10 Programming Predictions For The Next 25 Years


(By Gary Berkowitz)

  1. The big groups will start to break up once they realize that radio is a local media that needs “local care and tenderness.” Investors will lose patience, and station sales will be made to local operators.
  2. Somebody will figure out radio’s next revenue model. The era of eight or 10 commercials in a row will end, and we will get into a whole new system of presenting advertisers’ messages. Long, hard-to-listen-to clusters of ads will no longer exist.
  3. Radio will figure out how to monetize demos other than 25-54. Preteen stations will pop up as well as 50-plus formats.
  4. Since it will be owned by local operators, radio will go back to 24/7 operation. This will increase the need for talent, and also give new talent a chance to get on the air in overnights and weekends.
  5. More and more stations will drop Nielsen ratings. Since radio will move to a local model, results will matter more than ratings. Programming pressure will be on sounding great, getting results, and being out in the community.
  6. Programmers will look back at the golden era of Top 40 radio and adapt many of its practices. Great DJs and exciting imaging will once again be a part of every radio station.
  7. DJs will matter more than “10 in a row.” Good ones will be in demand. Salaries will once again rise.
  8. Programmers will realize the power of strong jingles for branding their image. Memorable and fun jingles will reappear all across the nation. Smart programmers will listen to PAMS cuts and ask “How do we take the idea behind these and make it work today?”
  9. Radio will go back to being more “full service.” Information will be a big part of that mix. Many stations will go back to news all day long.
  10. Realizing that commercials can be a tune-out, radio will adapt programs that test and improve the quality of commercials. Jerry Lee of WBEB/Philadelphia is ahead of the curve, as he is doing this now.

Gary Berkowitz is president of Detroit-based Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting, specializing in ratings improvement for AC radio stations. Contact Gary at 248.737.3727 or [email protected].


  1. A return of harder guitar-driven current rock would be a nice first baby step in the revitalization of terrestrial radio. Current “alternative” is just a more sophisticated style of pop.

  2. Thanks to all of you for your comments. Prior to publication, I asked my wife to look the column over. She asked me; “Are you dreaming or do you really believe these” I responded “A little of both..” I’d be happy if just a few came to fruition. Like most of you, I love radio. Therefore, I will continue to fight the good fight to keep it alive and thriving. Happy Holidays!

  3. Corporate (iHeart) radio telling us what we supposedly want to hear has been wrong for so long. NO ONE wants to hear the same insipid Heart, Prince, Michael Jackson, Madonna oldies over and over again all day. Supposedly “research” has told them that people like that, but everyone in THIS office mocks the playlist endlessly, and notes the advertisers on a list of companies to never buy from.
    It’s gonna backfire, idiots.

  4. I don’t think Gary is being pollyanna-ish here….more wishful thinking-ish….
    We have witnessed an amazing transformation, technologically, since I entered the profession back in 1973, and even in programming philosophies (not all positive…), however, in many ways, radio has not evolved to effectively meet the challenges listeners present. The premise that a return to real “Local” ownership/programming will bring with it a revitalization of a dying industry, is predicated on the notion that local owners will have the vision to adapt to the times. Since the vast majority of todays owners/programmers demonstrate they have no clue, I’m doubtful we’ll witness a sudden influx of visionary pioneers to save the medium from itself. Hope I’m wrong.

  5. it would be wonderful if radio returned to those thrilling days of yesterday year pre 1990s or even better pre payola. I hope it comes to pass though many of us will not be here to enjoy the rebirth. I retired in 1994, I saw the writing on the wall. Now I never listen to radio. It is like I lost a best friend. What does concern me is that what with attacks on both the print and broadcast media our freedom of expression of what/how we use radio might be compromised in the future. Perhaps some will disagree but the decline of radio and television really began in 1987, two words “Fairness Doctrine”.

  6. 25 years from now? you’ll be pushing up daisies!
    Put a millennial in front of an Echo Dot, and they ask Alexa for Daniel Tosh Stand-up routines!

  7. Agreed on all points! Bankruptcy for iHeart and Cumulus may be blessings in disguise for the radio industry. Markets will be shed, new operators will come to operate them, and unfettered by stockholder demands, will (hopefully) bring the industry back from life support.

  8. Long way from 1997 clusterazation
    Time for the cycle to swing back
    The other way to Local Control – Radio thrives when when it can re-invent it self & talent is geeen lighted to be talent
    not robots – Radios next generation is ready to create the new age – let it begin – long overdue!

  9. I’ve been hearing for decades that there are demos that have “spending power” that are being ignored by broadcast media. Everyone wants 25-54. The population bubble has changed a lot-but it seems like advertisers are still using the decades old 25-54 advertising model. Radio’s been accused of using decades old methodology (and inaccurate measurement with PPM)- but hasn’t advertising research been using even OLDER methods? Much older?

  10. It’s been way too long…radio’s done a swell job of proving that it doesn’t sell product (if you’re buried in an 8 spot cluster), and all the logical ideas you put forth have been lost on so many “programmers”. Oh for the days when station formats and the execution of them were driven by real programmers and then handed to sales to take to the streets. If anyone can resurrect strong radio, it’s Berkowitz.

  11. To me, these are more dreams than true predictions. Looking back to the Golden Era of Top 40? Doubt it. More emphasis on jingles? Why bother. More full service because its more localized? Maybe. But that also means more money to run a station well—people, salaries, health care. I doubt it. Content, really good content, is the only thing that will bring relevance back. Something one canNOT get elsewhere. Much of this could be local. But I suggest looking to Podcasts for ideas and content. Broadcast the good ones. Encourage more. Radio will always have a “on demand” issue it will not be able to overcome. Only truly good content could eclipse that element.

  12. If even one of your predictions materializes in 2018, we’ll be in a better place. Three or more and we could be looking at a re-birth of the medium.

  13. Some radio companies already realize #1 (the best radio is local). These are the companies that didn’t go on a particular buying spree when consolidation happened. Some have also at least come to the notion of #2 (ridiculous spot loads) and are and have been investigating ways to mitigate that damage, though more needs to be done on this. But to get all the rest to happen requires more out of the box thinking than some big operators have today. And I don’t suspect a company with hundreds of stations will just voluntarily agree to break itself up, especially if they are publicly traded. Still, Gary has some great observations that deserve to be considered.

  14. This is the most positive, uplifting article I’ve read on this industry (that I love and still believe in) in forever. I believe so many of these are true–but it does have to start with #1…big companies selling off to local owners.
    I would love to be one of those local owners-having worked for such incredible locally owned properties myself. Thanks for the jolt of good news to start my day 🙂 -Sue

  15. I would be delighted with an invitation to come aboard Gary’s yacht/runabout/punt/canoe or dinghy.
    More than predictions, these are edicts that require immediate attention.
    Radio, I believe, only has a few more years to make the necessary course corrections.
    A “reckoning” may be coming up just over the horizon.
    The questions, however, are those of: Who? When? By how much? and, How, specifically?


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