The Battle Lines For Phone Space
FM 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.
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?