By Renee Casis
Special to RBR+TVBR
NEW YORK — Could unlimited ownership of AM and FM radio stations be the answer to the myriad revenue challenges facing the radio industry?
That was a key question addressed during a lively discussion Thursday at the 34th Annual TV & Radio Financial Summit, held by S&P Global Market Intelligence. And, the answer may be intricately connected to an expected loosening of FCC ownership rules under the chairmanship of Ajit Pai.
For some radio industry executives, the handcuffs are on; they believe they have been chained by the Commission’s current ownership rules. Yet, the media world has changed since the 1990s, and in order to compete with the un-regulated digital media (i.e. Facebook and Alphabet’s Google), radio should also have less regulation.
Speaking during a panel devoted to the outlook for radio, and the forecast for mergers and acquisitions, revenue growth and cash flow improvement, Beasley Media Group CEO Caroline Beasley noted, “There are consolidation opportunities coming down the road.”
Connoisseur Media CEO Jeff Warshaw took it a step further, summing up what most panelists had been alluding to throughout the day by noting, “There should be no rules on how many stations you can own in a market.”
Warshaw also called on the industry to up its game in the streaming audio arena.
“We have not taken advantage of what we have,” he said two weeks after the launch of “Satori,” a New York-DMA online radio station designed to appeal to an audience that has tuned out local radio yet desires a community connection through relevant hosts and music.
Speaking of the typical radio station’s audio stream, Warshaw added, “We’re running 20 commercials – or 16 or 17 – on our streams. The generation that needs to embrace streaming won’t tolerate it.”
Programmatic was also a hot topic with the panel.
New Entercom CFO Richard Schmaeling is bullish on it.
“The programmatic market is double the size of radio today, and we’re going to get a piece of that,” he said.
While there were no overt objections, there was a sense of cautiousness, stemming from the concern that radio not become commoditized.
Ms. Beasley also noted that radio needs to find better ways to show ROI to advertisers.
At the same time, Sugarloaf Rock Capital Managing Partner Drew Marcus spoke about radio’s long-lasting durability.
“Radio has always been competitive. Maybe that’s why radio is so resilient.”
Renee Casis may be reached at [email protected]