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On Clear Channel’s “Format Lab”

CCU will be offering a zillion home-grown formats to competing broadcasters so as to remove the excuse of “we don’t know what to put on it” from those broadcasters who are slow to adopt HD.

Or…does this have almost nothing to do with HD at all?

From my standpoint, Clear Channel seems to have by far the smartest cross-channel strategy of any US broadcaster. Period. And what you’re really looking at here isn’t a lab for HD, it’s a lab for any medium, any distribution channel, any company, any anything that needs a channel or channels of music for any reason whatsoever. Sure you can make this stuff up yourself. Or you can get it from people who know how to entertain America and do it in more markets, in more radio stations, than anybody else.

Strangely, the Billboard article includes misplaced comments from CCU head John Hogan like this:

“What really separates radio from other media is we create this incredible one-on-one bond with the listener. As music becomes more accessible and less proprietary, it has become even more important for us to increase our skill and our ability to connect with the listener. That’s what differentiates us from a satellite service. Radio is a relationship.”

Nothing about radio is a relationship – a one-on-one bond – when you’re creating a wide selection of narrow slices, each reflecting the tiniest slice of what any one listener is likely to be interested in. In fact, creating a ton of channels makes us much worse than satellite, by the “relationship” measure anyway. So I wouldn’t argue that this is our main distinction and then go rubbing it out.

Still, CCU’s actions speak louder than words. And these actions reflect a strategy to build programming for any audience on any channel in any place.

Not just on terrestrial radio, and certainly not necessarily on HD.

One other point: The article says the following:

Six years ago, Sirius and XM Satellite Radio had futuristic studio complexes, an army of eager programmers, some very expensive satellites and no listeners. Similarly, HD2 today is crawling ever so slowly out of the driveway.

That, most certainly, is where the similarity ends. Satellite spent a ton of money to get itself on the map – a ton of money in the marketplace, a ton of money with Detroit automakers, etc. How much has radio spent off its own air to achieve growth? How much does it plan to spend? How many “eager programmers” did radio hire to program all these new channels? What brand name talent has radio hired to man them?

As the old maxim goes, you have to spend money to make it.

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