We are still deep in the process of distilling our CES takeaways, even though the show now seems miles away in our rear view mirrors. In reading over our radio C-suiters feedback from our Jacobs CES/CEO Tour – which we'll take a deeper dive into tomorrow – many were simply blown away by how much technology and gadgetry is being developed for content consumption.
It's not that transmitters and towers don't matter. They do. And a true beauty of radio is that it can boast of a simple, no-fee, data-free delivery system that has always been a part of our lives?
But is it still ubiquitous? Radios have certainly disappeared from the Las Vegas Convention Center at CES. Today, the event's parent organization is called the Consumer Technology Association. Back in the 1920s, it was actually known as the Radio Manufacturers Association. Yes, that was a long time ago.
Our Techsurveys and other research indicate that AM/FM radios are becoming less common in homes, workplaces, and perhaps even cars. Shared mobility platforms, and ride services like Uber and Lyft place consumers in strange vehicles – autonomous and otherwise. On which devices and platforms will they be able to access and enjoy a favorite radio station in a self-driving car?
On their mobile phones, of course. Reported by Cool Hunting, an innovative new car sharing program is in the works from Cadillac, providing the concept with a luxury spin. Called BOOK, it allows drivers to use the full array of Cadillac vehicles for a monthly subscription fee – avoiding the burdens, hassles, and expense of car ownership.
So whether you jump into an Escalade or STS-V, how will you arrange your audio choices? It's hard to imagine someone taking the time to preset a dozen stations each time they pick up a new Caddy. Instead, the simple solution will be to pair their smartphones – a procedure that takes under 30 seconds – ensuring that all content choices will be immediately available in their new ride.
And of course, that requires content creators – especially radio stations – to ensure their programming is readily and easily available on mobile phones, as well as on any dashboard ecosystems, including SmartDebviceLink, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Radios isn't the only industry experiencing screen expansion and the mobile experience. In a recent New York Times story by Glenn Kenny, the “controversy” over watching movies on a smartphone was discussed.
Among most veteran big screen producers and directors, this practice is often thought of as blasphemous. After all, how can you enjoy and appreciate “2001: A Space Odyssey” or “La La Land” on an iPhone? But of course, consumers are in control, enjoying whatever they want, wherever they want. If they want to watch movies while in a dentist's office or on the subway on a smartphone, it's the accessibility that matters to them.
As Turner Classic Movies and FilmStruck exec, Charles Tabesh, reminds content creators, “You have to be available to the way that people are watching movies. You have to be there for them.”
That notion is rapidly becoming the accepted truth in television as well. In a CES session called “The Future of Content: Cross-Platform Monetization,” execs from Adobe, Sinclair, NBCUniversal, and the Weather Channel were singing out of that same hymnal.
They are defining television as “anything with audio and video.” And one of their takeaways for content creators is “always be building.” That's why NBCU has rapidly moved to Snapchat for Jimmy Fallon and “Saturday Night Live.” Being early on platforms is now the accepted norm, as opposed to waiting until a new distribution outlet become popular become committing.
Clearly, many of our execs on our Jacobs CES/CEO Tour came away with that same conclusion. Entercom's VP of Digital Audio Engagement, Tim Murphy, was taking it all in. His conclusion?
“CES reinforced to me that (radio is) a content industry, not a technology industry. BUT we must develop better ‘technology awareness' so our content continues to receive the ubiquitous distribution we have owned over the years. We CANNOT become complacent about assuming great distribution and we can't ‘hope' that auto manufacturers and Apple/Google do right by us. We need to get more aggressive in maintaining our ‘shelf space.'”
Supported by our own CES attendance over the years, we have come to the indisputable conclusion that while content is, in fact, a large portion of the enchilada, distribution is paramount to ensuring that it's enjoyed, seen, and heard by an audience that is empowered by myriad gadgets and devices.
So, content and distribution, king and queen, if you will, because without both working in tandem, radio's future is threatened. Television, the motion picture industry, and of course, the world of newspapers have all reached this inexorable conclusion.
If it helps, hang this lovely portrait in your conference room, your cubicle, your office, or in the kitchenette.
Radio needs to embrace the queen.
Want to know more about what we saw at CES that will impact radio broadcasters? Our Digital Dot Connector, Seth Resler, conducted a series of interviews at CES 2017. You can listen to them in this new podcast series.
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