A Story

Slacker partners with Univision in expansion of Latin programming

Friday, October 18, 2013 - 10:25am

Univision Radio is the leading audio network for Hispanic America, and music service Slacker announced today a partnership that will bring some of that content to the online listening platform.

The expanded lineup plan includes five terrestrial stations based in Los Angeles, Puerto Rico, Miami, and Houston. Slacker will also introduce Univision America, a “Slacker-hosted and expert-curated channel featuring a mix of highly-coveted talk content.” Univision America will be exclusive to Slacker Radio. Some or all of the live stations included in this partnership can also be found on TuneIn, but without the easy-to-find packaging that could draw Hispanic listeners into Slacker.

RAIN’s update of Slacker’s Android and iOS apps showed only Univision America available in Android, and all six channels in the Apple version. A new Univision menu item appears in both apps.

The exclusive Univision America channel is an important differentiator for Slacker, though cross-channel branding is confusing. iHeartRadio hosts a version of Univision America, with identical trademarking. Comparing simultaneous streams reveals different programming, but Slacker’s ownership of a unique show is not evident in the first version of Univision America in its mobile apps.

Latest WiFi speaker to assault home radio … wait, it IS a radio

Thursday, October 17, 2013 - 12:40pm

This is the season of wireless speakers. We have written recently about the Samsung Shape, the Bose SoundTouch, and the Sonos Play:1. Each one of these WiFi-enabled speakers can stream a music collection from a computer, and access whatever online music services are bundled into the controller apps. This product category clearly seeks to displace home radio receivers, just as online music services potentially bite into AM/FM listening generally.

A new, soon-to-be-released product from Revo, a Scottish audio device company founded in 2004, modifies that trend with a tabletop unit which combines over-the-air broadcast with Internet radio and music-service streaming. Mightily called the SuperConnect, it is a real radio with an FM tuner (accommodating DAB and DAB+), mashed together with WiFi streaming

Uniquely, the SuperConnect has baked-in Spotify Connect compatibility. Spotify Connect is a wireless flinging technology similar to Google’s Chromecast. It is designed for digital speaker systems to receive a Spotify stream playing on a smartphone. The user touches a Connect icon in the Spotify app, then selects which Connect-enabled reception device (like living room speakers) will pick up the stream. As of now, SuperConnect is the only radio receiver that works with Spotify Connect.

In addition to the unprecedented bundling of FM, WiFi, and Spotify Connect, the Revo SuperConnect contains an on-screen joystick controller that encourages the user to explore the far-flung universe of radio webcasts -- becoming the latest in a history of devices attempting to install borderless radio listening in the home. In this case, that function is not the main act, but an add-on to the main category of WiFi streaming, with a pioneering implementation of Spotify Connect.

Telefonica grabs stake in Rhapsody/Napster

Wednesday, October 16, 2013 - 10:20am

Telefonica, the Spanish telecom company with operations in four continents, has acquired a stake in Rhapsody International, the non-U.S. division of streaming platform Rhapsody, according to Billboard. Napster, owned by Rhapsody, is the primary European brand of the service.

Global expansion is top-of-mind for all the American music services, as they jockey for position in Canada, Latin America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere. Telephone carriers are assumed to be valuable drivers for brand exposure and audience growth -- witness Muve Music which distributes exclusively on phones.

Telefonica is a telecom giant which already provides a music service called Sonoros to customers in Latin America. Those users will be offered the choice to transfer to Napster on November 1.

The investment comes soon after Rhapsody was shaken by hefty layoffs and a leadership change. Rhapsody’s subscription-only U.S. music service is one of the oldest, having started in 2000, and competes with Google All Access, Spotify, Rdio, and other cloud jukeboxes that offer random access to large music catalogs. It recently added artist-based creation of listening stations to its feature lineup, years after some competitors implemented similar functions.

Streaming audio ad platforms will drive revenue up

Tuesday, October 15, 2013 - 9:55am

This guest column is by Jennifer Lane, CEO of RAIN Enterprises. It first appeared in Audio4cast.

Programmatic buying will capture nearly 20% of the display ad spend this year, according to eMarketer, and that’s a number that is growing more quickly than anticipated. In general, display advertising is growing more quickly, thanks to increased demand for mobile ads. Advertisers are becoming more adept at using real time buying systems, attracted to the cost effectiveness and increased targeting capabilities. Meanwhile, as mobile usage continues to expand, publishers are releasing more inventory to the programmatic buying platforms. More buyers, more inventory, more revenue. 

