In a recent article in the Hollywood Reporter, the future of talk radio is in doubt. Nearly a third of it's audience are age 65 and above, while the hosts themselves have been AARP eligible or soon will be. (new comer in the LA market,Tim Conway Jr is 48) while at the same time, pay for new talent has decreased from what it used to be.
Family Radio host and predictor Harold Camping, now camping in the rest home.
Says Talkers and Radio-Info.com publisher Micheal Harrison, "A lot of radio can't afford to be radio, anymore, each successive generation is turning away from radio", which according to Harrison is not necessarily a bad thing. The demographics for this aging group suggest they are wealthy, active and have a few years left, however he points out, "They’re not over the hill; with age comes better talent and wisdom. But looking down the road 15 years, it’s problematic.”
Tom Leykis, who had a syndicated radio show up until 2009 and whose contract was bought up for $20 million, has now launched his own Internet driven show The New Normal, 400,000 tuned in during launch week in April and 1.7 million in its first month -- "more than the cumulative audiences of 14 Los Angeles radio stations," Leykis boasts.
Leykis thinks AM radio is dead and the spectrum will be re-purposed for non broadcast uses such as garage door openers, wi-fi and cellular (we at BW RF labs doubt cell phones going AM) Leykis also says radio stations and their purchase prices are overrated: "Radio stations are like many of the homeowners in Corona -- they bought a $799,000 house that’s now worth $496,000,” he says, referencing the foreclosure-ridden L.A. suburb. "Why spend $100 million to buy a frequency when most people, even those over 40, are getting content on their iPhones?.
Portable device such as MP3 and phone apps have taken a huge dent out of terrestrial listening. The recording industry is also facing extinction as more and more people are shunning CD's and downloading music off the net, as the industry hasn't invented anything new since the birth of the compact disc.
There is the issue of cash flow, regarding consolidations and pre-recession mergers. The 2008 sale of Clear Channel, with 850 stations to Bain Capital has left them $20 billion in the red, with balloon payments due over the next 4 years. Satellite radio is also facing mounting debt, although their subscriber base rose during the 2nd quarter of this year.
Harrison also sums up, "They're winging it. High-paid personalities, news departments. … When the ownership has to concentrate on cutting costs, alleviating debt and not taking on expenses, it's difficult to put attention into creating a product."
TOP 5 RADIO PERSONALITIES
Terrestrial radio's most popular talk show hosts are also among the oldest.
- Rush Limbaugh, 61: The Rush Limbaugh Show (Premiere Networks) -- 15 million listeners per week
- Sean Hannity, 50: The Sean Hannity Show (Premiere Networks) -- 14 million listeners per week
- Michael Savage, 70: The Savage Nation (Talk Radio Network) -- 9 million listeners per week
- Laura Ingraham, 48: The Laura Ingraham Show (Talk Radio Network) -- 6 million listeners per week
- Ed Schultz, 58: The Ed Schultz Show (Dial Global) -- 3 million listeners per week
Source: Talkers magazine, 2012 Heavy Hundred
5 UP AND COMING RADIO PERSONALITIES
Talkers' Michael Harrison picks five of talk radio's future stars.
- Ian Freeman and Mark Edge: Hosts of Free Talk Live, nationally syndicated to 100 stations.
- Kevin McCullough: One-half of Baldwin-McCullough (with Stephen Baldwin), nationally syndicated to 289 affiliates.
- Andy Dean: The 31-year-old former Apprentice finalist hosts America Now, syndicated by Premiere Networks.
- Mike Slater: Based out of San Diego's KFMB, the conservative talk show host airs weekday mornings.
- Heidi Harris: A singer-turned-conservative talk show host, her eponymous show is beamed from Los Angeles' KRLA and San Bernardino's KTIE weekday mornings.