As TuneIn Continues Subscription Push; Where Does AM/FM Go?
TuneIn, the one time aggregator that built its brand on the backs off making it easy to find streams for broadcast radio before putting its growth behind premium subscription content, has raised $50 million to continue its investment in building a subscription based competitor to SiriusXM.
Bloomberg reports that “TuneIn will use the money to pay for rights to live sporting events and original programming like podcasts and music shows, which will help the company sign up more customers for a two-year-old subscription service.” Among the content currently included in the $9.99 per month TuneIn Radio Pro are Sports play-by-play and exclusive talk shows for MLB, NFL, NHL, Premiere League and Bundesliga, Audiobooks, language learning, and commercial-free music streams.
The TuneIn app has also been the go-to for many broadcast radio operators to direct listeners to a hassle-free mobile stream. With the exception of stations owned by Cumulus, iHeartMedia (both exclusively on the IHeartRadio app) and Townsquare Media (on their RadioPup app) nearly every other broadcast radio stream and many webcasters rely on TuneIn to be heard on mobile devices and on automotive dashboards. As that company pivots to content that they own the radio industry is left providing content to a platform that is using them to drive listeners away from broadcast radio.
In many nations broadcasters have pooled together to create platforms such as RadioPlayer under the philosophy of “sharing technology and competing on content“. That is far from the case here as iHeartRadio’s closed system (which also is attempting to turn listeners into subscribers) and the likes of TuneIn, RadioPup, Scripps’ RadioLeague, and CBS Radio’s Radio.com all create walled gardens within their platforms.
The biggest hope for the American radio industry to take care of supporting itself in the digital future is the Emmis led NextRadio. The app, built to create a tuner for smartphones with access to the FM chip, recently pivoted to streaming in order to get its platform onto Apple devices. However due to holdouts from the likes of iHeartMedia and Townsquare that prefer users to stay in their walled gardens and the fact that NextRadio only some AM stations that simulcast on HD Radio subchannels leave the majority of stations off the platform.
If NextRadio was opened up to every AM/FM/HD broadcaster using streaming where the over-the-air signal was unavailable, the digital platforms and sales tools it has built into its apps and the relationships it has built in the tech and automotive industries would give broadcast radio the push it needs to be on a level playing field in the digital age. The app has now proven it doesn’t need the FM chip on every device as it is now using streaming as a fallback. They can even go one step further and add access to on-demand audio and podcasts created by broadcast radio operators to keep them within the radio ecosystem.
Regardless the broadcast radio industry needs to work together to create a platform where the radio industry comes first and not tech companies using radio content to further their financial goals with little in return coming to radio and much more to be lost.