Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tapping into an Audience

By Pete DeLuca

Fifty years from now, when my grandchildren ask me what television shows I watched when I was their age – what will I say? I’ve had this conversation with my parents and grandparents and each time I am amazed at the nostalgic look on their face as they recall their favorite episodes of “I Love Lucy”, “The Honeymooners” and “The Andy Griffith Show”.

The sad truth is, in the 21st century the majority of the hit shows involve some form of reality television. It can be as entertaining as Flavor Flav trying to find true love, or as dramatic a group of Staten Island Mob Wives.

But amidst all of the housewives and rose ceremonies there is one form of reality television that is way over done – the talent show. American Idol, the X-Factor, Dancing with the Stars, Top Chef – at their base, they are all talent shows. It’s the same formula, recycled and transformed on a new network with a frying pan instead of a microphone. It’s over played and boring.

With all of the monotony among these types of shows – NBC’s America’s Got Talent made a move to break from the pack by signing radio personality Howard Stern as a judge last month.

Why Stern? The answer is simple: numbers. In over 30 years of broadcasting, Stern accumulated an audience of millions of extremely loyal fans. With his followers, Stern’s nationally syndicated radio show became the number one draw in nearly 60 major markets in the 1990’s. His two books, Private Parts and Miss America, both appeared on The New York Times Best Sellers List. In 1997, a movie of his life generated $41.2 million and the soundtrack topped the Billboard 200 chart.

Recently, Stern broke ties with terrestrial radio and signed a contract with Sirius Satellite Radio – that day; the stock price tripled. During the last five years, subscribers to the service increased from 1.4 million to over 15 million. With the merger of XM and Sirius in 2009, Stern’s audience is estimated between 15-20 million paying listeners daily.

Is Howard Stern a qualified judge – who cares? Will he bring a new dynamic to the show – probably not. But Stern will bring millions of new viewers. America’s Got Talent, which is already the most viewed show of the summer, may have pulled off a publicity stunt that could make it the highest rated show of the year – or (gasp) of all time… It makes me cringe when I think about what I’ll tell my grandchildren.

Pete DeLuca is the Manager of Creative Services at Maroon PR.  Contact him at Pete@MaroonPR.com