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Clocks, Spots and Sponsorships – Oh My!

commercialsI recently monitored seven news-talk radio stations across the country to analyze their spot loads, sponsorships, and programming clocks. The stations were all Top 20 radio markets with varying ownerships (iHeart Media, Cumulus, Bonneville, Cox and others).

Among my findings…

Stations average just over 16 minutes of commercials and promo time per hour in morning and afternoon drive. That includes blinks, :10s, :15s, :30s, and :60s. That being said, one station was as high as 20 minutes each hour while another was a low as 12.

On the whole, these stations seem to abuse the PM drive listeners more than the morning drive audience. Nearly all are guilty of loading up more commercials and longer stop sets on the drive home. Several stations increased the spot load by three minutes in PM drive, another punished listeners with a seven minute commercial break.

Six of the seven stations have neglected their live streaming presentation with overlapping audio, announcers cut off, out-dated spots, commercials replaced by extended (120 second) show promos or worse (four minutes of PSAs). Luckily, no one was using rights-free music to fill the void.

As it pertains to sponsorships, five to 10 “name mentions” per hour for news tags, traffic center, studio sponsors, etc. seems to be the average. These are name mentions only with no call to action. However, I listened to one station that only had one element sponsored the whole hour — and it was a little sad. On the flip side, there was a station that sponsored everything and sometimes with as many as three different clients simultaneously. That particular station had a whopping 23 sponsored elements in each hour.

The clocks were all different; some had long segments and long spot breaks while others chose bite-sized segments and easy-to-swallow commercial breaks. There are stations trying to sweep the quarter-hours to increase AQH, others are driving for occasions with non-stop teasing, and then there are the hosts who just talk and talk and talk in hopes of extending TSL — or more likely they’ve abandon all formatics in favor of their ego.

It was an interesting exercise that reminded me about the importance of balance. Like with everything in life, radio shows need balance. Too many spots, too long of a segment, incessant commercial breaks, or a NASCAR approach to sponsorships all get in the way of the listening experience. Oh, and stations please assign someone to listen to the web stream often, take notes, and fix ‘em.