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Where's Voice Over Headed In The
New Media Age? Ask A 'Millennial'
August 26, 2015

By Dave Courvoisier
Voice Actor & TV News Anchor

An entire generation of "millennial” consumers have no idea what a TV antenna is, have never purchased a cable subscription, and can’t wait for wearable computing to hit its stride (Apple iWatch is a start).

In the first three months of 2015, traditional cable lost 105,000 subscribers, satellite lost 74,000, and TV providers 143,000 (USAToday), and that was before the launch of Sling TV, PlayStation Vue and HBO Go.

ESPN - previously thought to be virtually impervious as a juggernaut of sports programming -  is one of the biggest losers, because it’s typically force-bundled with other basic cable packages that are the target of most cable-cutters. The Disney subsidiary has lost 7.2 million visitors in the last four years (TechDirt).

The products of such traditional streams of media: episodic TV, sports, news, documentaries, mini-series, and specialty-event programs offer the very best voice over opportunities. Promotional spots for network TV and television ads (local and national) pay better than almost anything else in our business. 

So if they go away, what happens to all those opportunities? And to everything else down the food chain?

No one knows. No one can reliably estimate viewer erosion. Cable/Broadcasting is largely in denial. 


What’s replacing it all?

Broadband programming. Think House of Cards and Game of Thrones. Vudu, Hulu, Amazon, Netflix, YouTube, and about a hundred other interests getting on the bandwagon. 

Internet providers are scrambling to live up to the promise of bandwidth - devouring video programs on digital pathways that were designed for webpages, Skype, and MySpace.

Legacy content providers like ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, HBO, USA, ESPN, CNN, Univision, etc., and their corporate owners are hustling to move into the new digital space, but are hampered by the aforementioned denial, as well as protocols and processes that are steeped in traditional (read: old) ways of doing things.


Making matters worse: digital programming is proving damnably hard to measure. 

Nielsen and Arbitron (never foolproof on a GOOD day) seem like a statistical treasure compared to "clicks,” "views,”, "visits” "shares” and "mentions.”

Worse, ad agencies have NO CLUE how to price their commercials ... where to put them … who they’re reaching … and which creative approaches are working anymore.

The whole system is in flux.


Where VO stands: All this is making genres like eLearning look a lot better for voice actors, or audiobooks. 

Video game voice opportunities are strong. The big money is still in Hollywood, and stuff like ADR, animation, cartoons and anime are also promising.

The biggest threat is to :30 and :60 TV spots (radio, years ago, settled into a market adjustment), network promotions, local TV imaging and local TV promotions. 

I can tell you as someone on the inside of local TV, these changes are palpable.

The good news is that no one can conceive of a decent replacement for TV ads, so FOR THE TIME BEING, agencies are still pouring money into legacy media. 

A :30 SuperBowl spot next year will sell for around $5 million.


Creative new developments like YouTube pre-roll ads aren’t even on the radar of SAG-AFTRA, and the shops producing these media are quick to ask for exclusive buy-outs that last forever, and have wide conflicts. 

On top of that, they’re still pricing compensation based on weeks or months, not views - which can often run into the millions if attached to a "viral” video.

This is a good time to keep your head up and your eyes open.
  • Don’t rush into agreements with lots of fine print.
  • Ask questions.
  • Ask for time while you seek advice from seasoned peers. 
As always, having "spine” more-often-than-not will gain you respect.

And if you’re really desperate to know what’s going on, ask a millennial.
Dave Courvoisier is an Emmy Award-winning broadcaster, writer, producer, voice actor, and the main weeknight news anchor on KLAS-TV, Channel 8, the Las Vegas CBS affiliate. He also writes Voice-Acting in Vegas, a daily blog of voice over adventures, observations and technology, and is author and publisher of the book, More Than Just A Voice: The Real Secret To VoiceOver Success.

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Comments (4)
dc goode
8/28/2015 at 5:29 PM
Oddly poignant...I'm reminded of "Max Headroom and Blipverts" from the 80's.
It's actually kind of spooky, how close to being true; that show has become.
dc goode
8/28/2015 at 5:24 PM
Dave, EXCELLENT bare knuckles truth...for now. This time tomorrow?
Your "insiders" perspective is MUCH appreciated and needed.

As for your statement, "The whole system is in flux."...yes indeed it is, but the last word, is spelled wrong...sounds the same get me.:-)

Any attempts to "forecast", How this is all going to play out, is good inspiration to take up drinking more. ;-)

BTW The "Rates roundtable" was very thorough and informative... EXCEPT that someone uttered the Phrase "There's room for everyone". I shall refrain from expressing my absolute, vehement rejecting of that idea (at least for now)...and direct them to your post here.
Kent Ingram
8/27/2015 at 1:19 AM
Dave: this is a blog that hits home or, better yet, right between our eyes! Like all of us in this business, we just HAVE to be on top of trends like this, or we go the way of the dinosaurs.

I've sent my "resume" out to multiple video game producers, because they've hired me for more gigs than anyone else. Yes, I can do all kinds of voice-over work but, if you don't have an agent somewhere in the LA/Hollywood area and you live in a state other than California, you're stacked-up against a huge wall of local talent, despite the fact that you have your own studio and can transmit MP3, WAV or AIFF files over the web or through e-mail.

I can remember being told by confident "coaches" that the playing field would be leveled by this technological ability but, I have yet to see that forecast happen. If Skype and SoundStreak offer the same thing as a live studio session, why haven't we seen a dramatic drop-off in expensive studios?

I maintain, it's better to listen to those, like you, who have their finger on the pulse of this business and expose the real "dinosaurs" who can't let go of the past and move forward. I want to be one of those who are just ahead of these trends, not behind them! Thanks, again, Dave!
Jim Conlan
8/26/2015 at 10:04 AM
Very timely and much appreciated, Dave. As one who rode the crest of the legacy media wave both as voice talent and creative/producer, I can say that the cluelessness of local media is even more profound than the national.

Local radio stations prey on small local advertisers to invest big in ad buys that don't often reach their customers - and when they do, it is with bland, station-written-and-produced "commercials" (which professional talent are not paid to voice). Only exceptionally savvy national advertisers like Jimmy John's really know how to use radio effectively.

Your remarks about time-pricing vs view-pricing should be thought provoking for voice talent, ad agencies, the media and unions. The challenge to interpret "millions" of views as evidence of effectiveness is one that, in my opinion, will never be adequately addressed. If you really want to measure effectiveness you need to do it the same old way: survey the market for 1) awareness and 2) purchases influenced by advertising.

These observations don't directly mean much to voice talent, but I offer them as reinforcement to your suggestion to keep eyes and ears open for opportunities - especially local opportunities. They probably won't be advertising-based for most of us.
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