Radio Has Gone To The Dogs

Nipper, RCA mascot with binary code and radio antenna with signal AP / CBS

As many media critics have noted over the past several years, "broadcasting" has become "narrow-casting." In the past, television and radio programs were aimed at the widest possible audience. Today they go for "niche programming." So, on the radio, there are all-sports stations, all-talk, hip-hop, country, oldies, and classical stations. TV gives us cartoon stations, all-news stations, crime shows for adults, sex-oriented comedies for adults, and sex-oriented comedies for young people. Now there's a new niche in radio programming — a radio station just for the listening pleasure of pets.

DogCatRadio.com is an Internet radio station that aims its programming at, well, dogs and cats. It's broadcast from — no surprise here — Los Angeles. Adrian Martinez started it when he noticed that his cat, Snickers, likes to listen to music — especially 80s rock. I remember when a Pet Rock was a silly gag gift.

Success in the radio and television business is all about demographics. Since there are approximately 140 million pets in the United States alone, this is a listening audience that won't go untapped for long.

DogCatRadio.com has DJs who play the music, but so far they are all human. That doesn't seem right, and I'm sure dogs and cats will soon be manning — uh, animaling — the turntables. How hard can it be to teach a pet to turn on a record? The difficult part will be keeping their headphones on. But if pets can walk around in those silly sweaters that some owners make them wear, I'm sure they can be taught not to tear off their headphones.

The station takes requests, and among the most popular songs are, "Hound Dog" and that "who let the dogs out — woof,woof, woof" song. I'm not sure if these requests are made by humans who assume their pets like certain music, or if the animals themselves call the station.

One human listener complained to the station that they weren't playing anything specifically for "our equine friends." This leads me to believe that soon the niche will have other niches. HorseRadio.com, Parakeet Radio, and "All-Gerbil, All The Time" will not be far behind. And let's not forget, "Radio Flea Europe." Sorry about that.

Those of you who have been reading my column for the past couple of weeks should know that DogCatRadio is bilingual. In addition to English, it broadcasts a Spanish program. It's not clear if this is for the benefit of Spanish-speaking owners or if it's for pets who might prefer Spanish, like Mexican Chihuahuas. If it's the latter, soon we'll be seeing demands for equal time from French Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, and, of course, Alaskan Malamutes.

I have the feeling that DogCatRadio.com is just the beginning. And with the holidays around the corner, and the knowledge that we spend $35.9 billion a year on pets in the United States, smart businesspeople will be trying to fetch a bone or two from this latest development. Watch for iPaws, little iPods that attach to a pet's collar. Laptops for Lapdogs will probably be on sale soon. And don't be surprised if you find yourself buying a computer mouse for your cat.

Once radio cashes in, you can bet a pig's ear that TV will follow. And I don't think it will stop at pet programming. Television is always looking for ways to air all those failed pilots and canceled shows that cost millions of dollars. I can just see some Harvard MBA/Vice President of Programming saying, "Why don't we just put those unsuccessful shows on for the cats, dogs, and fish? They won't know the difference." You know, the same attitude they have towards people.

I hope this doesn't happen. I think that attitude underestimates our pets' intelligence, and subjecting our pets to bad TV would definitely qualify as animal cruelty.

I played DogCatRadio for my dog. He just continued to sleep through the songs and the pet-friendly chatter. Now, if they were to broadcast the sound of food hitting the inside of his bowl, he'd perk up and start wagging his tail right away. Just a suggestion. Actually, make that a request.



Lloyd Garver writes a weekly column for SportsLine.com. He has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.

By Lloyd Garver
  • Lloyd Vries

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