Country music is one of the most popular genres in the business. Millions of fans flock to the style and attend concerts every year. It would seem natural that major radio markets across the country would at least have one station dedicated to the format. Even if Country is not as popular in some regions, there are certainly fans. In particular there have been many cross-over hits, such as those sung by Taylor Swift that get airplay on country as well as pop stations. Recently Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson had a huge crossover hit as well. So how is it that two of the top five markets in radio have no terrestrial stations dedicated to country? New York has no country music, and the San Francisco Bay Area has just lost their only country station.
Certainly the owners of stations need to make business decisions. In San Francisco Entercom dropped country in favor of Sports Radio. Business decisions are understandable, but many of these markets have several stations owned by a single company. Is there some sort of strategy here? I would not say there is an anti-country agenda. What is most likely is that terrestrial radio is targeting formats that they see as most profitable, knowing that they can forgo a certain format because the competitive landscape has changed.
Enter Sirius XM, Pandora, Slacker, MOG and iHeartRadio. These are all services that can fill the void left by terrestrial radio. In the case of iHeartradio, it is actually one terrestrial radio company filling a void left by themselves as well as their peers. For non-terrestrial radio services, the decisions of the traditional stations to ignore certain markets presents an opportunity. I am actually surprised that I have not seen billboards in New York touting all the country you can handle from one of these non-terrestrial outfits.
Ironically, by ignoring markets like New York for inter-market strategies, terrestrial radio is actually pushing consumers to other competing non-traditional services. The short term competitive strategy will have a long term impact that is likely not being considered. What will a country music fan in New York or the Bay Area do? Chances are that they will find alternatives that fill their audio entertainment desires. Once they lock onto a service like satellite radio, or streaming Internet radio, they will become fans of and use these services more and more exclusively as their primary source for audio entertainment. Clear Channel has a distinct advantage over their terrestrial radio peers with their widely popular iHeartRadio service which allows users to access Clear Channel stations from across the nation and by extension allows the company to keep consumers listening to their products.
The key here is that there is a distinct need to bring the consumer what they want to hear. It is a very basic concept that has a new dynamic. Additional competition from services that can and will deliver that content. This dynamic demonstrates the importance of not only being able to service the market, but doing in in such a way that your customer is satisfied. This also gives satellite and Internet radio a road-map of keeping your customers happy and the repercussions that can happen if you do not do that. The bottom line is that in the current audio entertainment landscape there is plenty of companies willing to offer consumers something you don’t.
Position – Long Sirius XM Radio