(By Jeff McHugh) In 1972, the head of CBS television hated the most popular show on his own network.
All in the Family was a controversial sitcom about bigot Archie Bunker. CBS president William S. Paley turned off his TV every Sunday to avoid seeing it. All in the Family was number one in Nielsen and is now considered some of the best TV shows ever made. Paley won by programming for the audience and not for himself.
Every on-air talent and every manager has a personal vision for their programming. But when you learn that your audience has a totally different preference, what will you compromise? What if you love talking politics but doing so turns off your audience? Suppose your number one feature is War Of The Roses but you dread every episode? What if pre-producing A+ benchmarks is more PPM-friendly, but you prefer that everything is live?
All successful entertainers have something in their show that they dislike, but they do it to win. Like a band playing hits that they are tired of because the audience still sings along.
Some broadcasters cannot let go of their favorite features, like the deejay in Good Morning Vietnam who played his polkas instead of the rock and roll that soldiers preferred. Committing to serving the audience is your first step. Knowing what they want comes next. How do you know? Ask.
The most competitive broadcasting companies ask the audience through research and their answers help your show stay in touch with the times.
However, if your company does not have the financial strength to buy research, consider these alternatives:
Trade – with a local research company. We once traded with Hatch Research to do a focus group on a show in St Louis.
Universities – consumer research programs will sometimes do research as a student project.
Deep dive into Nielsen – when the show vacations, do the ratings go up or down that week? Did you play more music or replay more A+ features?
Review digital statistics – which of your podcasts are played through to the end? What social media posts get engagement?
Listener panels – solicit your P1 fans to give up an hour of their time and opinion in exchange for pizza and tickets.
Use social media – post basic questions for your followers using survey tools.
Online surveys – Google docs and Survey Monkey are easy and free.
Jeff McHugh is a member of the team at the Randy Lane Company.