The speculation has run rampant since the proposed merger between XM and Sirius was announced. In no surprise to any of us in radio, Mel Karmazin has emerged from the wreckage of both companies as the CEO. It's been interesting to read about all the different plans that Mel is rumored to be considering. Yet, if past is indeed prologue, it's not difficult to figure out his next set of moves.
As a radio's most visible and outspoken CEO for many years, Mel did the following things:
1. He elevated the profile and overall public relations effort of the industry. He was truly the face of radio.
2. He brought huge franchises to Infinity - sports teams and bigger-than-life personalities. He wasn't afraid to supposedly "overpay" for talent, teams, and franchise stations. (Remember all the criticism about how much he paid for K-Earth?)
3. He took major risks with controversial talent, and defended them vigorously, to both advertisers and the FCC.
4. In tough times, he made aggressive promises about his company's performance, and at times, unrealistic ones ("We won't participate in the recession").
5. He strongly lobbied for more consolidation and more deregulation.
6. He ramped up margins to appease Wall Street and drive his company's stock price.
7. He reduced research expenses and slashed marketing budgets.
8. He continued to add commercials to stations, even if it meant hurting the listening environment, and ultimately, the consumer's perception about the medium.
9. He put music programming on the backburner, deferring to personalities and sports/talk programming.
10. He ignored streaming and oftentimes, the Internet, claiming that his stations weren't going to "give away" their content.
So, what do we know? At Sirius, he's already repeated items 1-5.
That's why studying his tendencies are instructive in the months and years to come. If Mel gets his way, and the merger goes through, there are strong possibilities he will repeat 6-9.
The big question is #10. At the end of the day, is it really about satellite distribution of Howard Stern, Oprah, NASCAR, or Major League Baseball? Or this time around, will Mel be more "distribution agnostic" - creating, developing, and marketing content for an array of different delivery platforms?
Who knows what will become of all those orbiting satellites (or those transmitters and antennas)?