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What Radio can learn from ABC TV

A few days ago ABC announced that they would begin live streaming content in two major markets with more to follow on a new app called WatchABC.

ABC and other networks have long allowed you to watch their prime-time shows online after they air on TV, but ABC is the first broadcast over-the-air network to let you watch their live feed — including local news, daytime talk shows and prime-time dramas. Over the next few months, it will expand to cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago. Eventually, ABC expects most of its affiliates will be onboard.

Is it the exact same experience as what you can watch with everyone else in your market on TV? Well, not quite.

If you’re in New York or Philadelphia, you’ll be able to pull up this app on your smartphone or your tablet and you can hit the “Live” button and see more or less what you see on your TV from your local ABC affiliate. The biggest difference will be the ads — ABC says it has built in the ability to serve targeted ads. So they know who you are, they know what you like and, at least theoretically, you could get different ads than your friends eventually.

So TV is drifting towards live streaming with one key distinction: the ads will eventually be tailored to the target. The ads will be customized. The ads will not necessarily be the same as what you can see on the same program on TV where every viewer sees the same thing.

Radio is, of course, well ahead of TV in this regard. The ability to customize ads on streams is not new. What’s remarkable is that there is still any debate among commercial broadcasters about the wisdom of simulcasting spots vs. targeting them to relevant audiences within the stream.

Guys, this is not your decision to make. Your audiences and your competitors are making it for you. Time and technology and competing alternatives are quickly making the debate moot.

When your TV competitors can target messages in the platforms consumers prefer and you choose not to, how exactly will you compete then?

It’s time for broadcasters to get on the right side of history.

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