What can radio talent learn from Breaking Bad ?


What a night! Breaking Bad has finally aired its last episode. After 5 seasons, last night we all sat around to see how the series would end. I’m sure no one was disappointed. It’s been 5 years – a big commitment to any relationship whether it’s a TV series, friendship, a job, or a listener’s relationship with a radio show or on-air talent.

Breaking Bad became one of the most watched shows of recent times, with the final episode attracting over 10 million viewers in the USA and millions more worldwide both legally and illegally.

So … what can radio talent learn from Breaking Bad? Here are my Top 10 Tips….

1) Take risks

Take chances and risk danger – Walter White certainly took risks. He did things even he didn’t know he was capable of. Any great talent needs to take risks with content, trying new roles, new partners, new regular guests, new features, and new ideas.

2) Quality

Walt’s crystal meth was 94% quality and a distinctive blue in colour. You have to deliver quality (content) to keep listeners (or addicts) coming back for more. You need to make sure your show is of a constantly high quality (like Walt’s consistently high-quality meth!). His product was incredibly pure, giving meth addicts a better high so dealers and addicts kept coming back. Same goes for a radio show.

3) Talent

Writer Vince Gilligan put together an outstanding cast for the series. Breaking Bad was a classic ensemble piece with Walt and Jesse as the central figures and the others characters around them. Just like the crew on a breakfast show. Focus on the central characters.

4) Marketing and Promotion

Breaking Bad did an exceptional job at marketing and promotion – especially with the ‘behind the scenes’ TV Show, ‘Talking Bad‘ – which gave viewers the inside scoop on what was going on. External coverage outside your show is important (and it requires more than complaining that the station won’t spend money to stick your face on billboards all over town! If you think that’s what ‘external coverage’ means, you’re missing the point – and by a very long way). The show also cleverly used social media, which attracted a huge following, using strong graphics of the Breaking Bad logo and key talent.

5) Production

Breaking Bad used production techniques cleverly and subtley. The right production will enhance any station or on-air team.

6) Word Of Mouth

Breaking Bad’s storyline twists and turns were so strong, and it was such an exceptional series, that it created extraordinary word of mouth. You could see people’s enthusiasm when in conversation about the show – whether in social media or In Real Life. Great shows and content will attract word of mouth, the single most effective marketing you can have.

7) Preparation

The first step in developing a TV series is the writing. Breaking Bad was named best written series of all time by the writers guild of America. The writing, planning and formatting your show is the first step to a consistently high standard on air.

8) Character development

Like any great breakfast, drive, or personality/entertainment show, Breaking Bad's characters were developed as the storyline unfolded – each one unique in their own right.

9) Fans

Breaking Bad created hard-core fans, not viewers. It achieved this by delivering great stories, characters and content. The show was compelling, interesting and stimulating – the goal of any radio or TV show.

10) Brand

As I said, Walter Whites product carries a unique blue colour. He creates a brand – everyone knows what Heisenberg meth is due to both the quality and the appearance. This is much the same as your ‘talent brand‘. What is your unique attribute? Or your unique combination of attributes? How consistent is your quality*?

Brad March is a former CEO of the Austereo Network and is Managing Director of Marchmedia.

* Footnote from Scott Muller: In case you’ve read all the way through Brad’s Top 10 list – yet you’re still wondering “Is Brad really comparing the consistency of my on-air performance and the quality of my most appealing personality attributes with high quality, distinctively blue, meth?!?” … the overwhelming evidence appears to be yes.  He just did that. 

If you’re also thinking “Look, like every other talent in radio I never liked the football or sporting analogies either, but now that Brad has tried out a meth analogy on me, I’m thinking that ‘it’s a game of two halves’ and ‘one survey does not make a season’ and ‘just stay upright long enough and you could be radio’s answer to Stephen Bradbury’ didn’t sound so bad after all.  So from now on can everyone at Radio Today just stick to football and sports analogies like everyone else in management?"

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