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Emmis: FM on Cellphones ‘Opens Up a New Advertising Category’

Broadcaster would like to see its app in other carriers’ devices as well

We’re learning more about Emmis Communication’s FM chip deal with Sprint.

The telecom company has agreed to activate an FM analog tuner in a total of some 30 million smartphones over the next three years.

That’s according to Emmis SVP and Treasurer Ryan Hornaday.

Speaking to the Nobel Financial Conference in Florida on Tuesday, Hornaday said the Emmis NextRadio app will be preloaded on the devices thus allowing cellphone users “to hear over-the-air radio without data charges.”

The richer user experience “opens up a new advertising category for us,” he said, speaking to the coming quality of “enhanced advertising.”

“We can deliver unique advertisements that you can see at the same time you hear the audio,” Hornaday said, referring to the user’s ability to see album art and playlists on their device using the NextRadio app. He described it as location-based advertising that can include coupons or QR codes, for example.

The NextRadio app would work in conjunction with the Emmis’ TagStation middleware, a program that resides between a station’s studios and its transmitter. “Through TagStation we know what content is being played,” including the songs and ads. Using the TagStation software, which a station would license, the audio feed is synched with visual elements.

He described the NextRadio app as a “revenue share product.”

“We’re paid based on the advertising.” Emmis would receive a portion of the ad revenue that airs on the phone to cover the cost of developing the product, Hornaday said, adding the company hopes to rollout product this summer.

RW has heard the radio broadcaster is in talks with other carriers.

Hornaday said Emmis would love to have the app on the same platform with other telecom carriers like AT&T and Verizon.

The Emmis executive also updated equity conference attendees on the broadcaster’s overseas properties. Emmis is looking to monetize its radio network in Slovakia. The company gains a tax benefit if it sells and is in talks with a potential buyer, Hornaday said.

Emmis is hopeful it will eventually prevail in its litigation over its former Hungary station. Emmis owned the facility for 12 years and when it turned over the license for another renewal in 2009, “the government improperly awarded it to another bidder,” according to the executive.

Emmis prevailed twice in lawsuits but the Hungarian parliament rewrote the law so the broadcaster didn’t receive any damages, he said. Now, Emmis has a claim pending in the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, an international arbitration body that helps to settle legal disputes between international investors. The company believes settlement of the claim will result in meaningful damages being awarded to Emmis, according to Hornaday.