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Broadcasting predictions for 2024 and beyond

Jeff McHugh audiences are quickly moving away from traditional over-the-air broadcasting towards streaming and on-demand. Here are a couple of recent headlines:

On-Demand Audio’s TSL Larger Than Linear For First Time

Larry Rosin and our friends at Edison Research report that over 50% of audio consumption is now streaming and on-demand platforms. Over-the-air AM/FM is no longer king.

Broadcast and Cable Made Up Less Than 50% of TV Usage In July

Nielsen reports that audiences are also moving away from over-the-air broadcasts and cable TV. Variety reports that there are just 10 shows with an average 18-49 demo greater than 1.0 in 2023. In 2015, there were 77!

The move to streaming and on-demand is fast and furious. What does that shift in audience preference mean for content on local radio stations in the future?

Here are a few trends to watch and some possible future realities to consider.

  • Minimizing OPP (Other People’s Programming.) Local stations that produce compelling, original talk content can remain competitive on AM/FM, podcasts, streaming, and digital.
  • Remember how Taylor Swift pulled her songs from Spotify? What if one day major artists decide that radio performance fees are not keeping up with streaming and deny broadcast rights?
  • Same problem for syndication: What if one day NPR decides on an all-streaming and podcast strategy and cuts ties with local member stations? Stations that are just programming middlemen may face more uncertainty.
  • Fewer AM/FM stations. Did you know there are 53 fewer commercial FM stations on the air today in the US than in 2019? There are already scores of dark AM facilities. (Side note: Is there a point in passing laws to keep AM in new car radios if AM transmitters are not turned on…?) Stations with engaging, emotive content customized for their listening area will remain on while others may get the “off” button.
  • More time shifting. Just like on-demand TV viewers, radio listeners expect to get what they want when they want it. In Philadelphia, WMMR listeners catch Preston and Steve live in the morning and seek the show out by podcast all other hours of the day. Of course, more music, less talk stations do not have that option since you cannot podcast music.
  • Fewer and better commercials. Long blocks of ads are a major reason many viewers have departed broadcast and cable TV and that is a big reason that AM/FM listeners like streaming and podcast audio. Long stopsets do not have a chance against a “skip” button. Demand will explode for authentic personality endorsements from familiar, well-liked hosts. Listeners love those as part of the entertainment and they get results for advertisers.

Is any of this going to happen? Hey, if I were good at seeing the future, I would have never bought real estate the first time – or the second time.

I am god-awful at predictions so don’t listen to me. But I encourage you to stay aware as the earth moves and shakes under your feet. Keep your eyes open as one door slams closed and many other doors open. Radio Ink

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