July 20, 2004
Less talk! More rock!

Well, if you hate radio commercials as much as I do, here's some good news for you.

Beginning Jan. 1, Clear Channel which owns six San Antonio radio stations will reduce the number of commercials it plays every hour on its stations nationwide.

It's one of many initiatives San Antonio-based Clear Channel plans in the next few months to keep listeners tuning into its stations, Clear Channel Radio CEO John Hogan said

Clear Channel wants to ensure it serves its audiences and doesn't become obsolete in a rapidly changing industry, Hogan said last week.

In Monday's announcement, Clear Channel officials didn't specify the number of commercials each station will run. It said only that the new limit will apply to all its stations, and the commercial count will depend on format and time.

Works for me, and hey, they may even be able to make their ad time a more valuable commodity by reducing the supply a bit. And not too surprisingly, they've recognized that there's a real threat looming on the horizon.

To compete, Clear Channel Radio also plans to convert hundreds of its 1,200 radio stations to high-definition digital signals, Hogan said. He declined to provide further details or a timetable. High-definition radio provides CD-quality music.

"You don't want to be the only analog medium left," said James Marsh, senior broadcasting analyst with SG Cowen, a research firm in New York.

The conversion to digital radio takes one of the selling points away from satellite radio, which promotes itself as high-quality, commercial-free radio, Marsh said.

Pay for ad-free content, or get free content and cope with ads. We know how Internet customers voted (at first, anyway), we'll see how radio customers make their choice. At least there will be a choice.

Cutting the number of commercials will allow the stations to please listeners and hopefully charge more for limited advertising time, said Lee Westerfield, media analyst with Harris Nesbitt in New York.

"Based upon well-tested audience behavior, we know that less talk, more music, means more listening," Westerfield said.

The move to digital radio also will provide better-sounding music and more information, Westerfield said.

Radio is heard by or touches more Americans on a weekly basis than any other media, Westerfield said, but time spent listening to radio has been reduced from 22 minutes to 19 minutes weekly.

Cutting commercials and moving to a digital format are designed to curb that declining trend.

Nineteen minutes a week? Good grief, I listen to more than that a day, and I'm a car-only listener with a relatively short commute. There must be an awful lot of people who listen to no radio at all. I'd love to see the graph of that distribution.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 20, 2004 to Music | TrackBack

Ok, so we get fewer commercials. Now, will they expand the playlist past the 25 or so tracks they actually play?

Posted by: Charles M on July 21, 2004 10:06 AM

They own six radio stations? I can only get
reception for 5 stations from my apartment...
that means they own my radio. What a bummer,
I would rather have an actual choice. They
should sell a station to Air America.

Posted by: Ruester on July 21, 2004 11:15 AM

As a member of the "zero-radio" listening group (except for the two minutes of WCBS-AM when my alarm clock goes off each morning - I have to leave for work before Imus comes on), I'd rather have "less Clear Channel, more rock!"

Posted by: William Hughes on July 21, 2004 8:11 PM