Eventually, O&A have no choice but to sign on with XM who bungles the deal by making their show a premium channel, over and above the subscription fee. That makes them like HBO, except the vast majority of XM subscribers have no idea who they are. So, with the exception of XM listeners in markets like New York, Boston, and Philly, O&A fall off the radar screen.
In fact, O&A were stiffing on XM. Check out our Technology Poll from late February of this year. When we asked XM subscribers what motivated them to shell out the money for this service, they didn't even make the cut. Overall, only 4% of XM customers cited O&A as the main motivator:
Then Howard defects to Sirius, and we know the rest of that story. He gets paid a ton of money, and converts 20-odd percent of his former audience to Sirius, leaving the vast majority of his former listeners to find a new terrestrial show in his many markets.
Now, Opie & Anthony are back - commercial radio's new golden boys. Meanwhile, Howard finds himself talking to fewer listeners - in the millions - on Sirius. O&A now have their cake - and they're eating it, too. They get to say whatever they like on XM (while participating in the so-called "new media world"), while they see their radio network growing, now that Howard's out of the picture.
So it comes down to this - where would O&A be without terrestrial radio? Is there a better avenue for building a profile on the radio than good old AM/FM radio? Is there any way a personality could pull this off on satellite radio, AOL Radio, or podcasts?
No way. O&A will get much farther by working their terrestrial audience than they will the handful of XM listeners. And now that they're free on commercial radio, why will anyone bother to pay for them to say the F-word every quarter hour? They should send Howard and everyone at CBS nice gift baskets.
Terrestrial radio has lots of juice left. But not if it isn't aggressively developing content. Content is not "the most music in a row." Nor is it about music formats. It is highly differentiated, unduplicated entertainment. Cutting budgets, putting PDs on charge of multiple stations, and voicetracking are kryptonite for terrestrial radio. And allowing personalities to get away to XM and Sirius may not grow their businesses - but it will most certainly hurt ours.
We have the transmitters and the usage. But if the content's not there...