“My number one
goal for 2014 is to get broadcasters to put more content into the
app” — to invest in the NextRadio application beyond its free
logo so more listeners can experience its interactive features.
Brenner, left, of Emmis and NextRadio talks with Bob Struble of
iBiquity Digital at CES. Emmis, Intel and iBiquity worked on the
original app at the behest of NAB Labs.
Photo by Leslie Stimson
So says Emmis
Communications Senior Vice President/Chief Technology Officer Paul
Brenner, president of the Emmis-backed NextRadio app business. He
says user data show that consumer adoption can increase if more
stations support interactive features.
The app provides
local over-the-air reception on smartphones with enabled FM chips;
the headset or speaker wire serves as the receive antenna. It adds
interactive features, when stations support them, such as song
purchase, song rating, social media coupons and geo-location
services, all using the phone’s data channel.
Sprint has pledged
to embed and activate FM analog tuners in about 30 million devices
over three years. In exchange, the radio industry pledged $15 million
worth of on-air ad inventory in each of the three years. Sprint also
gets 30 percent of revenue from ads on the app, as we’ve reported.
The carrier told RW
that as of early February, 11 models were available at retail that
either come pre-loaded with, or can support, the NextRadio app.
Those are Samsung’s
Galaxy Note 3, Galaxy S4 Mini and Galaxy Mega; LG’s G2 and G Flex;
HTC’s Desire (VMU), One, One Max and EVO 4G LTE; and the Motorola G
and ZTE Max, both from Boost Mobile, a division of Sprint.
Sprint also want more stations to support the interactive features;
they want the display and user experience to be as consistent as
possible with those of digital audio offerings like Pandora, iTunes
and other platforms.
Some 3,064 stations,
up from 2,700 in the fall, are represented visually in NextRadio
through the TagStation content service.
Of that figure,
about 2,750 are using the basic, free level of integration; they
uploaded logos to display default artwork in the app. The rest,
around 300 stations owned by 22 radio groups, have paid to use
TagStation to deliver album art and other interactive elements. Emmis
owns 18 of those stations.
Some of these groups
are delivering full data capability on all of their FMs, others are
starting with some stations and plan to add interactivity to all of
their stations over time, as we’ve reported.
The setup fee is
$400 per station; then a monthly $35 fee covers album art, content
management and TagStation serving content out to the NextRadio
application. Emmis prefers to bills the latter annually at $420.
New since last fall
are Bryan Broadcasting Corp., One Connection Media Group and Schurz
supporting advanced capabilities, in addition to Emmis, are Beasley
Broadcast Group, Bonneville, Bott Radio Network, Carter Broadcast
Group, CBS Radio, Cox Media, Cromwell Group, Entercom, Greater Media,
Hall Communications Inc., Hubbard Radio, Lincoln Financial Media,
Radio One, Radio Training Network Inc., Rome Radio Partners,
Univision, Wilks Broadcast Group and YMF Media LLC.
While that list
includes notable big groups, some of the largest radio companies,
including Clear Channel and Cumulus, have yet to participate beyond
President/CEO Bruce Reese told RW that the app “makes us look like
the other digital” offerings, like Pandora or other customized
streamed content. Also, the interactivity “gives us a digital
To make it easier
for stations to offer interactivity, Emmis has developed a software
app called Slingshot, for those that want to use it. The broadcaster
says it will make TagStation, which drives data to the NextRadio app,
easier for stations to use; Slingshot is “middleware” that
connects a station’s automation system to TagStation.
Emmis has partnered
with automation and middleware providers to make sure playout systems
at stations can be used to deliver data through TagStation to
NextRadio. Partners so far include TRE, PADapult, Center Stage Live,
Jumpgate and Wide Orbit Automation for Radio.
systems are not in place, Emmis said it’s working with stations to
make sure additional purchases aren’t necessary to get started by
providing the specialized middleware link. Emmis says Slingshot works
with current playout systems and is included, if needed, with a
connects a station’s automation system to TagStation.
Emmis is still in
discussions with wireless carriers beyond Sprint about embedding and
activating FM chips in cellphones. The broadcaster also sees the
“connected car” as a possible growth area, so it has developed a
prototype auto companion app, aided by funding from NAB Labs. A
driver could thus experience the enhanced FM experience by NextRadio,
either via smartphone or directly with an infotainment system.
Whereas a smartphone
user who wants to listen to FM via NextRadio might have to pause
another audio app and plug in the earbud antenna, a driver using
NextRadio via the car would face no such obstacles.
going to add on this experience that lets them interact with the
local station they’re tuned to,” Brenner said. “We’re
enhancing learned behavior as opposed to changing
integrates HD Radio technology and IP-delivered services using
the Ford Applink and OpenXC, the open development environment for app
integration with a vehicle.
Using the auto app,
the listener would hear audio through the FM analog or HD Radio car
stereo. Paired with a smartphone, the app can deliver synchronized
visuals to the car audio system; the driver controls the interactive
elements using the steering wheel buttons. The app acts as a
backchannel and sends commands back to TagStation.
according to Brenner: “All visuals are in the car, using embedded
NextRadio, with either the car’s integrated cellular modem sending
commands back to TagStation or through the paired phone (using the
customer’s own data plan) back to TagStation.”
In short, a driver
could listen to the radio without having to program anything, and
could interact with the radio using the steering wheel buttons, while
also getting NextRadio’s interactive benefits. “You’re not
having to reach for the phone or look at that screen,” said
Brenner. Other automakers, including GM, Honda and Toyota, have
approached Emmis about the concept.
The auto app concept
helps automakers with the issue of driver distraction caused by more
advanced visual systems, according to Brenner.
Brenner’s aim is
to help connect the driver to the device while controlling the car
and not having to look at a phone all the time. “I think that’s
what 2014 is — the connected car gives way to the connected
driver.” NextRadio fits well into what carmakers are trying to
achieve, according to Brenner.
automakers and NextRadio go further with the auto companion app
development, each automaker would need to approve a version of the
app for their connectivity system, like Ford Sync or Toyota Entune.
Each automaker would then provide that app in its own app store.
“They would ship a car with our app in the dash,” said Brenner,
who adds there remains a lot of work to be done on this front.