Sunday, September 5, 2010

TV Sets Don't Even Make Beautiful Antique Furniture!

By Mike in Tokyo Rogers

If you would have told me fifteen years ago that old style TV and radio were going to die out, I wouldn't have believed you. But now, I can't really see any other way. Oh sure, there will probably always be TV and radio stations, it's just that they won't be these massive companies with thousands of employees that we have today. I foresee them becoming like their cable and satellite competitors. I have written before on some technical reasons, see here and here. Today, I want to write from my own experiences as a 30-year insider and the only foreigner who was ever the general manager of a major Japanese broadcasting station in history.

Not even useful as a future antique

Today, companies like TV Tokyo have over 1,000 employees. A satellite music TV station like Music On! TV has less than eighty. I foresee stations like TV Tokyo becoming the same in five years... This will cause them severe restructuring or bankruptcy. Not good for the shareholders; terrible for employees.

Take your average FM radio station in Japan that has 40 employees... I predict that, if they can even survive the next three ~ five years (which most won't) they will have to find a way to run the station with, not 40 employees, but 5. If they can do that, they have a chance.

With the poor quality of management that many of the stations in Japan have today,  I'll give 40 - 1 odds of that ever happening.

What are they going to do when the only way they can survive and stay competitive is to cut 90% of their workforce, yet Japanese labor laws will not allow such a thing? Talk about stuck between a  rock and a hard place!

What they will have to do is to force older employees into retirement earlier and to cut salaries across the board and hope that employees quit. I have seen this method employed before. The company cut all salaries by 25%. Then, six months later, they cut all salaries by 25% again for a total of 40%. Many employees quit. The problem with this method soon became apparent when it was realized that all the good employees quit because they could find a job somewhere else, but the poor employees, the "dead-wood" stayed.

So the station lost all of its productive employees and was left with the useless ones.

I have worked in TV & radio (the music business) since 1978. When one works in these businesses, there are many "tops of the mountains." In my later career, radio, the top of the mountain was producing, directing, and hosting the morning drive time show Monday - Friday. I did that. We made one of the most famous and successful morning shows in Tokyo history. When that ended in 2009, at 52-years-old, I decided to retire from that business. Why?

It's best to retire when you are at the top of the hill.

Since then, I started another business with some friends whereby we do new methods of marketing and Internet hybrid marketing and PR in immature markets. It's been fun. Through his experience, though, I have been able to go around to most of the major mass media and get a glimpse of what is going on everywhere.

I have had face to face talks with upper management about their struggles and travails in a steady shrinking market; I have been in meetings to discuss strategy and develop methods to generate sales. All of them revolve around using the Internet as, not just a piece of the puzzle, but, in many cases, it has replaced the old media as the "main course" on the plate presented to sponsors and advertisers.

In fact, at one station, the chief of programming admitted to me that he thought it was impossible to sell his old media vehicle, as is, to sponsors.

From these experiences I, too, have come to see the future quite clearly; there is no way for over 70% of the major TV & radio stations to survive in their current state more than 5 years.... I doubt that any major station will be able to survive in their current state past 10 years. In twenty years, there will probably be entirely brand-new names running our media. Who knows? Perhaps Google or Apple will buy out these major media conglomerates? Perhaps, in Japan, Rakuten will own TV Tokyo and turn it into a 24/7 shopping channel? That's the only think that I can see that the station could be useful for...

Still, not even beautiful as an antique

Either way, TV and radio are antiques. Their days are numbered. This admission not from an old Internet hand, but from an old TV/radio hand. Unlike the radios of old, today's TV and radio sets are near useless... They don't even make beautiful furniture to display in the living room.

Like Marc Abela wrote:

I personally think that the days of "TV" as a concept (i.e. you sit there and someone tells you what to watch, when and how) are so totally counted. Hard to put a clear number, is it 2 years left, 5?, 10?, 1? ...

It has been a year and some I have not turned my TV on. Not even once. Really. Weird. But it still sits in my living room. Antique.

Remember this day well, my friends, the day is coming when we are going to tell our children or grand kids that, "there was a time when everyone had a TV in their house...." Those children won't believe us and will say, "What for?"


TV, radio, Google, Mike Rogers, Marketing Japan, Mike in Tokyo Rogers, antique, Rakuten, Apple, TV Tokyo, Music On! TV 

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