What’s radio look like ten years from now? That’s one of the questions posed to Curtis LeGeyt on the latest episode of the Borrell Local Marketing Trends Podcast. The National Association of Broadcasters President & CEO envisions a world where radio has evolved into more of a “screen-driven” experience in automobiles as broadcasters focus on bundling all of their content, not just their AM/FM programming, in a way that’s easily accessible in the larger, more plentiful screens being built into connected cars.
“What I think is going to change about radio is the ability for local stations to build their brand beyond just the traditional AM/FM signal,” LeGeyt said on the podcast. “And I think you're going to see a real proliferation in terms of the way that listeners identify those adjacent programming streams, the podcasts, the sub-channels, the streaming, all of it really being packaged in for the listener, something that will be easily accessible. And I think that's all going to be fueled by what's happening on the dashboard.”
In what’s been called the “screen-ification” of radio, the in-car user experience is being transformed by tech giants and automakers. That ranges from apps like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto that mirror on the dashboard screen what consumers have on their smartphones to Xperi’s DTS AutoStage, which combines over-the-air broadcast radio with internet-delivered content to provide a richer, more immersive, user experience that can take broadcast radio to a new level of engagement and interactivity.
LeGeyt sees these and other technologies as providing new opportunities for local broadcasters to build out their offerings on dashboard screens. “There's a lot of real estate for the radio industry to work with, both in terms of building that intimate relationship with the listener, expanding it across its various brands and audio platforms within the market, but also from a business opportunity in terms of the partnerships that we have with local advertisers,” LeGeyt elaborated. “By the time we are 10 years out, it is that screen-driven experience for radio, and it's broader audio platforms, that's going to be a real differentiator.”
One thing that’s not going to change, according to LeGeyt, is the trust audiences place in local personalities and live programming. “Whether that is live conversation, live sports, live news, we know from a business perspective that broadcasters’ competitive advantage is live and local,” said the NAB topper. “And I think radio will continue to thrive in that regard, whether they are distributing that programming through an AM/FM traditional terrestrial signal, or whether that programming is being consumed through a stream, through an adjacent podcast, whatever it may be.”
When asked by Borrell Associates CEO Gordon Borrell who is “the big boogeyman” broadcasters will face in 2032, LeGeyt pointed to a perennially slow-moving Congress when it comes to adapting laws that govern the technology and telecom marketplaces. “Broadcasters are effectively competing with one arm tied behind our back against these tech platforms and other media that have a national scale,” LeGeyt explained. He singled out ways Congress can resolve the issue. To allow broadcasters to “better compete and gain that scale,” he said Congress could modernize “long overdue” media ownership laws on both the national and local levels. On the other hand, there could be more federal regulation of the big tech platforms. “Congress needs to do something on one side, the other, or both to enable broadcasters, both radio and television, to invest in our local platform,” he implored. “The alternative is just one where audiences aren't served by high quality fact-based journalism.”
LeGeyt pointed to how local radio and TV broadcasters stepped up efforts to keep audiences informed during the pandemic and imagined a media world where audiences aren’t served by “trusted local personalities who bring their communities together.” And he argued that it’s good public policy for Congress to find ways to strengthen local broadcasting. “That is really going to be the existential question we are putting in front of Congress,” he said. While conventional wisdom has been that more scale means less local focus and less diversity, LeGeyt made the case that the opposite is true. “As an industry and as a trade association, we need to make the best case as to how better enabling us to compete with those tech behemoths is going to be a good thing for our country.”
LeGeyt is the third exec to take Borrell’s “10-Year Challenge.”Salem Communications CEO Dave Santrella was the first radio CEO to offer his 2032 vision.