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The Missing Piece In Nationalized Radio?

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IHeartRadio NashFM Nationalized Nationalization KLoveClear Channel is consolidating sales much like it has consolidated on-air positions over the past few years. Cumulus continues with its rollout of the Nash brand. Univision is creating content hubs. The pieces that have defined American radio throughout history are slowly fading away in favor of nationalized efforts.

Instead of going fully national though Clear Channel, Cumulus, and Univision are going about it in an even worse way. These companies are trying to have the best of both worlds and end up belonging in none with a mix of syndication, voicetracking, and maybe one or two live jocks if they are lucky on top of their attempt to stay relevant locally with a skeleton crew.

Outside of North America nationalized programming has been a fact of life since radio’s inception. In the United Kingdom, BBC Radio 1 has such a hold on the nation’s cultural identity. Artists become stars and the station’s presenters become national celebrities. With the rise of owner consolidation and the transition to DAB, many of the nation’s commercial stations are in the process of gaining national reach.

One company has found quite a bit of success here in the United States quietly building not one, but two nationalized music stations. Educational Media Foundation’s “KLove” has stations in 46 states serving markets such as New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Detroit with scores of stations and translators while “Air-1” reaches listeners in 42 different states. EMF’s networks are truly nationalized with the same programming airing live no matter where you are located in the country.

Wouldn’t Clear Channel’s CHR stations or Cumulus’ Nash branded Country stations be better served going to this model? One of the things that has been lost from many stations is that larger than life presentation that makes radio seem important when compared to say Pandora or ITunes. Having the best personalities live nationally with national programming will lead to their station brands being bigger. There will be more national advertising and sponsorship opportunities for say IHeart Hits or Nash as having the same programming nationally will create appointment listening. If Katy Perry will be in studio to debut a new single at 6pm eastern, people across the country will be ready to tune and be all over social media to hype and discuss.

In many major markets Clear Channel has a CHR leaning Hot AC flanked with their CHR. They have the means in place to place the national branding on say KBIG Los Angeles, WLIT Chicago, WISX Philadelphia, and KDMX Dallas while retaining local programming on KIIS, WKSC, WIOQ, and KHKS or vice versa enabling the big heritage brands to remain on top of the national one.

How does this help improve local radio? With the increase of more digital media brands, there’s only so many ad dollars to spread around. The top billing radio stations all share one common thread; mostly local programming. With more stations pushing national ad sales, the remnants will have less competition for the local buys. As a hypothetical scenario, let’s say Clear Channel placed a national CHR brand on WZEE Madison. It will open the door for a competitor to have the opportunity to go in the opposite direction with an emphasis on local. Be everywhere in the community. Do the things that great stations always do. Capital FM succeeds competing against BBC Radio 1. Both will be serving different niches.

Particularly as CHR and Hot AC converge towards similar music sounds differentiation has to happen for a WNOW-FM, WPLJ, WHTZ, and WKTU to all stay viable in New York or KKOB-FM, KLQT, KPEK, and KDLW in Albuquerque. Instead of minor playlist differences, serve the audience with different types of content between the songs.

American radio began with nationalized programming from CBS, NBC Red & Blue, and Mutual. It wasn’t until the Top 40 boom of the late 50s/early 60s that local programming became the norm. Since the 80s we’ve been stuck in the middle first with syndication and then voicetracking, but no commercial operator willing to fully go all the way back to where we came from for the sake of both national and local programmers.

Profile photo of Lance Venta
Lance Venta is the Owner and Publisher of RadioInsight.com and a consultant for RadioBB Networks specializing in integration of radio and the internet. Lance has two decades of experience tracking the audio industry and its use of digital platforms.

9 Comments

  1. Profile photo of BC


    wow, i couldn’t have said it better. The problem here is total inconsistency and hype, that quite honestly is only generated through the radio industry and your competitor. so it’s been a year later and the only thing I’ve learned about nash, is that they’re trying to cut costs and just have the word nash on a whole bunch of stuff. Since I picked on CBS in my last comment, I’d like to compliment the brands of star Pittsburgh and Mix baltimore, when you listen you know its those stations. It’s truly sad that when I hear a great station, I see it as a diamond in the rough. When you look at the respective formats, country, rock, hits, all of them in their doldrum phases had something in common. Even if there were some really awesome songs if people aren’t resonating with the majority of it, the brand then gets the defacto irrelevance label. case and point, the rich captains sailing the titanic are going to ruin it for all of us. If they don’t, that must really mean the radio station is doing something special, because i’ll immediately turn off the radio if I feel like my intelligence is being insulted, especially when its totally transparent that I’m just a number on a meter, or a member of a fake email list.

  2. Profile photo of JeremyAndrews


    Don’t forget France, basically every station is part of a national network.

    NRJ = CHR (This is a big deal there, and has become a global brand. However each station does have a local studio and they do have a few hours of local programming, and local promotions)

    NRJ’s sister national networks Nostalgie (Classic Hits), Chérie FM (AC), Rire et Chansons (Comedy), and their TV networks.

    National Networks not owned by the NRJ Group
    RFM (National AC Network)

    Skyrock (National Rhythmic CHR/Urban Network)

    Oui FM (National Rock Network)

    Virgin Radio (CHR/Alternative) This brand is everywhere.

    Like EMF, they all just simply have their “Frequencies” in various cities and towns at various power levels.

  3. Profile photo of homerjay


    I don’t see it as something that’s defined radio (in the US) throughout history as fading away. That history is replete with network content as well. Those dramas, games and soaps so many remember were a shared national experience.

    In that regard, there’s a certain measure of returning to the past. Identical? No. Of course not. But certainly with echoes of the olden days, just adapted to modern realities.

    New consumer habits force change. Clinging to outmoded models because they worked in a different time and reality doesn’t work, hard as the change may be.

  4. Profile photo of Steve Bradley


    “American radio began with nationalized programming from CBS, NBC Red & Blue, and Mutual. It wasn’t until the Top 40 boom of the late 50s/early 60s that local programming became the norm.” That’s only four stations per market. There were others dating back to the 1920s that had to fill time somehow. I’d have to say that they were the norm. Also, what is “CHR leaning Hot AC? What part is leaning? the presentation? more currents than recurrents? If the latter, wouldn’t that just be “CHR”?

    Read more at: http://radioinsight.com/blog/blogs/88455/the-missing-piece-in-nationalized-radio/

  5. Profile photo of MattParker


    Keep in mind that most other countries are smaller geographically and far more homogenous demographically. Also, they began with the public broadcasting model (commercial broadcasting came later).
    Even so, European countries (possibly others) also evolved into a mix of local and national programming. The BBC operates local and regional stations throughout Britain, in addition to the numbered national services.
    But the bean counters who run corporate radio are trying to kill local radio in pursuit of profits.

  6. Profile photo of Bongwater


    We’re already halfway there to totally nationalized and corporately branded commercial radio (ESPN anyone?) The slippery slope to Burger King 103.7 is being greased as we speak……

  7. Profile photo of Goin' Where?


    Burger King 103.7? Maybe that’s not a half bad idea. Been to a Sonic Drive-In lately. I’d rather listen to their in-house Sonic Radio music service than a good 70 percent of my local FM dial.

    National corporate sponsors that program a network of stations with a sound that best fits their image. Maybe that’s a way to get back some of the music we radio geeks on these boards all bemoan radio no longer playing.

    • Profile photo of Bongwater


      *FACEPALM*

      Me and my big mouth…….

      • Profile photo of Goin' Where?


        I hear you.

        But when Sam Paley first bought the radio stations that became CBS, wasn’t his sole goal to sell more La Palina cigars?

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