Making Money with Multicast

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Problem 3: The programming must be compelling. Since the 1920s broadcasters have been good at figuring out what programming appeals to the most amount of listeners within their service area. This usually came in the form of rotations of the same 30 or 40 songs repeated throughout the day combined with a local personality. That worked well until the advent of alternative program delivery platforms that are able to provide greater choices and with fewer interruptions. Providing an alternative format that utilizes the same fundamental programming formulas used in radio for the past 80 years, will not draw new listeners to your multicast channel.

Multicast revenue opportunities

As I pointed out in my previous article, the real opportunities with HD Radio and multicasting are those that can exploit specific types of content, which a terrestrial station can implement, that would not be practical on other platforms. In my mind, the greatest opportunity for multicasting is with highly focused local content. This is what radio does, and has done, better than any other platform in history yet economics has caused the industry to move away from serving the local market in favor of using programming originating from a central location and shared among several operations.

From a listener's perspective, here are a few thoughts of what would draw me into the HD Radio multicast world, and hold me there for a while:

■ Local sports broadcasts and news: I think this is a huge missed opportunity in several markets. Have you been near a high school stadium on a Friday night? The City of Allen Texas has just built a $60 million stadium for its high school football program. There is a great deal of passion and local interest in high school sports throughout the country, but few stations are seizing the opportunity. Creating a mini ESPN-like format catering to local sports would absolutely draw in listeners and advertisers not to mention something that would drive new HD Radio receiver sales.
■ Local News channel: This does not mean running a syndicated format, it means creating a full-time local news presence that cater to smaller populations within your service contour. Partner with the small local newspaper in order to get content.
■ Run audio podcasts and blogs: It's not hard to find interesting content provided by the residents in particular areas. Use topics that would have appeal to people in that area. This is along the lines of public access programming, but not limited to specific issues or topics.
■ Local entertainment channel: An audio version of the content seen in monthly entertainment guides and newspapers. Report on all local upcoming events inside your service area, these would include local concerts, clubs, fairs, theater, restaurants, festivals, etc. You could also air live broadcasts of local musicians and other events.

I think there is still a great opportunity to generate revenue with HD Radio, but the key is to find that niche that can only be filled by you.

McNamara is president of McNamara Associates, Cape Coral, FL.

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