SYNDICATION 101... Number of Stations Available
In this and subsequent monthly installments of Syndication 101, we will look at the basics of syndicating programs which are newer, and thus, are most in-need of additional stations. In general, this means programs with 30 affiliates or less, and programs which have been operational for 2 years or less. If you have attempted to obtain additional stations yourself, but you ran up against lots of road blocks, then you probably were trying to obtain stations which you really had no chance of obtaining at all.
The first thing you have to look at is how many total broadcast stations there are to market to. You can't promote to all of them; the idea is to select out the ones with which you will have a decent chance after a few months of promotion. Here are the rough numbers of stations in the U.S. and Canada...
2,400 Country (all styles)
2,070 Oldies (1920's to 1980's, all styles)
1,910 Religious (including Christian, Gospel, and talk)
1,709 Adult Contemporary (all styles)
665 Variety and/or Brokered
456 Top 40
300 Urban (all styles)
These numbers include all possible broadcast stations, whether the stations are commercial or non-commercial, large or small, AM or FM, and whether or not they have any network feeds. They do not include any non-broadcast (i.e., cable or internet) stations, because of the low listenerships of these types of stations.
There are probably more stations of a given format than you originally thought. The stations vary greatly (even within a certain format) in how useful they would be to you, and how difficult they would be to get as an affiliate. The stations that are more desired (by you and by everyone else) are going to take a lot more work to get than less-desired ones would. The trick is to pick stations that are not too difficult, otherwise you will work for a year and get only a few. You need to make it look (to each station) like there is a constant and relatively rapid increase in the number of people accepting your show each month. If you don't do this, your show will look like it's "dead in the water" (not growing), and nobody else will want to touch it. So here is what to look for in prospective stations...
SIZE: The "size" of a station means how many listeners it has. Size should not be confused with how much power (wattage) is has. The controlling factor of station size is the population of the market it is in (see a list of markets HERE.) New shows will not be getting any major stations anytime soon. Established shows that already have smaller stations, however, may be ready to look at the medium stations next. In general, the smaller the station, the easier it will be to obtain.
SPECIFIC FORMAT: Within each of the formats listed above (especially music), you have divisions that will help you define which stations to go after. For example, Adult Contemporary is divided into Mainstream, Hot, Soft, Modern, and 80's. Talk is dividing up more and more, too.
REGIONS: An obvious factor, but one that many people take as being far too important. The whole point of a syndicated show is that it is transportable from one area to another. You have to have strong reasons for wanting to leave out certain regions of the country (and therefore, leaving out the more easily-had stations contained there.)
FEEDS: If a station is currently with a major syndication feed, then this will add another level of difficulty for you. A younger show needs to look like it is building momentum quickly; this is best served by going after stations which don't have major syndication yet. Once a major syndicator gets a station, they'll offer that station other shows, and you will be competing directly with all of these shows together (and a high level of service, too.)
OWNERSHIP: Certain larger ownership groups have contracts (or are just tied in well) with certain program suppliers, and it is going to make things more difficult by choosing these stations. You must choose stations that, if they like your offer, will actually be able to sign with you.
Next Topic: Affiliate Relations vs. Promotions
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