(By Mike McVay) There was no session that I missed this year. It was one of the absolute best Radio Ink Forecast conferences that I’ve seen to date. They continue to get better every year. I say that as someone who has moderated sessions in the past, but not this year.
Television joined the event this year, and while I consider myself an audio person, there was much to learn from the video side of the business. I enjoyed the different perspectives that were shared, by leaders of the industry, and those who spend huge sums of money as advertisers and marketers.
Debra O’Connell, President of Networks for Disney Media & Entertainment and Bill Wilson, CEO of Townsquare Media, kicked off Forecast as they were led by President/Publisher of Radio Ink and Radio & Television Business Report Deborah Parenti. They spoke about what the future would look like. Disney, and all of its’ many media & entertainment tentacles is greater than anything we know on the radio side. Townsquare is unique in that it is a digital company that happens to own a radio group.
Ms. O’Connell shared how Television is changing rapidly with greater digital distribution. All of the major networks launched apps several years ago, in an effort to compete with Netflix, Apple TV, and so on. Meaning that you no longer need over-the-air, cable or satellite TV to watch your favorite network shows. While it wasn’t said, it does raise the question, aren’t you competing with your own affiliates?
What was asked, which was really poignant, was “what becomes of local TV?” Debra was brilliantly candid and insightful as she responded “local news, local sports and local events.” That comment coupled nicely with an afternoon session that addressed the value and growth of local radio. Led by Larry Patrick of Patrick Communications and Legend Communications, local broadcast owners Bud Walter (Cromwell), John Caracciolo (JVC), Brian Lilly (Lilly and SJL), and Dujuan McCoy (Circle City).
These broadcasters shared how they refused to allow the pandemic to interrupt their service to advertisers and how they served their communities. The session clearly showed that, in the case of these panelists, local talent with local content has real value. One of the panelists referred to their market as “Local Radio” and noted that calling in “small market” was an unfair characterization.
FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington, the luncheon keynote, raised eyebrows as during his speech he mentioned that he doesn’t expect to be retained as an FCC Commissioner. That honesty, from an appointed official, was refreshing. As were his answers to some tough questions that came from some in the crowd.
My favorite panel was the one that featured Deborah Wahl, Global Chief Marketing Officer of General Motors, and Doug Ray, who serves as Chief Product Officer, Americas and Chief Product Officer, Global Media for Dentsu International. They were interviewed by American Urban Radio Networks CEO Chesley Maddox-Dorsey. How often to do you to meet the former CMO of McDonalds, PulteGroup, Chrysler, Cadillac and Lexus? All before joining GM as CMO.
It was eye opening to hear Ms. Wahl speak about how GM is committed to an all-electric future and noted their recent entry Cadillac Escalade and the new All Electric Hummer that is about to rollout. While I am concerned as to the strain on the power grid, and whether or not I can drive the eight-hours it takes to get from Cleveland to Nashville to visit our children and grandson, Deborah did excite me about the attention being spent on in-auto entertainment and radios part in the car.
If anyone was concerned about current NAB CEO Gordon Smith’s departure, their concerns should be lessened, as we heard from both the Senator and incoming CEO Curtis LeGeyt. The two have worked together for most of Gordon’s time at the NAB. The youthful LeGeyt proved knowledgeable and concerned about those things that we’ve all been concerned of lately. I liked what he had to say about where the NAB is going, what the organization should mean to us, and how it will grow in the near and far future.
Forecast 2022 concluded, as it has in the past, with the Executive Super Session. This panel always features the leaders of the medium, which this year included Television, and generally has a strong moderator who asks the tough questions. Gordon Borrell, CEO of Borrell Associates served in that role this year. Panelists were Brian Lawlor, President/Local Media, The E.W. Scripps Company, a repeat appearance by Deborah O’Connell, President of Networks for Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution. Bill Wilson, CEO of Townsquare Media, and Caroline Beasley, CEO Beasley Media Group, who was surprised with an impromptu singing of Happy 60th Birthday to Beasley Media Group.
The session provided a variety of perspectives on the future of media, and of advertising, and certain uncertainty as to why media evolved so rapidly during the pandemic of 2020. The general consensus is that the listening and viewing habits of the audience, and their use of a variety of entertainment platforms, accelerated at least five years faster than they would have otherwise. What’s unknown is whether or not this new, faster pace of discovery and adoption, will slow or accelerate in the post-pandemic era.
A special SHOUT OUT to Juliet Huddy, Podcaster and a talent on WABC Radio, who served as the Host of Forecast 2022. She kept the agenda on time and did as good a job as I’ve seen of hushing a large crowd of media-types who were seeing each other for the first time, in-person and not on Zoom, in nearly two years.
Mike McVay is President of McVay Media and can be reached at [email protected]