August 14, 2006

Idea: “CSI: Drive Time”

These days, everyone wants your ear. You’ve got Sirius, XM, terrestrial radio, podcasts, CDs, MP3s, and your cell phone all competing for your attention while you’re in your car. For advertisers, “drive time” is the most important time of day. That’s when most people are listening to their radios, and it’s when advertisers spend the most money hoping you’ll hear their ads. But if you’re listening to anything other than terrestrial radio, the major advertisers are losing out.

But who’s listening to terrestrial radio anymore? According to Bridge Ratings, the company that measures radio audiences, people are listening to terrestrial radio less and less in favor of their MP3 players and podcasts. So how can terrestrial radio get those listeners back? They’ve tried new music formats and talk formats, flipping stations from one to the other and back, but they’re still losing listeners.

So I suggest a new format. Well, an old one, really. Why not revisit the golden age of radio, when the airwaves were filled with comedy and drama, and people were captivated by their radios?

CBS owns lots of radio stations. They also own one of the most popular TV franchises running, CSI. So how about producing a radio-only version of the show? Call it “CSI: Drive Time.” If it’s compelling, people will sit through commercial breaks to hear the resolution. Detective shows were big on radio back in the day. They could be again today.

Sure, you run the risk of people trading episodes on-line with the commercials cut out, like they do today with TV shows. But old time radio had entire shows sponsored by particular products, and so can modern radio. “Johnson’s Wax Presents CSI: Drive Time” isn’t too long a name, is it? And commercial breaks can be done by the radio program stars, just like they used to, integrating the commercial into the program.

“CSI: Drive Time” could be followed by last night’s Late Show with David Letterman. It’s already been recorded. Why not replay it for people who missed it? The production cost there is pretty much zero.

ABC Radio could have special radio-only episodes of LOST, which is owned by ABC. These episodes could feature characters on the island that we don’t see on the TV program, but whose stories would intertwine with that week’s episode. LOST has so many fans, they would surely stay tuned in through the commercial to hear what happens next.

And then there’s the old standby, the Sitcom. Radio-only sitcoms would be great. They could even be performed live in front of an audience, just like in the old days. If it’s a big hit, you could probably even make the leap from radio to television, having a built-in audience of fans who listened to the radio show.

As someone who grew up listening to recordings of old time radio, wishing I had been around at a time when I could have listened to them as they were broadcast, I would absolutely tune in to a station like this.


I’ve been wondering how American Idol or Rockstar would be if I could only hear the music.

Great point Jason. I think that sort of radio program would be torture, but I think the CSI one would be a great idea.

On our local hip hop station in Kansas City, there is a program like this, though I’ve never listened long enough to know much about it. It seems to be a soap opera - type thing, on around rush hour. People love it, I’ve even seen t shirts and stuff. I like your idea, though.

I listen to short stories and book-on-tape (on-ipod) during my drive time. I would still choose them over “CSI: Drive Time” because I can pause and/or pick up where i left off. Over the radio, if a program was longer than my drive, I would have to sit in my car till the end. If quality content was available for my ipod… free but with advertising, I would try it out.

Since I got satellite radio back in December, my free radio listening time has dropped to 0. Can’t take the 9 minute commercial blocks and lack of original content not to mention the censorship.

I have XM but my free radio listening time is about as much as before. I check out a couple of local shows I love and the local news. XM’s commercials piss me off. They say they’re commercial free but they’re not.

You pose a suggestion I’ve imagined before myself, but with a critical difference: Using existing IP.

A brilliant difference, really. What better way to bridge the gap from the present state of radio to a return to radio drama than to use the IP from a popular TV drama?

I have no idea what csi is, but there is no need for commercials or commercial breaks. Write the product into the story line. I am surprised no one has done this yet.

“What was he driving?” “One of those new” (insert car name here), “and from the witness description of the take off it must have had the new turbocharged 3.6 in it.”

I’ve been kicking around the idea of a fake orgasm format, I think folks would listen to that through commercial breaks.

You know, it’s true: there used to be a radio program on Sunday nights on a certain am station, and that’s what I used to do with my Sunday nights; I’ve often wondered why they don’t put them on like that anymore… but it works for sports broadcasts, so it’ll work for a really good program. Makes sense. Great idea.