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The Battle Lines For Phone Space

Lance's Line RadioInsight Blog

NextRadio Emmis FM Chip App TagStationFM tuner or streaming? The radio industry had taken a united front when it comes trying to get the FM chip and Emmis’ Nextradio App into all smartphones, but are there chips forming in that armor?

NAB President Gordon Smith sent a letter to members asking them to air free spots for the app starting on February 23rd as Nextradio begins a new campaign to get more carriers to activate the FM receiver in their phones either by their own fruition or government intervention. The campaign spotlights the FreeRadioOnMyPhone.org site that is run in partnership by the NAB, NPR, American Public Media, EMF Broadcasting, and Nextradio.

With the industry previously taking the united front to promote Nextradio, it was quite a shock to see the big banner at the top of iHeartRadio.com this morning.

iHeart iHeartRadio NextRadio Radio Phone

To see iHeart promoting its app is nothing new, as the entire company renamed itself to do such. In the past they’ve run the Nextradio spots and showed a united front with the NAB to get the chip marketed, albeit while ensuring their app and streaming business stay out front. Normally the iHeart homepage spotlights a specific stream for logged in users and not just the app in general.

We know how Emmis’ Jeff Smulyan feels about streaming versus the FM chip. At a conference yesterday he stated that the company lost $400,000 in streaming Urban “Hot 97” WQHT New York despite being the most listened to station on the TuneIn app. Is that all going to be rectified by activating a chip? Listeners have been programmed over the past few years by stations and online platforms like Pandora to look towards streaming to access “radio” content on their phones. Attempting to retrain the audience while larger platforms continue to grow streaming to levels most on-air broadcasters have been unable to is going to continue to be the biggest battle Nextradio fights. The odds are already piling up as Apple grows in the streaming space, but if the largest radio station operator is realizing that streaming is where the audience is how do the rest of the radio groups not following along?

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Lance Venta is the Owner and Publisher of RadioInsight.com and a consultant for RadioBB Networks specializing in integration of radio and the internet. Lance has two decades of experience tracking the audio industry and its use of digital platforms.

1 Comment

  1. Profile photo of tdotoutlayer


    The problem with streaming audio is that the business models of many wireless carriers (especially in Canada) have not even come close to catching up with the times. In most cases, streaming audio through the cellular network counts towards data usage which generally speaking, costs an arm and a leg, especially in Canada where the landscape of wireless carriers is particularly anti-competitive.

    In my opinion, if a phone is equipped with an FM chip, it should be the end-user’s legal right to activate it through a user-friendly GUI either on the device itself and/or software loaded up on a PC. No questions asked. An FM receiver chip which is sensitive, selective and robust with multipath-reduction circuitry and HD Radio capability is a good part of what the industry needs to get the concept of “radio on the go” back on track.

    There’s also the issue of public safety. In the aftermath of the Greater Toronto floods of July 2013, due to a widespread lack of electricity, much of the cellular network used by all service providers available in the GTA went offline due to a lack of electricity and backup power at most cellular tower sites that in turn caused overloading traffic to be directed to the ones that did have backup power (if they were even in range). At the same time, I had no problem getting all but a couple of of the local AM and FM stations that had gone off the air clear as glass on my portable radios.

    How can the authorities in their right minds deny people who may not happen to have a battery-operated radio at hand access to this life saving resource? Hurricane Irene and Sandy anyone?

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