That was the observation from Cherry Creek Radio CEO Joe Schwartz, who notes that in his small markets "we have actually been successful in raising rates." Group heads from the big market side said that radio is in need of stronger leadership and, importantly, pricing discipline. "This industry needs to reinvent itself," said Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan. While radio may still be perceived as an important medium in the markets where Schwartz operates, Smulyan said what he often hears in the big markets is someone asking whether radio is dead. "An industry that has been flat for the last six years needs to take some chances and do things differently than we have done for the last 85 years," he said. The conversation repeatedly returned to the idea that the biggest groups need to do a better job of creating advertiser demand and holding the line on price cutting. "Everybody is just diving for share," is what Greater Media CEO Peter Smyth said he is hearing from his local managers. "We need leadership. We need pricing discipline," Smyth said. But Saga CEO Ed Christian said he’d been hearing that on such panels for years "and yet we don’t have the backbone."
RBR/TVBR observation: There was no one from Clear Channel on the panel, but it’s no secret that it is the company most often accused by others of pricing for share and dragging down CPMs in market after market. It is certainly not the only one to blame, though. Pricing discipline has been a huge problem for years now and we have to agree with Ed Christian that there’s been a lot of talk, but not much action when it comes to turning down cheap business. We wait to see if no longer having to answer to Wall Street each quarter will allow a privately owned Clear Channel to move from worst offender to industry leader on the pricing front.