Industry Views

Pending Business: TV Knows Best

By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications Corp

imBulletin: “Linear TV” is no longer the winner.

Linear TV is tech talk for combining over the air and cable TV, and according to Nielsen, July 2023 was the first-time streaming TV was the winner, as streaming captured most TV viewing.

From Netflix to YouTube, we are watching more content on streaming channels than linear TV. You have read about the resurgence in “Suits,” the legal drama that originally aired 2011-2019 and is now drawing 18 billion minutes of viewing on Netflix. Whether those 18 billion minutes are part Meghan Markle curiosity or part writers’ strike, does not matter. Those 18 billion minutes of viewing helped drive streaming viewership to an all-time high. Maybe streaming grabbed a page from that old radio handbook that starts with “Content is King.”

But the companies controlling the streaming ad-free experience on Netflix, Disney, Hulu, etc. seized the opportunity and raised rates. Soon, it will cost you more every month to watch your favorite content ad-free.

Wait a minute! Did I just say the ad-free experience as in commercial free or no interruptions? Did the streaming guys just take another page from the well-worn radio programming handbook and turn the commercial-free model upside down to increase income? Streaming channels will deliver commercial free programming and charge you anywhere from $13.99- $21.99 a month as the fees double and triple depending on when you started your subscription.

How about our friends at Amazon Prime jumping on “Thursday Night Football,” or Apple and Peacock pushing baseball? Do not forget the YouTube NFL packages starting at $250. No, this is not a veiled plug for paid programming, nor is it a critique of the value propositions offered in the streaming world. Time for a long look in the mirror:

— The commercial-free experience began when radio programmers dropped the commercials, programmed longer, commercial-free segments to drive listenership and ratings up. In the short term it worked. My hand is in the air, guilty as charged. Maybe I was one of the lone radio management voices who asked, “Then what, run the spots and drive the audience away? Are we sending the wrong message?” We were dumb. After commercial free came rates, packages, and promotions. None of us said, “Raise the rates when the commercial-free stops!” The streaming guys got it right – just raise the rates.

— There is no older radio programming mantra than “Content is King.” You can name the iconic talents with one word, Howard, Rush, Imus, yet major radio organizations struggle as they search for great, soon-to-be iconic talent. It is faster, easier, and more lucrative to become a Tik-Tok, YouTube, or Instagram star.

These are all just examples of how radio was first in and stopped innovating. There is some good news on the horizon. Facebook is stepping back from the news business as news organizations ban together and ask for compensation. This could be the first chink in Facebook’s 113-billion-dollar ad armor. Maybe not. Either way, the old school top-of-the-hour newscast, or large market all-news radio should be re-imagined, opening the door to the next generation of innovators.

Steve Lapa is the president of Lapcom Communications Corp. based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Lapcom is a media sales, marketing, and development consultancy. Contact Steve Lapa via email at: