteric music, there's an abundance of quality music out there that is anything but esoteric and it's mostly on Triple A formatted stations.

It works for them, so why couldn't something similar be developed for a larger audience? Is there data to show something like this wouldn't work? Because it worked in the past. That's what the first real AOR (Album Oriented Rock) stations were all about and many of those stations had big ratings and made big money.

Oh, I know, "It was a different time..." Sure it was. But does anyone honestly believe there is not an audience out there that can be delivered in similar fashion today?

The market has changed you say? You bet. But if almost thirteen million people are willing to pay for satellite radio, doesn't that signify that people are looking for? Remember how network TV laughed at cable a quarter century ago? They're not laughing anymore. Cable viewership now surpasses network viewing. Why? The audience wanted something else.

The arguments will be made by the media monoliths’ business affairs people and general managers that developing such a format would be costly and stations could potentially lose millions in advertising revenues if the format did not deliver ratings in short time. Possibly. But one of the most important expenditures a company can make is in R&D (research and development) and I think it's well past the time for radio to do some R&D to ensure a brighter future for itself.

As entertainment options for the consumer continue to grow with daily technology announcements, I think it's more important than ever the leaders in radio look inside their organizations for talent that could bring something like this to light.

It could be the most exciting thing that's happened in radio in years. Many years. Free concerts, contests, and spinning mostly trendy and disposable music, will not provide long-term health or stability. If anybody at radio is buying into that theory, they won't be in radio very long.

I believe there's probably great talent out there somewhere right now in radio and maybe there's a programmer who has the same idea. Imagine turning on a radio station and not wanting to turn it off because it's that good. It's happened before and it can happen again. I hope someone has the courage to try something before too long.

Maybe then someone will be able to say, "It's NOT Radio...It's (Insert call letters here)".

Steve Meyer is one of the music industry's top professionals and publisher of the new media newsletter DISC & DAT.