There's lots to consider before associating your company's radio streams with a competitor's product

Friday, August 10, 2012 - 11:30am

"They haven't really asked me," explains Saga Communications CEO Ed Christian when asked why Saga's streams aren't available on Clear Channel's iHeartRadio.

He does take issue with the presentation of stations on iHeartRadio, though. For example, in using iHeartRadio Christian found "300 to 400 choices in country," reports Radio-Info. "I’m just kind of overwhelmed; I don’t know where to look" (a sentiment echoed in a recent New York Times piece on iHeartRadio and rival aggregator TuneIn, in RAIN here). That said, if iHeartRadio was interested in working with Saga, "I'd have to look at the economics of it. We're small in terms of what they're looking at."

Clear Channel's iHeartRadio platform has established itself as the clear leader among broadcaster-owned digital platforms (and truly in the same league with TuneIn and Pandora), far outpacing the performance of competitors like CBS Radio's IHeartRadio's leader position is so strong that companies that would normally consider Clear Channel a competitive rival -- groups like Cox, Emmis, Greater Media, Salem, and others -- have entered partnerships to have their streams included in the iHeartRadio platform. Obviously, the decision to enter a content deal that drives audience to a digital platform owned by a competitor can give one pause. Especially if the deal prohibits a broadcaster from making its streams available in other directories.

"According to several broadcasters, Clear Channel has been aggressive in pushing for exclusivity," The Times wrote, "offering in exchange greater promotion and visibility within the app. But most broadcasters have resisted. Aside from its first few big deals, none...have been exclusive. One reason...was uneasiness on the part of broadcasters about joining a platform run by the biggest player in the market."

But you can apparently count Cumulus as a satisfied iHeartRadio partner. Chairman/CEO Lew Dickey says, "We've already seen a meaningful increase in streaming" (since his company's streams were added to the platform in December). As Tom Taylor in Radio-Info reports, Dickey thinks streaming revenue could eventually contribute 5% to his company's bottom line.

Meanwhile, Entercom, like Saga, is not streaming on the Clear Channel-owned digital platform. "Sharing our content is a good thing, if the business arrangement makes sense," said Entercom CEO David Field told The New York Times (RAIN coverage here).

You can find Ed Chrisitan's comments in Radio-Info here, and Lew Dickey's here. Read more in The New York Times here.

Jacobs suggests judging new tech simply on its ROI is short-sighted

Thursday, June 21, 2012 - 12:05pm

Last week radio broadcast group Saga Communications announced that it would be cutting back on online streaming, turning off Internet access to its stations in markets outside the Top 100, and place geographic limits on its big market streams so only local listeners can tune in. Saga (and they're not the only radio owner) simply isn't seeing the return-on-investment for the money it spends in bandwidth and royalties (RAIN's coverage is here).

Veteran radio consultant Fred Jacobs suggests that broadcasters need to look at technology investments as the "price of admission" for competing in a new media world -- and not judge their value simply on whether these efforts are "revenue positive."

"We continue to have this conversation in radio about the ROI of streaming -– to the industry’s detriment," Jacobs wrote in his Jacoblog. "There are some activities that inherently generate revenue while contributing to the brand. There are other endeavors and investments that simply aren’t going to make money -– at least in the near term. Not every strategy and tactic pays off in dollars."

Jacobs reminds radio that Pandora's strategy, from Day One, has been to be "everywhere." Pandora's efforts -- with apps for every significant mobile device, Blu-ray and DVR units; partnerships with automakers, game consoles, and subscription TV services -- clearly reflect that. And while the broadcast industry has its own "Radio heard here" strategy, groups that judge the value of streaming (and Facebook, and mobile apps, and social media) strictly based on cash-flow are not sticking to the game plan.

"In our new media world, every time there’s an article about how another radio owner or operator isn’t going to stream, is ridding itself of more local talent, or cutting back on investment in content, I have to believe that financial analysts, investors, and yes, broadcast radio’s competition just shakes its head," concludes Jacobs.

Read Jacobs' Jacoblog here.

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