NEW YORK — When star radio talent wants to expand their horizons and perform on other stages, most radio managers try to kill that ambition. Thinking analog, radio managers want their talent, preparing and performing shows on their stations — period.
The key to success in a digital world is affiliations and partnerships. That tends to be hard for radio vets to accept, it’s counter-intuitive.
A survey of major digital industry publications such as Media Biz, Bloggers, Mashable, and Media Post Publications reveals that a majority of the news covers partnerships, affiliation agreements and asset sharing. Most online companies understand that they cannot grow on their own, they require partners. The deals involve sharing revenue, views or promotions or all three. Those partnerships are how digital businesses can beat proven TV/AM/FM for audience and dollars.
Meet Tom O’ Neil, a pioneer in partnerships
Mr. O’Neil built the RKO Radio stations into the most successful group until its sale in the late 1980s. (He also invented TV syndication, but that’s a different article.) Tom O’Neil understood that his business was show-business. He was an astonishing showman who sought shows, shows, shows to drive his TV and radio stations.
To grow his jewel property, WOR, New York, he hired major stars from other media like newspaper columnist Jack O’Brian, Broadway star Arlene Francis, author Ed Fitzgerald, actor Earl Dowd, movie stars Peter Lynd Hayes and Mary Healy, and monologist Jean Shepard. They each had a one hour radio show on WOR. Drive times were handled by the legendary Gambling clan and pure broadcasters like John Wingate. The result was that from 1926 until 1983, WOR was the number 1 biller and rated radio station in America; a talk station that appealed to women. (Number two and three were WGN, Chicago and KABC, Los Angeles — also talk stations that appealed to women.)
Most of his hosts worked in other media while hosting WOR radio shows.
I asked Tom O’Neil how he handled it when a midday star had to take off a month to make a movie or a host was late because of a TV show commitment.
He laughed, “I give them what they want most: An office, a phone, an assistant and an hour a day to talk about themselves. They put the name WOR in Playbills, movie credits and plugs on TV.”
Read more about Tom O’Neil by clicking here.
Walter Sabo is CEO of Sabo Media, a New York-based media consultation firm. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or phoned at 347-380-1581.