(By Radio Ink Chairman Eric Rhoads) Among the many news stories that caught my attention in recent days is a report involving the nation’s No. 1 owner of radio stations, and a rising player in the digital news and information space.
On June 7, iHeartMedia announced that it has forged “a multi-year, multi-platform creative partnership” with OZY Media. This pact between the leading operator of AM and FM stations in the U.S. and a growing digital creator of news content is a big deal. The agreement includes, among other things, the sharing of stories on iHeart stations across some 150 markets, via iHeart’s highly talented morning show personalities.
In return, a newly launched OZY podcast is being added to the iHeartRadio platform.
This is exactly the sort of synergy with Silicon Valley the radio industry needs. Sadly, few if any other radio station owners are doing this.
It is one reason why iHeartMedia shouldn’t be called a “radio broadcasting company” anymore.
Chapter 11 restructuring be damned, Bob Pittman and Rich Bressler are in command of a company that is an audio entertainment provider designed for success in the digital age. Everyone seems to know iHeartRadio — the app. Everyone has heard of at least one of their star air personalities, whether it is Ryan Seacrest, Bobby Bones, or Elvis Duran on a national level, or Paul Castronovo and Ellen K. on a local level.
But, more importantly, Silicon Valley has these personalities and the radio stations on which their voices can be found on their radar.
For years, the radio industry has been asked to do more with the men (and women) of Mountain View from a technology standpoint. There’s been progress, but there’s more work to be done on that front.
Now, radio’s need to reinvest in its No. 1 asset — its content– is more important than ever because of the value this represents to Silicon Valley.
One of the greatest reasons for this can be seen in Hollywood.
As told to me by Radio and Television Business Report Editor-in-Chief Adam Jacobson, a drive last week from Los Angeles International Airport to the El Capitan Theatre via La Brea and La Cienega Boulevards provided a parade of billboards promoting television shows. In fact, nine out of every 10 outdoor ad displays was for a scripted series. What was most telling was where the shows aired: Netflix and Amazon Video were promoting their shows — both for Emmy voters and for consumers.
The money being poured into Hollywood by Silicon Valley’s digital entertainment darlings is substantial. The influence they are wielding in Hollywood is reshaping the TV industry — and impacting it in ways once unimaginable.
The radio industry can get in on the action by taking iHeart’s lead. There’s little reason why David Field and Entercom shouldn’t: with its love of sports and all of that ‘90s grunge music Field has a personal affinity for, it should take its talent on a tour of Northern California VCs and make pit stops at Google and Netflix. Then, a quick flight to LAX and Uber ride to Santa Monica should be in order. That’s where Amazon Studios is based.
Increased exposure of radio’s talent, and valued content, to these entities can bring more partnerships such as the OZY/iHeart deal to regional and national players that can truly benefit from Silicon Valley’s support — both financial and promotional.
Radio isn’t just AM and FM anymore. As such, it’s time for radio to strut its stuff from Los Gatos to the Golden Gate Bridge.
Eric Rhoads is Chairman of Radio Ink Magazine and can be reached at [email protected]