Friday, December 01, 2017

Big Media is circling the bowl.

The number 1 and number 2 largest radio networks in the USA are about to go out of business.
A key group of creditors rejected iHeartMedia Inc.'s latest debt restructuring proposal, and countered with their own deal that requires the company to file for chapter 11, the company disclosed on Thursday.
The latest development in long-running restructuring negotiations at iHeart, the largest radio network in the U.S. by number of stations, comes a day after Cumulus Media Inc., the second-largest, filed for bankruptcy, succumbing to billions of dollars of debt and competitive pressures from digital platforms.
The industry is trying to pretend that these networks are going down because of competition from the Internet, but they owe SO much money. According to the article, iHeart owes $15.5 BILLION dollars right now. That's like a squadron of B2 bombers.

The truth of the matter is that radio sucks so badly that no one is listening any more. I have not listened to a radio station in my car in seven years. I do not believe I am unique in this regard. People young and old are abandoning radio, even though it is FREE to listen, because it so awful they can't even give it away.

If there was a radio station like CFNY used to be back in the 1980's, I'd listen to it. I listen to Sirius instead, because while the music may not be the best ever, at least it doesn't actively enrage me and at least there's no commercials. If I never hear another ad for saw palmetto, it will be too soon.

The Phantom

Update: Welcome Instapundit readers and Sarah Hoyt's flying monkeys!


Chris in Ontario said...

I let my free subscription to Sirius lapse. Whatever is on phone or SD card amounts to my playlist. I try on occasion the Edge and Indie 88 but the hosts and the thanks. Josie Dye the SJW is particularly insufferable. BBC Radio 6 is a good online alternative while @ work :)

Jonathan H said...

I wouldn't say there is nothing worth listening to - just not very much1

I switch between 2 local stations and CDs in my car ... I figure the local stations are worth what I pay for them, which is nothing. I briefly had XM years ago and it wasn't worth the too much chatter and too little music it had then (and presumably still does).

SDN said...

I had Sirius until recently, but it was always unreliable (as in Sirius would seemingly forget I had a subscription), and when Amazon came out with Prime Music and I could get it on my smartphone it just made more sense to drop Sirius and use that.

kim said...

When radio conglomerations prepackage corporate playlists such as “classic rock” or “contemporary jazz” the playlists suck. They’re too efficient to pay DJs anymore, who can add interest and flavor.

Rich Vail said...

I stopped listening to radio because of the DJ's. Most are utter idiots. They've collectively decided that instead of playing music, they have a mandate to "entertain" you with their intelligence and wit...which usually they have very little of either. I only use Pandora or music stored on my phone. I don't like Pandora because it's algorithm is very odd (you only get a few songs by the artist named station, but it uses less bandwidth than others).

I'm not surprised that radio is dying, they've doubled down on a bad business model...and have to live with the consequences.

Deserttrek said...

I believe radio is fine and is still popular.
The investments in expanding, over paying on air personnel, and the usual media extravagance did them in. Never used satellite radio, and iheart is not honest in their ads.

Will Cate said...

As a long-time vet of the business, let me just say that it hasn't become impossible to be successful as a radio owner/operator, just harder, as with all advertising-supported businesses. iHeart and Cumulus have been mismanaged financially -- over-extending themselves without any vision, it seems, of the challenges that lay ahead.

And yes, radio programming in general has gotten worse over the years due to consolidation, and that doesn't help anyone.

Inkling said...

Not so. It is the Internet. The content on radio has always been bad. News meant a brief blurb off the AP wire. Music meant someone else's tastes. Giveaways only attracted people going after the goodies. Too many ads. That was true before the Internet. I remember it well. I only listened when I had to do so, perhaps to beat the boredom on a cross-country drive. And what did I do on my last cross-country drive? Listen to audiobooks on my smartphone.

What the Internet and smartphones offer is an alternative. Any one of those alternatives may be awful, but users are permitted to choose what they like. There're not restricted to a few local radio stations or a couple of satellite feeds. That is why radio is hurting.

Anonymous said...

