Glenn Beck on the Future of TV – and Radio

If there is no “radio,” there is only media.  If there is no “television,” there is only media.  And what drives each media brand is the idea at its core.  All thanks to the Internet and its panoply of digital doodads and the ubiquitous opportunity for any and every tribe to find a home and each other in the presence of the sandbox called their passions.

Case and point:  Glenn Beck.  Since last month Glenn has been reinventing the future of television – and doing it online.

Like him or hate him, you have to credit Glenn and his team for navigating some perilous waters and doing so with early signs of success. His new effort, GBTV, already has over 230,000 subscribers (that’s 74 million more average viewers than what Oprah’s cable net has) paying between $5 and $10 per month to play in the Glenn Beck sandbox, and GigaOm reports that one analyst estimates that Beck could generate $27 million in subscription revenue within a year, on track to eventually reach $135 million.

In a fascinating interview with Business Insider, Glenn spells out his strategy, and if you listen closely, you can recognize this as the likely strategy for many personality-driven entertainment brands, whether or not they have a network or cable deal.

Some highlights from Glenn’s comments:

[GBTV represents] the way people will consume information whether that’s news, commentary, documentaries, but also education and entertainment in that vein. I think that’s the way it’s going to be consumed in the future. It’s the Netflix of information.

…it is exactly the quality you would get from a network. We can produce that quality and on a daily basis and actually double the amount that we were doing over at Fox. The next step now is to add some of the bells and whistles and the things that will make it radically different. To then put television as you know it where it belongs, in the history books.

It’s total freedom, I own it, it’s mine, I don’t have another investor in it – it’s mine. And so I’m the creative guy, it is my voice. I am hiring people that are tired of having somebody else tell them what to do. I’m not in that business, you will succeed or fail based on, what your merit is, what you do, can you attract that audience? The first, most important thing is, a straight line between me and the viewer. Don’t care about anybody else. Care about the viewer. So your success and failure rate is gonna happen. Rapidly.

This is the future of television. I think television is going to move online and you’re going to see individuals take their channel, their brand and their channel, online. I’m not sure that paying for it is necessarily the future. It might be, I’m not sure. I think it is now because we’re building something so unique, and I have such a bond with my audience. My audience knows who I am.

Never, never betray yourself . If you don’t betray yourself, if you are who you say you are and you never betray that. You will be able to attract an audience. They’re hungry, on both sides of the aisle, on any topic. The people are hungry for something genuine. So, A: Be genuine. B: Try to give the people more than what you’re charging. Don’t be greedy with the money.

Just think out of the box, because no one’s in that box anymore. You’re alone in that box. Think out of the box. Do it right. Stay true to yourself.

Glenn’s radio show will continue to fill the funnel with new GBTV viewers, of course.  People ask how Glenn will fare without the power of FOX News – these people forget about the immense promotional power of radio.

For Beck, “radio” or “TV” is not the point.  Glenn himself is the “idea” at the heart of his own cross-platform media empire, and it’s because of that “idea” that his brand is far bigger than any traditional medium which might propagate it.

This is something all of radio needs to recognize.  You can be a distribution channel and live and die by the health of that channel, or you can create content which constitutes its own “idea” in the minds of consumers. Then you can express that idea in many forms and in many places and across many channels of distribution.

That’s why, in the long run, the future of radio is “media,” and the future of “media” is talent.

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  • Jim Meltzer

    When I told my wife that I subscribed to Glenn’s online broadcast she asked why. I told her I wanted to see who was going to advertise the first year.

  • Larry ‘Lonesome’ Rhodes (Andy Griffith) figured this out a long time ago in the movie “A Face in the Crowd” all the same stuff with social networks and building your own voice and audience, plus giving the people what they want.  More importantly he didn’t let his “sponsors” tell him what to say.  The only thing that’s different is the tools. You can reach more people faster.  It’s worth watching because it’s still very timely even 50 years later.

  • What an outstanding and obscure cinematic reference! Thanks!

  • I agree media companies should constantly invest in… the development of media.  I also agree TV and radio stations rarely develop (‘create’) the media (‘content’) they distribute. 

    The thing is television and radio stations aren’t media companies so much as they’re technology companies.  They are part of the telecommunications ecosystem along with internet service providers.  GBTV, on the other hand, is a media company’s brand.  Somewhere, there’s an ISP Mercury Radio Arts pays to deliver GBTV over the Internet — just as The Oprah Winfrey Network pays cable and sat MVNOs to deliver its channel. 

  • I don’t think the television stations owned by NBC would agree with you. In print, Conde Nast is developing TV and film properties now, so that “magazine company” is really a media company. As for the ISP analogy, the largest ISP with almost 20% share of the market is Comcast, owner of NBC Universal, and creator as well as distributor of content.

  • Interesting perspective on the direction of media.  I strongly agree that is is not about the medium of distribution it is all about content.

    A brand like Fox can help get things started but it is really about the content.

  • Perhaps you’re correct about NBC’s O&Os.  Yet the number of NBC affiliates suggests many more broadcast station owners function as technology companies.  A station may change its network affiliation; that doesn’t change what the station is.  It’s important to note that NBC is, and always has been, a media company created and maintained by technology companies — first RCA and GE, and now Comcast. 

    It’s my belief that the future of TV and radio lies with station owners recognizing this distinction, and adjusting their business models accordingly to become more transparent, decentralized, and democratic.  It’s just a matter of time before TV stations begin distributing only data signals versus analog or digital video & audio.  My guess is the future of media, OTOH, will likely revolve around changes in packaging (e.g; discs and chips versus 3rd party ‘cloud’ services) and ownership constructs.

  • Billooooo

    Obviously you don’t watch keith olbermann who refers to Beck as “Lonsome Roads”  nightly. I would question exactly where the 230,000 number actually comes from…it simply says “according to people close to the network”. Well, according to people close to me, i have a million twitter followers.

  • If you don’t believe the numbers that’s your prerogative. But this post has nothing to do with Glenn’s point of view, nor Keith’s.

    I’ve seen Keith’s work. I was on the air with him a couple times many years ago. Very talented man, although prone to overly archaic references.

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