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CES 2015: Is Your Station Merely ‘the Linear Feed?’

| January 8, 2015

TALKERS Consumer Electronics Show coverage by radio consultant Holland Cooke


cookewriterLAS VEGAS — These are scary times for TV stations and cable companies.  Radio take note.

You might already have a Slingbox.  I do and I love it.  I can watch whatever’s on my TV or DVR back home, anywhere, on my computer, iPad or iPhone.  DVR is timeshifting, Slingbox is place-shifting.  It’s not a service with a recurring fee.  It’s a small box.

New here this week?  Sling TV, in-cahoots-with Dish Network.  It’s an internet TV service, and it includes ESPN, TBS, TNT, CNN, and other networks.  $20 per month, no contract, cancel any time.  This is just the newest streaming video system, so-called “Over the top TV.”  The biggest one is Roku, which I also have; an inexpensive box or dongle with no recurring fee.  Others are Google Chromecast, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV.

Data: Nearly half of everything we now watch on TV is not live TV.

TiVo and other DVRs were the tipping point.  But ever since VCR – if you could get yours to stop flashing 12 o’clock – what-time-the-station-shows-a-show doesn’t matter.  Stations’ program schedules have been referred to as “the linear feed” for the last 10 years at digital content conferences I’ve been lurking-at/speaking-at/reporting-from/begging-radio-amigos-to-attend.

Appointment viewing is rare now.  The new appointment is binge watching.  You’ll get voicemail if you call Netflix-subscribing friends when the next batch of “House of Cards” or “Orange is the New Black” episodes are released.

And many of ’em won’t be sitting in front of a television.  They’ll be watching on a iPad or a smartphone; the same devices that now deliver information and entertainment elements for which radio used to be the go-to.

Wide-angle shot?  Technology on display in the massive Las Vegas Convention Center enables us to take control.

#1 with a bullet: that thing-in-your-pocket

In a research presentation here, Consumer Electronics Association director of industry analysis  Steve Koenig told us that smartphones remain the biggest spending driver, atop a product list he calls “The Magnificent Seven,” which also includes tablet computers, digital still cameras, desk PCs, mobile PCs, LCT TVs, and (non-smartphone) mobile phones.

“Smaller products that are stagnant or declining” include camcorders and car navigation, one-trick pony functions now more commonly accomplished on – you guessed it, the information/entertainment devices of choice — smartphones and tablets.

2014: a record 1.3 billion smartphones were sold worldwide.  2015 CEA forecast: more.  More than half of all online American consumers own tablets, and 70% plan to buy one (2015 CEA forecast).

Tiny phones used to be chic.  Now phones are getting bigger, and tablets are getting smaller.  Buzzword here: “phablet,” mid-size devices like that big iPhone 6.

Be there and be local.

With all the time listeners spend doing all the things these devices do, how can radio NOT want to be there too?  Not just streaming on-air programming, but leveraging our cred’ as broadcasters to deliver more and varied (read: advertiser-friendly) stuff.

Two ways to play:

1) On-demand listening, broadcasters’ unfinished business.  Seen iTunes?  Your listeners have, and they’re not just getting tunes there.  Network pioneer and Westwood One founder Norm Pattiz says his Podcast One shows are now delivering north-of 120 million downloads per month.

2) Say it with me: “Local, local, local.”  MEANINGFUL, interesting, relevant, news-you-can-use local programming, not parochial excruciating minutia from the City Council meeting.  Stories with lots of “YOU” and “YOUR” in the copy.  On a local TV newscast here Sunday, they announced, matter-of-factly, that the station’s 4:00 pm local newscast would be replaced by a syndicated game show.  Do the opposite of that, and your tribe will find you on their devices.

The transmitter is still one helluva distribution system.  But, as the cable industry’s woes demonstrate, we need to be more.


Holland Cooke is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet; and he covers conventions for TALKERS.  Follow his real-time Tweets from the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show @ Holland Cooke, and hear his CES radio reports at www.HollandCooke.com

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Category: Analysis