Thursday, March 08, 2007

"Any fool can carry on, but only the wise man knows how to shorten sail." Joseph Conrad

Yesterday The House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet held their second hearing on the Digital Future of the United States. While the session was billed as "Future of Radio" it quickly became the future of Mel's merger and little else. In his opening remarks Mel talked about the "confusion" about pricing and repeated his merger "will not result in higher prices" pledge. During house testimony last week he made references to the $12.95 price point and it sounded like for that price consumers would be able to get some blend of the two services. He also said other lesser than $12.95 pricing options would be made available. Turns out the present combined charges for both services, $25.90, will be the price point reduced ("substantial reduction"). So, if I may use Mel's favorite opening word, So that means while you would now have to buy two radios and sign up for two services for $25.90, post-merger you will only need one radio and pay something less than $25.90, got that? Hey wait, what happened to cutting some bucks off the $12.95 that subs are now paying? What happened to more for less? Stay tuned. Pricing schema will no doubt be a part of future hearings. It may be safe to say those wanting the best of both services will pay more than $12.95 but less than $25.90 and because he has not mentioned video services it might also be safe to suggest video would be a separate and additional charge. Who knows? Nothing has been presented on the record yet.

So, what did we learn after three hours and thirty something minutes? Mel will subsidize and bring to market an inter-operable radio ("post merger'), he is prepared to be accountable, the services billed $60 million in combined ad dollars and KDKA started in 1926. While some might jump to correct Mel saying he missed KDKA's sign-on by some six years I say let's give the man a break. With so many hours of on the record hearings yet to come the odds are good his mouth will get him into much deeper and far more interesting waters. You may watch the archived video here.

Congrats & cheers: Chuck Tweedle and staff make history. KOIT bests KGO and takes first in the trend. It is so very cool that this happened during the last days of Chuck's watch and Bonneville's ownership.

Michael Rosenblum from his post Crap TV...

How it is possible that we spend so much time, effort and money and continually produce such a mediocre product?...When television first arrived no one knew what to do with it. Radio was the big play. The best people worked in radio. No one wanted to work in TV. TV in 1948 was like the web in 1992 - a small corner with a bunch of screw ups buried in the basement. No one would imagine that TV would eat up radio. No one can imagine that the web will eat up TV."

Bravo Michael! Read Crap TV here. Bonus: Check out Michael's keynote, a tour de force, at the recent Public Media Conference 2007 here. Highly recommended!

Michael's writing reminds me of the wise words of my favorite business strategist Gary Hamel...

"Dakota tribal wisdom says that when you discover you're on a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. Of course, there are other strategies. You can change riders. You can get a committee to study the dead horse. You can benchmark how other companies ride dead horses. You can declare that it's cheaper to feed a dead horse. You can harness several dead horses together. But after you've tried all these things, you're still going to have to dismount. The temptation to stay on a dead horse can be overwhelming...The companies that are creating new wealth are not just getting better; they're getting different - profoundly different...the future is not an echo of the past...history suggests that top management has an enormous capacity for denial. Most senior executives grew up in a world where industry boundaries seemed inviolable, where business models aged gracefully, and where incumbency was often an overwhelming advantage. That world is gone. Get over it. Anyone who fails to recognize this fact puts his or her company's future success in grave jeopardy. Executives and employees in every company have a set of lies they tell themselves to avoid having to deal with the reality of a faltering strategy. Like an alcoholic who claims to drink only socially, managers often claim a dead business model is only sleeping. Here are some of the most used lies:

  • It's only an execution issue
  • It's an alignment problem
  • We just have to get more focused
  • It's the fault of the regulators
  • Our competitors are behaving irrationally
  • We're in a transition period
  • Everyone's losing money
  • We're investing for the long term
  • Investors don't understand our strategy"
From Gary Hamel's brilliant writing Leading the Revolution. Amazon info here.

As has been said here before broadcasting (radio and television) is a romantic notion. The problems that broadcasting is having today can be traced to one source - leadership. We have a leadership problem exacerbated by a massive failure of imagination. It's not about radio it's about audio, it's not about television it's about video. All that's important is what's on the screen(s), what's coming out of the speakers, everything else is a footnote.