Meanwhile Triton Digital continues to announce enhancements to their programmatic exchange for streaming audio advertising, a2x. They recently announced a partnership with Lotame to integrate its unifying data management platform (DMP) into a2x, enabling a2x publishers such as Entercom, CBS, and Univision to to collect, understand and activate audience data from any source, including online, offline and mobile.

Essentially, Triton’s a2x platform is enabling publishers to transform their largely unidentifyable inventory and transform it into units that can be targeted and sold as targetable inventory in a real time buying platform. As advertisers and their agencies become more and more interested in platforms that offer greater flexibility in targeting and real time pricing, publishers are wise to have these options in their arsenal. However, as AdAge was quick to note in this article, it’s also smart business to complement this selling strategy with one that offers custom and sponsored ads that net a higher rate.

Last week CBS Radio introduced Audio Ad Center, a self-serve platform that enables small businesses to promote and target their products and services to their online and mobile radio listeners with customized messaging and creative copy. Small business owners can visit the website to purchase ads to run on any of the online CBS Radio stations. ”Streaming audio is a very effective form of advertising and does not have to be limited to the companies with the biggest budgets,” CBS Local Media president Ezra Kucharz added. “With AUDIO ADCENTER, business owners can align themselves with the most trusted radio brands with millions of listeners between them to choose from.”

Innovative online platforms that enable advertisers to easily purchase, track and manage their ad inventory. These are the components that will drive more revenue to streaming audio platforms.

Assault on home radio continues with Sonos Play:1

Monday, October 14, 2013 - 11:25am

It has been a roiling 7 days in the Internet-enabled home speaker category. Nearly simultaneous with the launches of Samsung Shape (RAIN coverage here) and the Bose SoundTouch (RAIN coverage here), legacy WiFi-speaker company Sonos releases a low-cost addition to its lineup, the Play:1. Well, relatively low-cost. WiFi speakers comprise a premium, pricey category of consumer electronics.

Sonos is marketing the Play:1 is “Mini but Mighty.” At $199 per speaker, another tagline could be, “Economical yet Expensive.” While these app-controlled devices open up a gateway between the user’s music collection and home spaces, thereby encroaching on radio-owned territory, the price differential between the two reception technologies is daunting. The Bose SoundTouch ranges from $400 to $700 per speaker (each speaker provides mono audio in one room), and the higher-end Play:5 from Sonos is priced at $400 on Amazon. Clearly, there is a vast expanse of downside pricing to be explored, and the Play:1 is reaching into that market. 

Does it reach far enough to attract new buyers? Time will tell. Anyone considering a Play:5 or SoundTouch, but hasn’t yet pulled the trigger, might be pushed over the edge by the alluring possibility of wiring up two rooms for the same price. And there is this: when you consider the cost reduction implicit in moving from the purchased-music model of ownership to the accessed-music model, the presumed savings from unbought CDs can be transferred into wireless home audio for streaming music.

RAIN does not particularly advocate for WiFi speakers. But their very existence, and traction in the high-end market, is an indicator of how streaming audio is rewriting the personal economics of music consumption.

Bose SoundTouch joins the radio-replacement movement

Friday, October 11, 2013 - 11:45am

Mere days after Samsung launched its Wave WiFi-controlled speaker system (RAIN coverage here), with Pandora and TuneIn onboard as presets, Bose brings to market a similar product -- but with differentiating features that more clearly position it, and the category, as a proposed replacement of home radio. (Sonos is another player in this field.) 

Like competitors, Bose SoundTouch latches onto the home WiFi connection, is operated by a smartphone or tablet app, and can be controlled to send one stream to all rooms, or program rooms separately, and features built-in options -- Pandora in this case, plus radio webcasts.

This basic package defines an aspiration to redefine “home radio” as an IP-delivered stream of Internet programming, mixed with private music collections. In other words, these devices perform like a musically well-equipped computer or smartphone, pulling from clouds and file folders with equanimity.

Bose accentuates its emulation of radio by putting push-buttons atop each speaker, matching the six presets provided by the mobile app. When you assign those presets in your smartphone, you can activate them by pushing the hard button. In this clever way, SoundTouch can become a Pandora radio receiver that brings a comforting familiarity to users who enjoy Internet radio’s customizable listening, but dislike the finicky finger-on-glass mode of turning on some music.

Each SoundTouch speaker is priced at -- wait, sit down before we tell you, especially if you have a big house and want to put music in several rooms -- 700 dollars. Take heart, though: you can opt for a scaled-down version (less impressive sound) for [gulp] only $400. Hey, if the U.S. government can’t solve its fiscal problems, you shouldn’t worry about yours.


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