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Kevin Costner’s ‘Dallas meets The Sopranos’, modern, cowboy drama was the most-watched non-news TV show on US cable in 2020 and is leading viewing in 2021 so far. It’s good, really good, and there’s plenty of reasons why audiences are lapping up the bloodbath western.

Set around the Dutton family ranch ‘Yellowstone’, a 50,000-acre parcel of pristine, Montana perfection; the show explores the ongoing woes of a property coveted by billionaire developers and the first nation Indian people who were custodians of the land for generations. This triangle of greed and want shapes the story, with a healthy dose of killings. As Costner’s patriarch character John Dutton describes it, It’s the one constant in life – you build something worth having, someone’s gonna try to take it”. This white-knuckled clasp on the ranch is interwoven with bold story arcs fearlessly delving deep into family issues, relationships, resentment, and racial issues. But always centered with the undertones of protecting what you have built and doing so at any cost,

Your station and your show are exactly like the Dutton Ranch – you’re at war every day. Fending off adversaries, defending every inch of your property, your brand. If you have built something that’s meaningful and desirable know that competitors want to take it away from you. Whether it’s a major thing like one of your personalities or a more subtle piece like a contest mechanism or a breakfast show execution; if it makes for good content – it’s ripe for stealing.

So how do you defend everything? You likely can’t. Bandwidth and financial limitations are real. But get out of bed every day knowing that you are under attack and operate accordingly.

  • Don’t assume talent are loyal – treat them right and secure them with contracts.
  • Don’t assume the audience is loyal – you have to give them reasons constantly to fall in love with your brand over and over again.
  • Don’t assume competitors will credit you with intellectual property on a contest – trademark it, or at least promote it enough to connect it to your brand.
  • Don’t assume your format is safe – it isn’t. Be aware of competitor’s moves musically and watch for encroachments on your lane and act accordingly with a pivot to counter-program them or a least an increase in marketing (on and off-air messaging) to take solid ownership of the contested position.

You have to go to battle every day – and often the best defense is attack. But most importantly never believe the job is done or that you have carved out something that is yours now. That you deserve. It’s always in flux and always up for grabs. Dutton knows best; “No one has a right – you have to take the right -or stop it from being taken from you”.