Broadcast group Saga Communications has decided to no longer substitute "online only" content for the on-air ads on its stations' Internet streams. Now, everything that goes out over the air can also be heard online.
In June Saga announced it would shut down streams of stations outside the Top 100 markets, and place geographical limits on who can listen to the remaining streams (see RAIN here).
Ten years ago radio advertisers' agreement with AFTRA, the union that represents voice talent on radio commercials, forbid the online use of spots created for on-air radio without significantly costly added fees. This forced broadcasters to substitute other content on the stream when ads ran on-air. Broadcasters use various companies' technologies to "insert" other ads, public service announcements, music beds, or simply silence.
But Saga says those AFTRA stipulations are almost entirely a thing of the past. "It doesn’t make sense for us to change the entire way do business because of a couple of isolated incidents," Saga EVP Warren Lada told Inside Radio. "The voice talent is negotiating a contract with advertiser or agency — it’s up to them to come up with whatever that arrangement is."
"Lada says SAG-AFTRA reps have also told him that as long as a union talent is paid the negotiated rate for a multi-platform ad they now essentially see it as a non-issue — and the union doesn’t track radio spots regardless," reports Inside Radio.
Lada says he first looked into the issue because the substitution of online-only content over the on-air ads sounded terrible (uneven audio levels, timing problems, etc.). He said he's not worried about losing the streaming inventory, because it's really not all that profitable, especially compared to mobile text messaging and e-mail blasts. "It’s time for the industry to man up and recognize that primarily most of our audience is on-air and we should just include the stream with it — it’s just part of what we do," he said.