Whenever I play Monopoly, I look forward to landing on a square where you're instructed to draw a Chance or Community Chest card.
A lot can happen, both good and bad. You can advance to “GO” (and collect $200), you can earn windfalls of unexpected cash, you could go to the nearest Railroad, or you could be sent directly to Jail (and not pass “GO”) or earn a “Get out of jail free” card. You just never know.
But perhaps the worst card in both decks is learning you've been assessed.
I probably first learned what that word meant while playing the famous Parker Brothers board game. In later years if you own a condo, you tend to learn real quickly about “assessments” – especially the unexpected kind that demands funds often at the most inopportune times.
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So, when the NAB reached out to its membership this week with the not-so-good, but not-so-surprising news they are forced to levy an assessment of one year's dues (payable over three years), it was a moment unlike anything we've see before (as President Trump is fond of saying). As you might imagine, shortfalls from the lack of conventions (the Radio Show and the annual Las Vegas event), are the culprit.
Yes, COVID again.
But it's 2020, and we know that anything is indeed possible.
It's been the toughest year ever, the election is still not over, and we're heading into a challenging holiday season.
The optimist in me (yes, he lives) believes that better times are indeed ahead. But it is clear with each passing day that we're being tested in myriad ways by conditions none of us has faced before. Every day feels like another encounter with the unknown – that Chance card that can go either way.
No matter the outcome of the election, the industry needs a strong voice in Washington – among other things – and our hope is that like so many of our biggest and smallest companies, the NAB regains its financial equilibrium.
But we are also too well aware that broadcasters of all shapes and sizes are cash-strapped and scrambling to stay whole. This has been a year of sacrifice, and the NAB will no doubt have questions to address.
This NAB assessment comes on the heels of Nielsen's “Subscriber First” policy that delists stations that don't pay the ratings freight. Again, another difficult set of circumstances all the way around that will force many in the industry to make difficult financial decisions.
This is another decision that deeply divides the industry. Diary markets (where the changes go into effect in April) appear to be most impacted by Nielsen's “pay up” policy. Nielsen is providing an exemption to non-commercial and minority-owned broadcasters.
Like so many things in this year of pain, it comes down to cost, return on investment, and financial pain points – all tough financial calls for the executives charged with making them.
What and whom do we value? How do the economic decisions made today impact Q4, 2021, and the next five years?
Mr. Monopoly always has a smile on his face when you're writing him a check or forking over cash.
When you're in arrears, his visage gets darker by the moment. This is hardball. Make the wrong call, and you might even lose your turn.
None of us is playing with Monopoly money in 2020. The sacrifices are all too real.
Hopefully in the not so distant future, we're together at a physical Radio Show again, where we can discuss – or duke out – these issues in person.
If and when that happens, keep the above card handy. I'll be working the lobby.