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Clear Channel Has Big Plans for Vegas & iHeartRadio

Broadcaster plans enormous concert for relaunch of its Internet effort

Clear Channel humbly describes it as “the biggest event in radio history.”

It’s a two-day gig, the iHeartRadio Music Festival, set for Las Vegas, Sept. 23–24, and featuring seemingly everyone from Lady Gaga to Rascal Flatts to Usher to Sting to JLo to the Black Eyed Peas; all aimed at making a huge splash in the personalized radio pool with a relaunch of the iHeartRadio website — and maybe getting Pandora a bit wet in the process.

The iHeartRadio operation is being expanded to include more “personalized content” options — widely seen as Clear Channel’s response to the Pandora challenge — as well as more emphasis on mobile outlets.

This move is likely to be watched in business circles as traditional radio’s most notable response to customized online “radio” content. But Clear Channel Radio Chairman of Media and Entertainment Platforms Bob Pittman said the event “underscores Clear Channel’s transformation to a dynamic integrated media and entertainment company with an unmatched reach in the U.S. … The new iHeartRadio will offer users a much broader, more integrated and customized digital listening experience than any other service available — and it’s all in one product.” 

Concerning the improved capabilities of iHeartRadio, a release hinted at “the ability to create custom stations with even more songs, more control than the leading custom radio station services and with no commercials through the end of the year, offering listeners everything they want digitally in one fully integrated service — free.”

Clear Channel makes the mobile app for iHeartRadio available on platforms like the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, Windows Phone 7, BlackBerry and the HP TouchPad.

The company is staking a lot on this, with one spokesperson calling it as “a pivotal moment for the company as it transforms from a broadcast radio company to a fully-realized, integrated media and entertainment company.” But it also emphasized that digital offerings are “additive” to its terrestrial radio biz, “not a threat.”

It’s not just iHeartRadio that will be tested come September; it’s also Clear Channel’s overall promotional reach. The company says this festival “is something only Clear Channel could accomplish.” It is pulling out many stops in promotion. Clear Channel Radio President and CEO John Hogan said the company has started “the biggest national promotion in radio history … All 850 Clear Channel radio stations, spanning diverse music formats, introduced millions of listeners across the country to this historic music event. The majority of our stations will also feature exclusive radio and digital content including exclusive artist interviews and ticket giveaways.”

Ryan Seacrest will host the event, to be held at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Pittman said Clear Channel will be measuring the online audience of the festival.