By Tony Garcia
Global Media Services
DENVER — I’ve spoken with many people who have the syndication bug. The first question I ask is, “Love or money?” We all love what we do, and we would all like to collect a fabulous salary for doing that which we love. But in the syndication business, it’s a bit more complicated.
Syndication is an indirect sale. As a program producer you provide a product that you believe can build an audience. In order to get that audience, you have to get your program on the air. No matter how good your show is, without affiliates, no one will ever hear it. Another way to look at it is “shelf space,” just like products in a store. If you don’t get on the shelves, you’ll never get consumers to try your product. Program directors are the ones responsible for stocking those shelves and they are literally bombarded with pitches on a daily basis.
If you are going to get the attention of program directors, your show and your pitch must to be relevant and compelling. What is it you are providing for the station and its audience? Are you solving a problem? Are you doing something that the station can’t easily do itself? Frankly, it’s not enough to just have a show or an idea. You have to research the idea, or have proof the concept works with ratings results in your home market. You have to know what stations want. You have to know who else is out there doing something similar. If you discover no one else is doing it, why isn’t anyone else doing it?
Monetizing from syndication is indirect as well. Affiliates generally broadcast your program in exchange for airing an agreed upon number of commercials either within the show or elsewhere on the station. Those commercials are sold to advertisers who wish to reach a specific audience.
In the past decade or so, a number of networks began aggregating programming produced by independent producers then packaging those audience numbers and selling them. It made it much easier for a producer to get the critical advertising support needed to stay in business. But there is still a challenge: In order to be considered by the networks, you have to have some measurable audience for your show. For the producer, it creates a bit of a chicken-egg situation. This is especially true in talk because of the ongoing “exclusions” that exist for programs airing on stations that present what is considered by the advertising community to be controversial content.
Now back to the question of love or money. It’s one you should honestly ask yourself. What are your personal goals? Are you in it because you love what you do or because you think there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? By the way, there’s no right answer. I did some consulting work for a physician who wanted to be syndicated simply to have something in his CV that would set him apart from others in his specialty. He was willing to invest the time and effort in order to have a different angle. For him, a show that broke even or even lost a little money was acceptable.
Syndication is a great business and can be a rewarding and profitable experience. But before wading in those cold, deep waters, taking the time to plan, research and create specific goals will make you better prepared for what’s ahead.
(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 firstname.lastname@example.org or phoned at 303-916-6333. Meet Tony Garcia at Talkers New York 2014 on Friday, June 20.)