By Tony Garcia
Global Media Services
DENVER — That’s the question I ask people who approach me about a program they want to syndicate or a concept they think would be perfect as a syndicated program or service. Everyone wants to play on a bigger stage. It’s natural. It drives us to be better at what we do. We all share a passion for radio.
Moving from a local show to a syndicated show requires much more than passion. It requires determination, perseverance, internal strength, patience and the ability to judge oneself dispassionately. Ask anyone who is syndicated and they are likely to tell you about the highs of signing the first affiliate and the frustration of losing affiliates. As a good friend of mine once said, “Syndication will break your heart.”
Still want to be syndicated?
Let’s start with the “product.” That’s you. You have to view yourself that way. What is the one thing that makes your show unique from everything else out there? Are you providing a unique slant on financial matters, like Dave Ramsey? Are you providing a unique view on politics, like Sean Hannity? Are you providing a specific type of expertise, like Cigar Dave? If you are on a music station, and your ratings outperform the rest of the station, why is that the case?
Once you have answered those questions, the next questions to ask are: What is it that I’m doing that other stations can’t easily do themselves? Perhaps the biggest question is: Can what I’m doing be easily transferred to another market. If your material is built on things specific to your market, chances are that you will have a tough time exporting your show to other markets.
Another thing to think about is how your community involvement has contributed to your success. If your management has done some perceptual research (and they will share it with you) take a look at it again. In some markets, shows get great ratings and good perceptual results more because of what they do in the community rather than on-air.
For example, you may be recognized in your market as the “coats for kids” guy. You are beloved in your market because of it (this is particularly true in diary markets where ratings are still based on recall rather than behavior). It’s very hard to translate grass-roots efforts effectively in syndication. The network-affiliate relationship is much different from the talent-promotion department relationship. While some affiliates will support you, often affiliates don’t have the time, the resources, and (sadly), the buy-in to help you succeed. You can “nationalize” your efforts (like many of the bigger national shows), and do it all yourself, but you have to consider the time and effort this requires in addition to the time you are already spending prepping and executing your show every day.
Finally, you should consider what impact being syndicated will have on your local show and on your station. A lot of managers consider this a distraction from doing a good local show. Your PD can feel like he’s losing control. He or she may think that because of your multiple-market footprint, you can’t get behind local station promotions and events the way you could previously. Insurmountable? No. But it’s really important to have the support of your GM and PD (and probably corporate, too). A supportive team at the station can make or break your syndication dreams.
Next time: We’ll get into the mechanics of syndication and the dollars and cents of the business.
(Tony Garcia is founder of Global Media Services which provides syndication support to independent radio programs. Among his many industry credits and accomplishments, he has served has AVP/Syndication for Greater Media (Lincoln Financial) where he was responsible for putting “Bob & Sheri” into national syndication and growing it into one of the most successful syndicated AC morning shows. He can be emailed email@example.com or phoned at 303-916-6333. Meet Tony Garcia at Talkers New York 2014 on Friday, June 20.)