Tear down the broadcast towers

My most striking realization since getting my iPhone (love it, thanks for asking) is that radio is doomed. Pandora is a wonder, creating my own radio station, live and on the fly without need for a broadcast tower. CBS is streaming all its stations over the cell network but when I told my wife this she kept asking, “Why would I want to listen to a CBS station?” That’s not the point, I huffed; we don’t need broadcast towers. OK, she said, but I still don’t want to listen to CBS stations. So count that as two strikes against radio. Digital radio? Heh. Satellite radio? I’m paying for it and I want Howard on my iPhone.

And then there’s TV. Comscore just said that Americans watched 12 billion videos in May, up 45 percent over last year. Say that again: 12 billion. It’s a mass medium, still: the mass of niches comes to life.

Some more video stats: Google has a 35 percent marketshare. Fox is a very distant second with 6.4 percent. Huli debuts at 10th place with 0.7 percent, but I’ll bet it will rise quickly. More:

* Nearly 142 million U.S. Internet users watched an average of 85 videos per viewer in May. Google sites also attracted the most viewers (83.8 million), who watched an average of 50 videos per person.
* 74 percent of the total U.S. Internet audience viewed online video.
* The average online video viewer watched 228 minutes of video.
* 82.2 million viewers watched 4.1 billion videos on YouTube.com (50.4 videos per viewer).
* The duration of the average online video was 2.7 minutes.

  • http://robertdfeinman.com/society robertdfeinman

    Why either or?
    Do you want to watch a big budget Hollywood movie on your wristwatch or on your HDTV?

    Youtube works because the clips are short, topical, and the quality isn’t important. Each has its place.

    Delivering video over the internet will probably become the norm sometime in the next 20 years and broadcast may fade away, or be left for applications where wireless access is all that there is.

    BBC Worldservice gave up shortwave broadcasts to the US a few years ago, but still maintains the service for Africa.

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  • tdc

    scrap iron is at record prices these days.

  • http://deleted Tansley – addendum

    As long as broadcast radio is still free, there’ll still be a market there. ‘Pay’ radio is not going to be able to compare, until, that is, IT goes free, too. Same with television.

    Shocking though it may be to admit, my wife and I STILL do not have cable. And we record a LOT of broadcast shows.

  • http://davemartin.blogspot.com Dave Martin

    Jeff,

    No need to tear down $20 bil a year in revenues just yet, thank you. Broadcast remains a good business. Not a growth business but a business with an operating margin better than most. Since you’re throwing out stats, here’s one. CBS Radio will likely throw off one billion in free cash this year. No tag days for Dan Mason or Les. The very fact that you have checked out the AOL Radio app says it all. You are enjoying broadcast content on your new device, without broadcast there would be no content there. Stern? That’s a different story. The pay radio model is broken. Mel and Howard should be listening, for once, to you and begin to offer up a way for you to pay them to listen on your new device. Stay tuned. Odds are they will.

  • Steve Sergeant

    I listen to the radio in many places where I do not have cell phone coverage. I listen to most of my favorite NPR/PRI/BBC/etc. shows as podcasts, but I still default to listening to whatever’s on the radio when I’m in my car.

    If you look at a cell-phone carrier coverage map of California, Nevada, or Utah, you’ll find large patches of land, hundreds of square miles apiece, where there isn’t cell phone coverage. And yet, I can always tune in a radio station in these areas.

    It’s urban bigotry to say we don’t need radio broadcast towers anymore. A digital cell phone tower only covers about a 3 mile radius, usually much less. The old analog cell system, which is being dismantled, covered around a 15 mile radius. Even a medium-power FM station can cover a 50 mile radius in the flatlands, and a couple of hundred mile radius (in some directions) in mountainous areas. You’d need to deploy 275 digital cell towers to cover the area of one medium-powered FM station. Considering a cell site is an order of magnitude more expensive to deploy than an FM transmitter, I don’t see the majority of the land area of the U.S. being covered by cell service any time soon, which leave a market for radio in those places..

    Though tack shops and wagon makers are not a mainstream industry, there’s still a market for buggy whips. Radio did not totally displace newspapers. Television never totally displaced radio, nor movie theaters. The Internet will change the nature of the television business, but I don’t predict television’s (or radio’s) complete demise. I do predict a drastic change in the popularity and business models of scheduled media.

  • http://mickeleh.blogspot.com Michael Markman

    I wonder why people are so eager be first to call the death or superfluity of old media. Is there a prize for that?

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  • tdc

    my comment about the price of scrap iron wasn’t good enough and got deleted?

