There was an interesting piece in Inside Radio yesterday covering the issues in place that make it difficult for broadcasters to simulcast their entire broadcast – including commercials – online. There are two things that prevent that: an Arbitron simulcast rule and AFTRA obligations for rebroadcasting commercials created by their talent pool online.
The Arbitron rule is pretty simple – unless your stream is a 100% simulcast of your over the air broadcast you cannot merge the two audiences. Broadcasters argue that this creates a disincentive for them to encourage their listeners to listen online. But despite that argument from broadcasters, I have to ask how counting a stream and broadcast as one audience is possible from a researcher’s perspective if the content is not entirely the same? It seems pretty clear to me that it’s not possible from a methodology standpoint. And as far as not encouraging listeners to listen online – people that want to listen online will – they’ll just find a station that is streaming..
AFTRA, the organization that protects actors who make commercials, says that if a commercial is created and contracted only for broadcast and then streamed online as well, there is another license due. The issue here I think is one of additional complexity – broadcasters would prefer that there be one license for broadcasting and streaming the commercial.
One license for audio commercial talent would be ideal, and I believe that’s where it will end up. But the impetus for creating contracts that cover broadcast and streaming has to come from the agencies, who need to make sure they license both types of audio use in their initial talent contracts. Inside Radio quotes Mediavest EVP Maribeth Papuga who says “Many clients are now building in broader talent contracts so that it compensates for online usage. Due to the inclusion of more digital in the media mix, many advertisers have expanded their talent agreements across channels so that they are able to take advantage of streaming or online elements.”
The AFTRA talent issue only arises when commercials have initially only been licensed only for on-air and then need to have a license for online use added to them. This all came about back in the late 90s when some broadcasters first began to stream their programming in its entirety online, and AFTRA issued a proclamation declaring that additional licenses were necessary for streaming use of commercials. Broadcasters responded by pulling their streams, and the need for ad-insertion was born. Read more on the specifics of this issue here and here.
Ok, so here’s my take on all of this. First of all I don’t really understand why it’s so difficult for broadcasters to take an online number and a broadcast number, add them together, and sell that audience to the advertiser. It’s kind of like the AM/FM combo sales concept, isn’t it? Why does Arbitron have to compromise their methodology by saying it’s all one audience if it’s not? (Because really, if there’s anything different at all, it’s not all one audience hearing all the same stuff at the same time…)
Second, many commercials created for broadcast use will not produce best results online. Online commercials should have an interactive call to action because the listener is online. Click here for more info, go to our website, send us an email. Creative should, for the most part, be different for the two uses: broadcast and streaming.
Third. Advertising has become more and more trackable, definable and targetable. Advertisers pay agencies lots of money to track the results of every single media channel they use. They’re not going to blindly invest large amounts of money in an audio channel that merges broadcast and online audiences.
It may be easier for broadcasters if they could merge all of their audiences and treat them as one, but it’s a short sighted position that focuses only on what is best for broadcasters. In the long term, the ability to offer advertisers specific channels that target certain listeners and behaviors will enable broadcasters to compete with new media platforms. Trying to adapt the new media world to suit their needs is backwards. Broadcasters should embrace their multi-channel platforms with multiple strategies to monetize them that consider the strengths of each one. Focus on what’s best for the advertisers…