Veteran broadcast sales exec reportedly departing for iTunes Radio

Monday, December 2, 2013 - 12:15pm

Tom Taylor’s NOW newsletter reports that Mike Pallad, EVP of Sales at Cumulus Media, is leaving Cumulus for iTunes Radio. Taylor’s blurb cites an internal call to Cumulus managers. As of this writing there is no official announcement or press release, but a RAIN source affirms the news.

Mike Pallad is deeply groomed and accomplished in broadcast, and his reported move to Apple, a giant tech company with a music outlet, is an indication of of the substance, seriousness, and scale of the advertising efforts at the major pureplays.

Pallad’s resume tells a story of executive ascension at Cumulus, Citadel Broadcasting before that, the Katz Media Group, and Emmis Communications. He has held positions ranging from sales manager of WQCD-FM (a New York smooth jazz station), to regional sales management, to head of all sales at Cumulus.

RAIN Weekend Perspective

Friday, October 4, 2013 - 10:30am

RAIN’s Weekend Perspective reviews the week's main events, and refreshes your synapses for next week.

The week started with a legislative bang when Rep. Melvin Watt introduced the Free Market Royalty Act in Congress. (Just in time for a general governmental shutdown.) The bill has two main planks: first, to withdraw the terrestrial radio exemption from paying artist and label royalties, and second, to remove the government from its traditional role as arbiter of royalty rates. RAIN interviewed attorney and consultant David Oxenford. Today, Oxenford posts a comprehensive analysis of the bill on his Broadcast Law Blog.


On the metrics front, important measurements arrived from Triton Digital and Pandora.

Triton’s Top-20 Web Metrics Ranker for August revealed broad, if incremental, webcast gains across broadcast streams and pureplays measured in the report.

Meanwhile, Pandora (which is included in the Triton report) released its own monthly Audience Metrics report for September, announcing substantial year-over-year gains in active listeners, listening hours, and share of all U.S. radio listening. Small month-over-month gains were reported as well. September was the first month in which Pandora and iTunes Radio operated concurrently, a competition undergoing much scrutiny. The results of that half-month of activity bolsters Pandora’s claim that Apple’s new service does not pose a dangerous threat to Pandora’s audience growth or retention. But, of course, it’s early days.


A few business development scenarios enlivened the week. First, and most significantly, Rdio augmented its service model by introducing free, unlimited Internet radio-style streaming to its mobile apps, which previous allowed only a 14-day trial before asking customers to subscribe for ongoing listening. The new feature, called Stations, is ad-supported, thanks to Cumulus Radio repping Rdio’s inventory as part of the recently completed deal between the two companies. Rdio and Cumulus wasted no time putting their alliance into action. 

Songza linked arms with FourSquare, inviting users of the lean-back streaming service to check in at select FourSquare locations to receive Songza rewards -- including six months of free premium service in some cases.

Clear Channel-owned iHeartRadio moved to flesh out the Talk section of its radio aggregation platform, snagging rights to distribute certain Turner Broadcasting content. The new shows and clips will help balance an already strong ABC presence in iHeart Talk.


Rdio switches on “Stations,” pivoting on Cumulus deal

Thursday, October 3, 2013 - 1:05pm

That didn’t take long. Today, just 12 business days after announcing a partnership with Cumulus Radio, Rdio introduces a major service change by releasing a free, unlimited version of its Internet radio capability to Android and iOS mobile devices, and rebranding it “Stations.” As with similar offerings in Spotify (Rdio’s most direct competitor), Pandora and iTunes Radio, the Stations experience is ad-supported, or will be. At launch, mobile listeners will get an ad-free experience; desktop customers will see and/or hear commercials.

The announcement signifies quick progression of the quasi-acquisitional BizDev arrangement between Rdio and Cumulus, which includes handing over Rdio’s ad inventory to the Cumulus sales force. With Cumulus resources, Rdio adds an advertising component to its revenue model.

Pre-Cumulus, Rdio offered Internet-radio style listening as part of its paid subscription package in the mobile app -- new mobile users were granted a 14-day free trial. If the user canceled, the free version of Rdio’s mobile app became useless and Rdio lost a mobile customer. Desktop users got a better deal, with six months of test driving the subscription package, followed by a reversion to radio-style listening via a computer.

Rolling out uncapped listening in mobile brings Rdio to parity with its competitors. That’s an arguably overdue piece of positioning, and reflects back on the importance of the Cumulus partnership. Rdio is now a full-bore freemium service, with a feature set that traces a standard outline found in Spotify and iTunes Radio. Rdio’s business will continue to have a subscription side -- users may opt to dish out for accessing interactive features like on-demand listening and downloading.

