cumulus radio

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.

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