  • http://avc.blogs.com fred wilson

    Jeff

    broadcast will slowly die off as a means to get content to audience

    but radio has a bright future as programming still matters very much

    i am a huge fan of web music services like last.fm, pandora, hype machine, etc

    but i still want someone to play music, do talk shows, etc

    and that’s radio’s business and always will be

    fred

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    Well, I wouldn’t be investing in any tower companies… ;-)

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  • http://www.ustream.ca Cyborg994

    What you say might be true for highly popular music content, or nationwide programming, which is made irrelevant But for local news and local music, especially in rural area, radio is still the medium of choice, and will remain so for a long time. Thy also usually have a very high level of market penetration, and when they offer internet listening, they also attract expats which wants news from their town…

    Those stations usually have high-visibility in their region and are very involved with the local community, which is not always possible with online media, and definately not with a la carte programming. Add that to the low penetration of broadband and the average age of listeners (over 30), and you can understand why radio is not dead. Actually, outside of large town, the number of stations is actually increasing…

  • http://www.greensborosports.com Don Moore

    Don’t forget that well over half (definitely more in urban areas) receive TV via cable or satellite – No Broadcast Towers needed there either.

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    At last count, only 13 percent of Americans — and falling rapidly — used broadcast TV; rest cable and satellite.

  • gregory

    why is no one talking about bandwidth? all these streaming services, the internet is going to be slowing, don’t you think?

  • thrilled

    AOL RADIO on IPHONE IS GREAT! never listened before but now that iphone has made itb easy its fantastic!

  • Steve Sergeant

    Jeff Jarvis Says: “At last count, only 13 percent of Americans — and falling rapidly — used broadcast TV; rest cable and satellite.”

    I’m proud to be in an elite minority in that case. I’ll buy one of those DTV converter boxes for my 10-year-old TV sometime after February 18, 2009, that is IF I actually find that I miss the vast wasteland that is TV.

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    Steve,

    I sure hope you’re buying shows on iTunes, then, because you’re missing great stuff in our creative culture. I wouldn’t take shutting yourself off from TV — anymore than shutting yourself off from bookstores, libraries, and concert halls — as a point of pride. I’d say instead it’s a cause for sympathy or wonder.

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  • David Henderson

    amen – tear them all down and redistribute the bandwidth

  • o-shift

    Imagine what Shakespeare would have written if he had iTunes! and TV. A Midsummer Night’s Dream — Season One!

  • Kirk Varner

    Well the 13% use of Broadcast TV stat is a little misleading. It only means that 13% get a broadcast TV signal via an antenna. If you were to count use of Broadcast TV signals as delivered by all means–including cable and satelllite–the use of Broadcast TV signals would be quite a bit higher.

    And I’d suggest the iPhone as radio reception device actually enhances broadcast radio’s reach. I’ve been listening to a good bit of CBS’s All News stations from coast to coast for local news via the AOL Radio app and find it way more convenient than firing up my laptop just to listen.

    I like my satellite radio and Howard as much as anyone. But before you tear down any towers, just try living through a disaster when the cable and telco lines are down and the only local information you can get for days is through a battery powered radio or television set. (Though I admit that consolidation has often diminished those resources in many smaller markets…)

    If you are going to be a fan of local news and information, you might not want to blow up those towers quite yet until the wired infrastructure is reliable as the wireless one has been when it matters most.

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  • http://www.robbmontgomery.com Robb Montgomery

    Pandora on the iphone is great and so is last.fm

    Here is my list of free Iphone apps that journalists on the go should check out. I don’t know if I agree that radio will be replaced by Pandora. Radio transmissions are far to ubiquitous and practical to be wiped out by this groovy service.

    But I do like programming my own radio stations . .
    Listen in here: http://www.pandora.com/people/golf415

    My list for journalists on the move . . .

    Pandora on the iPhone is amazing. It makes your iPhone into a commercial-free transistor radio, in a sense. Perfect for the towel on sand at Brighton, or North Avenue Beach.
    Twittelator is my must have Twitter app. Twitterific was great, but now has intrusive ads . . . ’nuff said.
    Last.fm also gives you a Pandora-like radio experience
    AIM – of course!
    Weatherbug – so much more detail than the basic Apple weather app. Love the animated radar – a life saver in Chicago.
    Google mobile app – gives you direct access to your Google docs.
    Facebook – natch!
    Truphone – for making skype like calls to international friends for pennies.
    BA Flights – to track real time flight info for British Airways flights I or friends might be taking. (Hello, American Airlines – get with the program, people . . ) Would also love it if Kayak or Sidestep offered a native app, too.
    Translators: The free Coolgorilla talking phrases apps include text and audio translations for common phrases in German, French, Spanish and Italian.

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  • babyface

    Oh, so hot lady! It was said she just enjoyed hot dating with a black guy on……MIXEDLOVING .COM….. so many fans show interesting to her hot photos and videos there. Nice to enjoy more details about it…

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