So I have been trying to pitch various projects on radio and television. The radio show we created is completely unique. There is nothing that combines Davin’s Den’s humor with education and investigative reporting. One of the television shows I created was called “cutting edge” by a big production company. They tell you that in order to get ahead in entertainment, talent, hard work, and a unique idea or take is what is necessary. Unless of course you are connected to a celebrity via sperm and have a famous last name. With that name, talent, hard work, and originality are not needed at all. You get carte blanche. Name wins.
Our show was pitched to a vice president over at Sirius / XM radio. The vice president loved the show. It made it all the way up to the president of the company. He liked the show…but he would not put it on the air because it did not have a big name attached to it. Sirius / XM was admitting they can’t make radio stars. The platform that is suppose to be uncensored and thus allowing more creativity has to buy talent. And this is what they do. They bought Howard Stern. That was a success as he helped put the platform on the map. They bought Opie & Anthony. That was smart because at the time they were the biggest bad boys in radio and they brought people to the platform. They brought Chris Russo over and that has not really done much. They pay him millions of dollars and he has a channel but he was a local jock in New York. He was not a national commodity so he was just another loud sports guy on the radio and did not make a huge splash. They brought in Oprah Winfrey for millions of dollars. That went so well that her channel quietly went away this past January. They just added Jenny McCarthy. She is a name but to who? She is a former playboy playmate. She was the eye candy on a dating show on MTV but she is probably best known for dating Jim Carrey and being anti-vaccine. Is anybody going to join the platform or keep the platform because of her?
Don’t get me wrong, having a name is good. They fired one of their biggest names, Anthony Cumia almost a year ago. It made headlines. It also made people leave Sirius in droves because the name was gone and then he went and created his own station on the internet. And Cumia’s name, like Opie, and Stern were created on terrestrial radio. Terrestrial is still where names are made…or at least they use to be. The truth is there are no names being made in radio. There are no names being made in stand up comedy either. The way to make names now is television and movies. There are of course exceptions but by enlarge television is king. So if there are no new names out there to snap up and you already have the biggest name what do you do? I mean Stern got a lot of listeners and those people are loyal but he will retire. Plus it is not like new people are just now hearing of Stern and want to learn about him on Sirius. His gig on America’s Got Talent is nothing like his radio show. How many of those folks are going to sign up?
But Sirius has the game plan of getting names. I have seen this strategy before in wrestling of all places. The WWE (WWF at the time) was king of wrestling in the 1980’s. It tailed off in early 1990’s. WCW was around and in the mid 1990’s it started taking the WWE’s stars. Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Bret Hart, Hall, Nash, etc. The WCW took all the stars WWE created and then paid them millions and millions of dollars. Oh WCW had young talent like Benoit, Malenko, Guerrero, Mysterio, etc but they did not know how to make them stars. They were tremendous wrestlers who would later become stars in the WWE. So WCW had all the names. All the wrestlers that people heard of. And they kicked WWE’s ass…for awhile. But WWE had something WCW never could figure out…the ability to create stars. So they created HHH (a WCW cast off), the Undertaker (a WCW cast off), Stone Cold Steve Austin (a WCW cast off), Kurt Angle, the Rock, etc. These wrestlers all had ability and WWE figured out how to make them stars and eventually they caught WCW who was using the old names WWE created. Then they beat WCW with brand new stars. WCW collapsed under the weight of the contracts they paid to older names that WWE created. WCW never knew how to innovate. Even their head creative guy (Vince Russo) was from WWE. WWE eventually bought a now greatly deteriorated WCW. See names will get you a pop and they will make you headlines but if you can’t create new names then your life span is very short.
So I look at Sirius / XM’s decision to pass on my show and I see WCW. They want to get names. There are no names to get really. They do not know how to create names. So what should their move be?
I liken this to the comedy club business. There are small clubs around the country that have limited seating and smaller budgets to pay the talent. They can’t compete with the Funny Bone or Improv who has the corporate resources to bring in some of the biggest names in comedy. Do they fold up shop? Some do. The smart club owners try a different approach. There is a significant amount of undiscovered yet extremely talented comedians. Many of which are more funny and innovative then the names you are use too. The small clubs hire this talent who will work for less than the big names. The club can now charge less money for tickets, food, and drinks. The shows are consistently funny (when booked properly). The club gets the reputation of consistently having funny performers at an affordable price. Once in awhile the small club may sprinkle in a name to get some new faces in the door but it matters not as they have the reputation of having a great product. That is how you compete without a name.
So as I try to process the rejection we received I see it for what it is. A short sighted business plan that if not corrected will likely lead to the demise of Sirius / XM. There will always be terrestrial which is free. There will always be the internet which in large part is free. Sirius / XM is the one radio platform that you have to pay to hear. They will bankrupt themselves chasing the few names that are left in radio. They will go after names in other mediums but if they can’t do radio how long will people tune in? David Lee Roth followed Howard Stern on 92.3 FM. Roth had a name. Unfortunately he did not have the ability to create a captivating radio show. The show was quickly cancelled. Oprah had a name. The station is gone. Radio is a business. The bigger the profit margin the better you do. They would be better served doing what they know how to do which is have music stations. In addition, they should get talk talent on the cheap and have them fill the other stations. Have these talkers go on Stern and have Stern give them the rub and his blessing. If Howard approves of them then when Howard retires maybe some of his fans will still listen to these as of now unknown names. Build a business to last.
But what do I know, I don’t have a name.