I live in southern Arizona, where occasionally tuning into a Mexican station is an option. I don’t speak Spanish, but that’s part of the appeal. I’m impervious to the unintelligible ads but can enjoy the different phrasing, intonations, and whatnot. But 30 minutes of it while commuting is about it for me.

Pat said...

For me, it is the Internet. Specifically, podcasts. I started listening to podcasts a decade ago, and I haven't listened to a radio station since then. Why would I, when I have all the audio content I could possibly want, delivered to my smartphone for free? The selection of content is curated by me, to match my specific interests. I can pause and resume at any time without losing my place. Show me a radio station that will let me do that!

Insatty said...

This piece lacks perspective because it ignores talk radio. In my office, I listen to talk radio throughout the day. Talk radio is engaging and entertaining, and I learn a great deal from it. I buy the products advertised, and I find them to be as good as the host vouches for them. Rush Limbaugh saved AM radio, and now Hannity, Levin, and Limbaugh support it.

Insatty said...

This piece is inaccurate because it ignores talk radio. In my office, I listen to talk radio throughout the day. Talk radio is engaging and entertaining. I buy the products advertised on talk radio, and I find them as good as vouched for by the hosts. Rush Limbaugh saved AM radio, and Hannity, Levin, and Limbaugh support it.

The Phantom said...

Thanks for the comments, one and all.

There's nothing wrong with audio-only as a format, countless podcasts prove that. So, as Will Cate said, it isn't -impossible- to compete as a radio station. As Insatty says, plenty of conservative stations get by on Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, with smaller guys filling the time in between.

But music stations, what we normally want to hear on the drive to work or whatever, they are pretty much dead. The local station here is Moose FM, as an example. They run a hard rotation of Light Hits from the 80s and 90s, they have national brand ads, no DJ, and some form of national news from a service. The ONLY thing they do which is local is school closings for weather events. That's pretty much it.

Now, one could easily blame that on them being out here in Hooterville where nothing ever happens, which is a fair criticism. The problem is that most of the Toronto stations and pretty much all the Hamilton stations are the same. Stick a laptop next to the transmitter, that's the whole thing.

I can do that myself, only better. I don't need those guys.

Looking back, in the late 1970's until the early 1990s, Toronto radio was essentially the same, except for one shining star, CFNY, 102.1, The Spirit of Radio. They had a unique offering. They pretty much soundtracked the life of kids growing up around here at that time. All the crazy New Wave Alternative stuff, they played it. Michael Jackson, not so much, him you could hear on CHUM-FM.

Of course, what you need to do that is DJs that are part of the local music scene, know their genres, and DON'T use their radio show to ram political propaganda down listener's throats. Those three things are pretty hard to find these days.

Ravalli Fly Boy said...

I listen to (mostly AM) radio while driving. That’s not a lot of time, but, for that time, I prefer my local AM stations to Serius. When I bought a new truck a while back, it came with a free 6 months or year of Serius. I didn’t renew because I almost never listened. My truck radio has a USB port that accepts a 32 GB micro SD flash chip. Over the years I’ve ripped my favorite CD’s, and that is always available as an option when I’m out of range of a decent AM station. On long trips, I like to download podcasts, and sometimes I can check out audio ebooks from the library and put them onto the chip.

At home I mostly listen to internet radio, e.g., Heartland Public Radio and KING-FM, on our TV through the TuneIn app via Roku. I’m happy to donate to those two stations every year for the enjoyment they give. I strongly support the Value for Value model of the NoAgenda Podcast, and apply it to the internet radio services I enjoy.

Fisht said...

If I want to listen to music I choose it and play it. If I want talk radio I go find it. Listening to DJs with a Jr High diploma doesn't interest me anymore. Stern is a lucky dude because if he were just starting out today he would be totally invisible.

Phelps said...

I have one particular jock who does a mostly talk show on an iHeart station here in Dallas (Russ Martin) that I listen to. That's it.

What do I actually listen to? The city run Classical station (WRR) and the non-npr public radio station (KNON). I support both stations, and most importantly, neither is programmed by some executive in Manhattan.