The ‘New Wild West’ of Radio

MIAMI BEACH, FLA. FCC-free scripts, 75-second ads and branded entertainment radio shows.

That’s how Terry O’Reilly and Tom Eymundson of Pirate Radio & Television in Toronto see the “New Wild West” of radio, brought on by the ever-expanding boundaries of good taste and the advent of satellite radio such as XM and Sirius Satellite Radio.

In a talk at the Clio Awards Festival in Miami Beach on Sunday, the radio directors noted how HBO and shows like The Sopranos widened acceptance for profanity and sexual explicitness on television.

Meanwhile, Howard Stern has done the same on the radio. But while these media are monitored by the FCC, satellite radio is not.

“On satellite, you can’t push the envelope, because there is no envelope,” said Eymundson. “There is no stamp.” O’Reilly added: “Although there may be a lot of licking.”

In this case, why shouldn’t advertisers create two versions of a radio ad: one for terrestrial radio and a more explicit one for satellite? asked O’Reilly.

And while the audience is small now (Sirius Satellite Radio has about six million subscribers) the duo suggest that by 2010, levels could be as high as 30-45 million subscribers.

On satellite, advertisers will have greater choice: ads can vary in length from 10 to 75 seconds, and satellite radio owners have noted the possibility of advertisers operating radio shows. O’Reilly and Eymundson said Starbucks already has such a show.

“For us, it’s all about appointment radio,” O’Reilly said. With the boundaries in radio being pushed, by 2010 “Will Howard simply become cute? Or merely quaint? Stay tuned.”