Public broadcast managers find themselves under extraordinary pressures these days to fit the programming foot into the ever shrinking financial shoe. Style is rarely an impediment to the demands of boards of directors, typically demanding more for less. Of course, appearances are everything.
The head of programs at Bulgarian public radio BNR - Ivo Todorov - was given a rather crude ultimatum this week to either agree to a change in job description requiring the holder of his position to have a degree in public administration or leave, reported capital.bg (July 1). Mr. Todorov’s degree is in philosophy and journalism so, obviously, he left. He had been warned not to let staff cuts to affect BNR’s program output. (See more about media in Bulgaria here)
It seems efficiencies demanded by the BNR board include getting rid of that particular position. Program directors of the three main radio services, the multimedia service and the music operation will rotate as head of a “program council,” changing every three months. Staff changes at BNR have been numerous in recent months and some fear other “troublemakers” will be shown the door.
Not entirely coincidental media regulator CEM president Georgi Lozanov threatened to quit. “We still have no legal basis to intervene in the crisis in the Bulgarian National Radio, but then see what happens?” he said.
Radio measurement hasn’t made much news over the last decade or so. The audible drum-beat “the future - ta-boom - is digital” broadcasters in several European markets switched from pen-and-paper diaries to electronic devices. Some - UK broadcasters, for example - held-fast against pervasive marketing from US measurement service Arbitron, patent holder of the Personal People Meter (PPM), which measures listening from inaudible signals encoded in FM transmissions.
Arbitron became the default US radio measurement supplier and switched from diaries in 2008. Something rather interesting happened, reports data journalism portal fivethirtyeight.com (June 30). Since 2008 average minutes listening to radio in the US dropped about 20%. Some radio formats - fivethirtyeight.com focuses on smooth jazz - absolutely crashed. Big measurement company Nielsen bought Arbitron in 2013. (See more about radio measurement here)
Testing the hypothesis that PPM measurement accurately tracks listening to all radio formats is a new black box - silver, actually - called Voltair. It seems to enhance the encoded measurement signal sort of like the old Optimod modulation box. The result, says fivethirtyeight.com, “is testing Nielsen’s credibility.”
US radio broadcasters are lining up for the Voltair box at US$15,000 each. Nielsen’s Canadian subsidiary Numeris asked Canadian radio broadcasters to stop using it.
There has been a certain inevitably to the vast reconfiguration of the television business. As media buyers found their digital dividend in online media’s low ad rates subscription services - once referred to as pay-TV - have found treasure in premium content. This leaves free-to-air broadcasters fewer and, arguably, unpleasant options. The winners - all business is about winners and, well, the rest - read the tea-leaves and, most importantly, placed their bets with cash.
Discovery Communications and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced this week the biggest single rights deal in the history of the Olympic Games. For a mere €1.3 billion Eurosport, owned by Discovery, acquired broadcast, internet and mobile rights to the four Olympic Games between 2018 and 2024 “in all languages across 50 countries and territories on the European continent,” said the official statement. Russia is not included and neither are rights deals previously sold to French public TV and the BBC. Discovery Communications will “assist” the IOC in developing an Olympic TV channel to keep alive “the thrill of victory and agony of defeat” during those long months between Games.
In several European countries the Olympic Games are designated major events to be offered free-to-air by law. “Discovery will sub-license a portion of the rights in many markets across Europe,” said its statement. At a minimum that means 200 hours from Summer Games and 100 hours from Winter Games. In reality Discovery, likely not paying from cash reserves, plans on financing it all by selling off national rights beyond markets where Eurosport does not offer free-to-air channels. (See more about sports and media here)
Cautious has been the response from broadcasters that have produced and carried Olympic Games coverage for decades. Irish public broadcaster RTE, which has rights to the Rio 2016 Summer Games, “remains optimistic that a solution will be found,” said a spokesperson quoted by rte.ie (June 29). “We will be seeking further discussions with Discovery about the UK free-to-air rights to the 2022 and 2024 Olympic Games in due course.” said a BBC statement.
German public TV networks ARD and ZDF “accept the IOC’s decision,” said their terse statement. “The IOC’s press release is not clear which rights are granted for the German television market. This raises questions for the IOC and the DOSB (German Olympic Sports Confederation).” ARD and ZDF had, said the statement, “made a reasonable offer.” Eurosport offers both free-to-air and pay channels in Germany.
In 2012 Discovery Communications acquired a 20% stake in Eurosport from French broadcaster TF1, raising its stake to 51% this year as well as 100% of Eurosport France.
Greek news media went into overdrive this past weekend with major television channels reporting on and talking about the political and economic crisis hours on end. On Saturday and into early Sunday Mega TV broadcast “marathon” coverage. According to the Nielsen dailies, quoted by ToVima (June 29), Mega TV’s coverage reached 19.1%, followed by SKAI at 12.3% and the newly reinstated ERT1 with 11.7%.
Mega TV is offering a nightly live talk show all this week - Zero Hour Greece - “a lively debate with politicians and citizens,” said the press release. ERT1 seems to be getting first shot at live interviews with major actors in the crisis. New public digital channel ERT3 launched with “extraordinary news broadcasts” and cancelled a previously scheduled live concert. (See more about media in Greece here)
Most Greeks follow news via the major TV channels and virtually all are offering news marathons.
Participting as best it can, it seems, financially strapped Antenna 1 (ANT1), which began laying off staff last Friday, reported typologies.gr (June 29). First to go were PR executives. By Monday the station was broadcasting only re-runs. About 100 employees are expected to be set free for the summer, at the very least.
From Last Weeks ftm Tickle File
Very quickly television has become two separate realms; IP and non-IP delivered. For a couple of years TV’s faced the linear/non-linear divide. Before that, traditional and new. More than just the language has changed.
To help celebrate the Cannes advertising festival, media buyer ZenithOptimedia released this week a forecast of ad spending in 12 major countries. The results all point the same direction: advertising is filling up the internet space as quickly as it can. By 2017, they predict, internet advertising globally will lag TV by a mere 4%. After that, TV advertising as we’ve known it will slide to second place.
“The internet is quickly establishing itself as the dominant advertising medium, and on current trends will overtake television by the end of the decade," said ZenithOptimedia CEO Steve King in a statement. “The spread of internet devices and new advertising technology will give advertisers new opportunities to communicate with and learn from consumers, and to do so more effectively than ever before.” Ah, yes; media buyers are addicted to the data only internet and mobile technologies can provide. (See more about ad spending here)
Mobile advertising, of course, is every ad person’s dream. By 2017 ad spending on smartphones and such, predicts ZO, will represent 70% of global ad spending growth, to 12.9% of ad spending from 5.1% in 2014. Both ZO and Magna Global (Interpublic) this week reduced global ad spending forecasts for this year due to a lack of big-draw events.
“2015 is a tipping point in the long-term shift from traditional to digital media,” said Magna Global lead forecaster Vincent Letang, quoted by MediaPost (June 22). “Last year’s global advertising growth was the combination of digital media growing while traditional media revenues were essentially flat. This year, traditional media ad revenues will decrease globally for the first time since the 2008-2009 recession, as the low growth of television and out-of-home ad sales will no longer offset the fast decline of print, challenged by a diversified family of digital media categories Beyond the slowdown caused by the absence of global events in 2015, we believe digital media has reached a stage where it starts to compete more directly with traditional TV budgets.”