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The hopeful buzz phrase of the moment is “A rising tide lifts all boats,” and a recent study conducted by Edison Research bears out this hypothesis. It reveals that as online listening (radio and subscription) expands, so too does broadcasting, across the board—audience, advertising and subscription. We asked leading figures from various 
sectors of the broadcasting business how they’re formulating and taking advantage of this multiplatform synergy.


Whether it’s online listening, online radio, subscriptions, there’s still growth in broadcast radio in listenership, advertising and revenues. What are you doing to make sure that trend continues, so that there isn’t a complete migration to the digital space?



CHRIS OLIVIERO
EVP PROGRAMMING

Many of the core principles to growing a successful entertainment product are universal regardless of platform. Be it broadcast or streaming, free or paid, live or on-demand, if the product is wrong or the experience is subpar, then it will fail. So we try to always begin and lead with the content, while still being cognizant of the fact that our audience will have varying degrees of expectations depending on where, how and when they are engaging with our product. Our standards and promise must be the same across the board, though, and be brand-consistent, or it will all fall apart. WUSN needs to be WUSN no matter where the consumer touches it, be it on FM, mobile or time-shifted. We also need not worry or prioritize one platform over the other as a listener is a listener no matter where they enter the tent.



JOHN DICKEY
EVP

Two things. First, I think a migration to the digital space is inevitable, and it’s going to be proven on the under-end first. It’s going to be slower as you climb up the age ladder. But it is inevitable, and I want to be in a position to be there as it’s happening and embrace it, not ignore it, fight it, or pretend it’s not happening. That’s for openers.

With respect to broadcast radio and ensuring that that distribution remains relevant and maintains as the leading place where people consume audio, that’s a function of making sure we’re putting compelling content out on a regular basis, not taking anything for granted. What I tell our guys daily is that we control our destiny to a large extent. If we’re putting great content out that they can’t hear anywhere else, they’re going to consume it, and we’re going to benefit from that. We’ll slowly see our audience dwindle if we don’t. So we’re focused on growing talent. We’re focused on investing in talent. We’re focused on trying to push the boundaries formatically to keep our stations that are in various formats fresh and relevant and hip for their respective audiences. It’s putting the ball in the hands of the creative side and saying, “Our future is in your hands, do something with it.” And that’s a good place to be.

This is a renaissance for everybody. It’s a great time to be on the programming side of the business, and a very heavy responsibility. You really have to be good. You can’t hide, you can’t fake it. There’s a lot at risk and a lot on the line, and quite frankly, a lot of places for people to consume audio. We can do something about it and maintain our relevancy by programming really good stuff every day. 


Your channel has broken records and pivoted a number of acts into the spotlight. Are people coming to your station looking for new music they can’t find elsewhere?


JOHN MARKS
PD, THE HIGHWAY

To date, SiriusXM The Highway has been responsible for nationally breaking Florida Georgia Line, Cole Swindell, Sam Hunt, Chase Rice, Parmalee and Old Dominion, and coming along quickly are Clare Dunn and Logan Mize. I can say it certainly matters to the artists mentioned here and to the many artists who haven’t yet realized that dream but are building their brand and business with The Highway’s exposure. It matters to our audience because they know they are part of something special, where they can discover a new artist or even new musical style that is bubbling up. We see our subscribers, who are music fans, responding by buying music and responding on our social-media platforms.

What are you guys offering that others aren’t?

SiriusXM provides true national exposure for new artists and new music for a subscriber audience of about 28 million and a listening audience almost double that size. Our subscribers who love The Highway are seeking to discover interesting new music and artists. They appreciate human curation of music combined with on-air hosts who present music with true passion and enthusiasm for “what’s next.” Many digital platforms can play new music, but we do in in a concentrated form and give real thought to presentation. Then we look closely at sales and audience reaction to determine how a song is trending. 

How tricky is the music mix and getting the balance right? And what do you think is the right balance?

Specifically for The Highway, the music mix can be tricky. We’re conscious to not play too much new music—as to dilute reaction to the ones we’re playing. We also play our music without dayparts and without regard to chart movement. We know it doesn’t take a year to determine if our audience likes or doesn’t like a song.

 We work on our music daily to assure the correct music mix so that we play familiar favorites and cutting-edge new music that is in sync with audience expectations and provides great subscriber satisfaction.


The 2015 CMT Music Awards were up 10% from 2013 as well as showing a 33% jump on cmt.com. What have you and your teams been doing in terms of content to trigger these increases?


LESLIE FRAM
SVP OF MUSIC STRATEGY

For CMT, we’re constantly looking for opportunities to reinvent our programming, and this is especially true for our biggest show of the year, the annual CMT Music Awards. It would be difficult to point to one specific strategy. It’s a collaboration in every way, starting with John Hamlin’s creative vision as the executive producer. This year, our digital team, led by Jason Hill, focused on making the show available on multiple entry points for fans so that it’s easy to be part of the conversation. Whether they were watching on TV and wanted to follow the social chatter or just came across it on their phone—the show was accessible.

KATIE BUCHANAN
SVP OF PROGRAMMING STRATEGY

In terms of programming strategy, we had a full 360 approach this year with promotion on our air, and utilizing our reach through Viacom Kids and Family platforms to help expand our promotion. Two weeks prior to the CMT Music Awards premiere, we skinned the network with Awards branding and pushed the nominated artists during music hours.

How do CMT’s various components—TV, online, tentpole events and the awards show—enhance each other?

Fram: As content creators, we have to create multiple forms of content now endemic to the appropriate platform. While we may have a one-hour documentary that works really well for our core channel CMT, it may require a different viewpoint to work for CMT.com or the CMT app. At the same time, that’s really exciting because it gives us an opportunity to introduce a show in a number of ways. For example, the CMT Music Awards streamed in full across a number of platforms including CMT.com and the CMT app, as well as on iHeart Country stations. While we had multiple opportunities to watch the full show, we also worked in real time to make shorter, more shareable performances available immediately after they aired. Additionally, we partnered for the first time ever this year with Meerkat for a unique and additional viewpoint of watch Florida Georgia Line’s performance, which was streamed live right from a cellphone in the front row.

We’re also working with artists in unique ways to help drive interest and awareness in their projects. We just—for the first time ever—partnered to produce Chris Janson’s music video. We leveraged our loudest night of the year by having him perform on the CMT Music Awards, and pushing fans to visit our website and app to view the exclusive video premiere. We’re continuing to push his video across all screens, and especially social since it gives us such direct access to fans.

Buchanan: We create full events around launches whether they are series or specials. This means we maximize promotion and companion content across all the platforms in an effort to get in front of as many viewers as possible. We offer all of our original episodes immediately post-linear, and then enhance that experience with short-form and digital-only content you cannot capture anywhere else.

How do you max out the synergies between these platforms?

Buchanan:
We have a multiplatform task force group that tailors a launch plan to fit the needs of the platform. We work closely with the content creators on custom short-form or companion content when it makes sense. We want to maximize exposure, but also get tune-in push everywhere we can. For originals, we also push on-air to catch new episodes on demand. We’re also exploring more pre-linear premieres to grow awareness and excitement for a series or special. 

What’s the next step in the evolution of multiplatform at CMT?

Buchanan:
We’ll be putting more of our content out there ahead of its premiere, but also really customizing content that broadens the fan base and viewers’ appetite for a particular show. VOD continues to grow, and we’re blending more opportunities between platforms. Gone are the days of pushing to just one platform, it’s now about pushing content out smarter, quicker with real promotional benefit.•

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