What's the radio industry look like 10 years from now? That’s the question being posed to industry leaders on Borrell’s Local Marketing Trends Podcast. Bob Pittman, Chairman and CEO of iHeartMedia, is the second radio chief executive to offer his 2032 vision, foretelling a future where radio continues to serve the same basic need humans have to connect with one another.
“When you look 10 years out, we're still going to be providing companionship. The reason people listen to radio is to keep them company,” Pittman tells Borrell CEO Gordon Borrell and Executive VP, Local Market Intelligence Corey Elliott. “If people still love music, we'll be playing music, if they still love sports, we'll be talking about sports, and if they still have opinions and their topics are worth talking about, we'll still be doing opinion.”
The medium will continue to curate pop culture for audiences, keeping them clued into what’s hot and what’s not, “as a great friend would do,” he added.
But Pittman said how Americans consume radio will continue to evolve. Right now, about 85% of listening remains over AM/FM and 15% occurs on a battery of digital devices and platforms. “I think we will continue to be sort of everywhere they want us,” he offered. That includes podcasting, which he described as “either radio shows or shows that could be on the radio – on demand.” Pittman made the case that podcasting “not only increases the amount of time they're spending on audio” but is “the first product we've had which takes time from video viewing.”
While the role radio plays won’t fundamentally change, the radio station of the future will, Pittman said, continuing a trend that began during the pandemic.
While in the past “to do a radio station, you had to be in the market,” Pittman said today’s technology has changed that dynamic. “We now have the ability to use technology to both gather information perfectly, almost, for the market in which we're serving. And to put the people who are most relatable to those people in that community on the air, regardless of where they live.” Pittman anticipates greater use of automated platforms in the buying and selling of radio advertising, “so that our people are freed from doing administrative clerical work, and they're doing whatever they are really expert at.”
The same approach applies to programming, he said, so that programmers can “build the magic of the radio station” without laboring over music logs. “Technology will make operating the station much more efficient. I think it will also allow us to play even better programming in every market we serve.”
As far as diversifying revenue in the future, Pittman doesn’t foresee iHeart opening up a new stream with subscription-based content. But he does see the company creating new revenue sources by expanding its advertising offerings.
Listen to the podcast, including Borrell and Elliott’s takeaways from the conversation, HERE.