A major broadcast television group recently announced that it’s added a VP of Audio Programming, to its executive team. The company says that he will be focused on growing its news and sports business in podcasts, audio device platforms, and other areas of audio distribution. Like many radio groups have embraced video content, local television brands have a major growth opportunity in front of them if they simply embrace audio.
One thing we sometimes hear at Futuri when we talk with television executives is that they’re interested in podcasting, but at a time when many stations are short-staffed, they just don’t have the time or resources to do it right. However, not only is the audience and revenue opportunity undeniable, but there’s a way for local television broadcasters to embrace podcasting in a crawl—walk—run fashion that will set them up for success without a major lift.
One major reason local TV should embrace audio is the opportunity — and necessity — to align its content with the way audiences consume information today.
Think about their habits. Your daily habits are probably one of the many things that were changed by the pandemic. Although COVID-19 restrictions have largely eased around the United States, many workers who shifted to working from home still have no plans to return to the office. In fact, the workforce now teleworking is so large that data from the Pew Research Center suggests that it may never go back to what it once was.
More people are working from home now than ever, meaning that consumer habits have changed significantly in as little as two years. Changes that once took a generation of technological development—like shifting from CD to MP3—only took months. Consumers no longer have to cram in the morning news in just a few minutes before they head out the door to stay informed. And although we have more devices than ever, cable TV and television sets in general are among the lower priority subscriptions and device purchases in consumer budgets.
An estimated 2 million subscribers cut their cable subscription in Q1 of 2022, while annual revenue on television sales has decreased by about 15 percent since 2014. Today consumers want Smart TVs—affordable products that come ready to connect to their favorite streaming subscriptions.
Today’s consumers listen to audio segments on their commute or while they work from home. With more connected devices at our side than ever, adding a podcast to your routine is much easier than spending time sitting in front of a television.
Yet looking at the podcast landscape, there is a noticeable lack of daily podcasts focused on local news.
Now, let’s look at a growth medium: podcasting. There are about 89 million podcast listeners in the US today, a number that has nearly doubled since 2017, and it’s estimated to grow to over 100 million in 2024. Meanwhile, the amount of paying cable TV subscribers has declined in the last decade. And as we know, for many people, cutting cable television means cutting broadcast television period. According to Nielsen, only 18.6 million U.S. homes get content over the over-the-air through an antenna.
The number of paying cable TV subscribers will likely continue to fall as streaming becomes more popular and accessible, especially as streaming services continue to add free, ad-supported subscription tiers. Disney+’s ad-supported tier is going to launch in December, and Google is getting into the game as well with Google TV. While no official announcement has been made yet, the site 9to5Google recently did some digging into the Android TV app and found copy that suggests they’re preparing to add 50 free live TV channels to its lineup.
With all this new competition, local TV needs to find ways to retain and expand its audience.
50 percent of all podcast listeners are under 34, and another 43 percent are under 54. With so many young people interested in consuming media through podcasts and audio content, television broadcasters should be looking at these patterns as a sign to adjust to changing demand. Podcasting is a high-growth way to do it.
When we at Futuri talk with TV executives about podcasting, the #1 challenge they articulate to us is that their staff doesn’t have time to get a podcast off the ground, followed closely by their sales teams not being comfortable with monetizing podcasts at this point. I completely get it, especially as someone who wants to GO BIG and make a major splash with what my companies are doing. That said, there’s a significant turnkey podcast opportunities many local TV broadcasters are overlooking: podcasting their broadcast.
At Futuri, we recently launched a version of our podcasting system, POST, for TV brands. This special version of POST allows TV stations to take live newscasts from TV and instantly turn them into podcasts distributed to every major podcast platform — with little to no drain on your staff. The system also takes that newscast audio and processes it in a way that improves it for an audio-only listener. Collectively, our team has hundreds of years of audio experience under our belts, and we wouldn’t let anything that doesn’t sound great go out the door.
Podcasting your broadcast is a fast, turnkey, and POWERFUL way to make TV newscast content more accessible and brands more relevant to current and future audiences. TV broadcasters — get them into a groove of expecting audio from your brand. Run promos to educate them on how to add your newscast’s podcast to their podcast playlists — if you do that well, your audience takes an action once, and your content will automatically be served up to them every time you publish a new episode.
Doing this is also an easy way to generate revenue with content that’s already being created. Stations can run ads and sponsorships they sell on their own, use the Futuri Ad Network to run ads in the podcast and share in the revenue, or go with a combination of both. Even if local TV sales teams aren’t quite ready to amp up podcast sales efforts, there’s still revenue coming in from the Futuri Ad Network.
Our message for local TV broadcasters is this: Start Podcasting Now. (and do it with POST!)
Once your audience expects audio content from you and you start seeing success, you can make an informed decision about investing in developing original podcast content. There are so many opportunities on that front. Local TV broadcasters can tell local stories and uplift diverse voices. They can develop a series dedicated to audio op-eds, discussions around local politics and news stories, or methods of diving more deeply into investigative pieces than you’d be able to do on-air. The possibilities are endless.
Changes in how audiences consume media are a make-or-break moment for local television broadcasters. It’s necessary to adjust to a changing landscape to survive. Podcasting and on-demand audio don’t have to be a competitor to local TV broadcasters — but those who don’t embrace it are at a major disadvantage, leaving a gap for people to step in and be the local news authority.