The standardization of this model illuminates a crowded field. Internet radio enterprises are committed to a matrix of interlocking forces: scale, time, marketplace migration, and customer churn. The marketplace is widening over time, as new listeners either migrate from AM/FM or add Internet listening to new day parts. New services like iTunes Radio attract attention and attempt to steal share from competitors. Given the cost of content and delivery, music streaming is a difficult business from a direct-revenue standpoint.

With all this it is easy to imagine consolidation in the future, with two or three major players dominating the space. Leading up to upcoming moments of truth, platforms like Rdio are developing at a rapid pace to retain and grow their audiences.

Cumulus CEO briefs employees on details of Rdio partnership

Tuesday, September 17, 2013 - 12:00pm

In a memo to Cumulus employees, CEO Lew Dickey commented today on yesterday's announced deal with music service Rdio, more specifically revealing the Rdio features that Cumulus will likely make available to listeners.

The broadcaster announced yesterday it has acquired a "significant" ownership stake in the music subscription service, which has been struggling to gain the visibility of competitors like Spotify. Rdio will represent Cumulus' primary digital strategy.

Dickey confirmed Cumulus programmers will be tasked with "refining the technology" that Rdio uses to create its "custom radio" services (the Pandora-like feature that allows listeners to create their own streaming experiences based on the artists and songs they like best). Dickey very explicitly stresses "this is not radio," and takes a little poke at Pandora for selling this "feature" as "radio."

He also revealed Rdio functionality will be used to create nationally-focused audio content (Cumulus recently acquired radio network Westwood One-Dial Global). "The Rdio partnership will allow us convert this valuable programming into new digital audio products," he wrote. "Cumulus will draw upon our stable of iconic brands, content and talent to produce new, exclusive channels and short-form programs that give listeners an unparalleled listening experience on a single digital platform." Dickey said Cumulus local radio streams will remain on Clear Channel's iHeartRadio for the time being, and while there's no plan yet to incorporate them into Rdio, that may indeed change.

Dickey mentioned Rdio's core offering -- its on-demand streaming feature -- but didn't explicitly describe if or how Cumulus would leverage this feature.

He told employees: "Partnering with Rdio, we are now able to meet the full range of audio needs for listeners nationwide and begin to export our content and brands worldwide. This strategic alignment uniquely positions us to compete aggressively against all digital audio services for the benefit of our entire platform."

Relatedly, outgoing Rdio CEO Drew Larner told GigaOm's Janko Roettgers that Rdio plans to bundle its streaming movie and TV service Vdio with Rdio's streaming music for a global subscription offering (read more here).

News source Radio Ink acquired a copy of the Dickey memo, and has published it here. See yesterday's coverage of the Cumulus/Rdio deal here.

Cumulus acquires stake in Rdio, will launch free, ad-supported music service

Monday, September 16, 2013 - 10:55am

Major broadcast radio group Cumulus and online subscription streaming service Rdio have forged a deal that gives Cumulus a significant online outlet, and not only affords Rdio access to the broadcaster's music programming, but allows it to launch a free, ad-supported service in the U.S.

Cumulus will sell ad inventory for the free service. The new service will likely feature a combination of Internet radio and on-demand listening.

No cash changes hands in the new deal. According to a press statement, "Cumulus will obtain a significant equity stake in Pulser Media, Rdio's parent company, in exchange for exclusive content, media and on-air promotional commitments over a five year period."

"This is our digital play," Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey told The New York Times in a joint interview Friday with Rdio chief Drew Larner.

Cumulus operates 525 AM and FM stations. Cumulus station streams are available on Clear Channel's iHeartRadio platform.

Dickey told the paper, "We’re trying to be much more active in the audio ecosystem than just passively handing our streams over. That has severe limitations in terms of our ability to monetize."

Rdio launched in 2010 by Janus Friis, the co-creator of Skype. It's available in 31 countries. Its most direct competitors are services like Spotify, Google Music All Access, Rhapsody, and Mog.

The New York Times has more here.

SoundExchange opens audits on Cumulus, Saga streaming music use

Friday, June 7, 2013 - 10:50am

SoundExchange, the recording industry body that administers royalties for digital uses of copyright sound recording (like webcasting and satellite radio) has reportedly begun auditing broadcast groups Cumulus Media and Saga Communications.

Broadcasters aren't mandated to pay royalties for their "on-air" use of sound recordings, but do become SoundExchange customers when they stream.

Inside Radio reports SoundExchange is "policing station logs to ensure broadcasters are paying what they should in streaming royalties," and that Beasley and Greater Media have already been under SoundExchange's microscope. SoundExchange will need to pay for the audits unless they find a licensee underpaying by 10% or more.

Industry groups that administer composition and publishing rights, ASCAP, BMI, and Sesac, conduct similar audits.

Inside Radio says SoundExchange is using an outside firm to conduct the audits. Read more here.

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