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The Oscars

The Oscars

There’s a lesson to be learned.


Did you watch the Academy Awards show Sunday night? Fewer of us are each year, and the reasons are obvious.

We live in a celebrity-obsessed culture. 2 of the last 4 Republican Presidents have been TV and/or movie stars. So you’d think ratings for the industry’s biggest celebrity huddle would be going up, not down.

And IF the industry would face reality, I think they would. If they gave us a half-hour of watching the stars arrive, seeing what they’re wearing and who they’re with, and then only aired the winners for Best Actor/Actress, Best Supporting Actor/Actress, Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best International Film, and Best Film, more of us would watch. Maybe include the annual Memorial salute to the stars that’ve died since last year…maybe.

That’s it. Just those categories.

No one cares about cinematographers, and sound editors, and set dressers, and costume designers, and all the rest of the people who are part of making a great film. Those people aren’t celebrities. Most of the people they acknowledge in their acceptance speeches aren’t celebrities, and they turn what might interest us into something we simply cannot endure.

But this post isn’t about fixing that presentation show.

This post is about what that show can teach Radio.

The first lesson is that Hollywood is largely irrelevant today. We don’t care if the film we want to see, or the TV show we want to watch, has been produced by one of the traditional studios.

We care about convenience and quality.

Movies in theaters are expensive. Parking can be a hassle. Snacks are outrageously costly. The theater itself is often dirty, uncomfortable and noisy. And the film doesn’t pause if I have to go to the bathroom at a particularly significant time.

Most important: I can watch any movie on my big screen, high resolution TV now and watch better “series” produced by Netflix and Hulu and Amazon Prime and Apple+.

I had to subscribe to HBO to see The Sopranos and Game of Thrones and Succession. And it is so worth it!

As an Amazon Prime member, I automatically get to see Fleabag and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I need Netflix to watch The Crown and The Kominsky Method. I need Apple+ if I want to watch The Morning Show.

What’s the best traditional network TV show you can’t live without? As Danny Devito might say, “you can’t name it because there isn’t one.”

Radio in America has decided its future lies in playing the most music to a mass, featureless audience. It’s still doing well with this approach. So far.

While Spotify and Apple Music have different issues, complicated issues, that may keep them from maximizing their revenue the way broadcast Radio has, they still offer an attractive alternative to “music radio.”

Just as “Hollywood” — the film industry — refuses to acknowledge their new reality, those running America’s largest groups of radio stations are doing the same.

We are over-commercialized and under-invested in life-changing air talent.

We rarely innovate and even when we do, we don’t thump our chests and spread the news like Spotify does over and over again.

What’s broadcast Radio known for? What do we get the most press coverage about? Firing air talent. Massive layoffs.

Music alone will never again be Radio’s domain. Convenience of use, especially in cars, is waning as more connected vehicles replace aging AM/FM radio-only vehicles.

Look, why would you sit through 3+ hours of boring, rambling speeches about people you don’t know to find out who won the Academy Awards when you can go to YouTube the next day and see all the highlights with none of the droning in less than 5 minutes?

Why would anyone sit through 7 minutes of non-stop commercials to hear 15 minutes of music when an affordable, attractive alternative exists without any commercials?

It looks like the Academy is going to ride their biggest awards night, without structural change, until it’s dead — which, at this rate, won’t be long now.

And it looks like Radio’s biggest groups are going to do the same.