Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"Today" Gets It's Own Radio Station As Ryan Seacrest Leaves Show

"The Today Show" is using every trick in the bag to try and draw enough viewers to defeat "GMA". Beginning in June, "Today" will simulcast it's east coast and west coast feeds live on Sirius/XM along with Hoda and Kathie Lee's hour. This is a great move because:
  • There are over 40 million subscribers to Sirius/XM. "Today" now has the ability to build up name recognition among listeners who may be channel surfing and may not normally consume "Today Show" content. If they're satisfied with what they hear, they could possibly tune in on TV during mornings when they're at home.
  • "The Today Show" viewers who have to go to work will now have the ability to listen while they're on the road.
There are certain shows which have become franchises almost as big as the networks they're on. "The Tonight Show," "The Simpsons," "SportsCenter," etc. "Today" is on that list despite it's current ratings woes.

We've already reached the day where television franchises, through websites and apps, have become a 24-hour a day experience. This radio station helps enhance that experience and it can be used as a stepping stone to add on even more original programming based around the show.
  • To stay relevant, the show needs to continue to delve into other platforms which help viewers connect with "Today" personalities even more. "Today" is already doing this through Kathie Lee's podcast, Al's Weather Channel morning show, the 2 a.m. "Today" late night re-air of the fourth hour, Savannah's pregnancy blog and the constant tweeting being done by all of their hosts. But until they're able to gain a comfortable lead again, there is always more which can be done.
    • This radio station opens the door for more podcasts, in-depth interviews and behind the scenes access featuring the hosts as well as various guests/musicians who pop in to the studio.
    • "Today" also has the ability to create a developmental ground for potential future 7 a.m. hosts to flourish in. Willie Geist, Carson Daly and Tamron Hall could all host individual chat shows or weekly group chat shows which would help them all get know each other even more in a format that isn't as time constrained as television. It could even help in developing more chemistry for the small screen.
    • "Today" could even try to spinoff different segments into shows of their own to see if they have future potential outside of the four hour block (syndication on TV or a radio future).
This supplemental programming produced for radio would also add hours of extra content onto the "Today" website/app, which helps provide it with more pizzaz and freshness (assuming there would be a video component to all of these radio shows).

This could be a great opportunity if "Today" uses it wisely. According to a NYT piece written about the deal, execs at Sirius and NBC are thinking the same way I'm thinking:
Mr. Greenstein (Sirius/XM President) said he could foresee expanding the programming in the future, citing the example of potentially having bands that play a couple of numbers on the show stay around and offer two or three more songs for the fans outside in Rockefeller Plaza. Those could also play on the Sirius feed.
This radio station would even be a great platform for contributors of the show to thrive in if they don't have enough time to talk about a certain topic on the show. The newest morning show strategy is to grab as many contributors as possible (i.e. Strahan, Reali, Daly, Hall etc.) and a side job on the radio may be the perfect incentive that makes a contributor decide to join "Today" rather than "GMA".

Speaking of contributors, it looks like "Today" may be losing one of them soon. Ryan Seacrest is in talks to extend his deals with American Idol and Clear Channel but it looks like he'll be stepping away from NBCUniversal in terms of an on-air role. This would mean that he would no longer serve as a red carpet host for E! and he would no longer contribute stories to "Today".

Ryan Seacrest Horizontal - H 2012

This won't be a major loss for the show because Seacrest hasn't had enough time in his day to file many reports anyway (his last story on "Today" was during the Olympics). It is also expected that Seacrest and his company will continue to produce shows and specials for the networks of NBCU. But it makes you wonder if he's willing to step away from an on-air position at NBCU because he's angling for a role on "GMA," the hottest brand on morning TV right now.

The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that Seacrest has had discussions with ABC. He already has an established relationship with the network given the fact that he's the first face seen on ABC at the beginning of every new year.

Could Clear Channel be the mediator that solidifies a deal between the two parties? IHeartRadio already has a deal with ABC to co-produce the "GMA" summer concert series and DJs from Clear Channel stations across the country already appear on "GMA" every Friday.

Not to mention, Clear Channel will be Seacrest's partner/financial backer over the next couple of years for any TV show/movie/online show/concert/radio show he wants to produce. Wouldn't it make more sense to serve as the main figurehead/liason between your financial backer and their TV partner of choice rather than working part-time at your financial backer's TV partner's rivals?

Here's an even more bolder question. Should Seacrest reach a deal with ABC for a role on "GMA," could he possibly angle for Stephanapolous' throne once Stephy leaves? It's a longshot but who knows?

SIDENOTE: To clarify, Seacrest has talked with ABC about hosting "something". What that something is, we don't know. I'm just assuming it's a correspondent role on "GMA" because there's nothing else on ABC's lineup at the moment which fits him and "GMA" has a very close relationship with Seacrest's partners in crime, Clear Channel.

Sources: NYT, The Hollywood Reporter

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