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Emmis, Industry Preps for FM in Cellphones

SVP/CTO Paul Brenner: “We have to build a road map that’s compelling”

What can we do to prepare for a nationwide launch of FM in smartphones?

That’s the premise of a webinar Emmis gave Wednesday afternoon on the NextRadio app the broadcaster is working on to enable radio listening on some smartphone models Sprint plans to introduce this year.

Emmis SVP/CTO Paul Brenner emphasized this is an industry effort, not just an Emmis project, mentioning NAB and at least one radio group in particular. “We are trying to create an ecosystem for broad adoption” of FM in cellphones, he said. That means with other carriers eventually, too.

He emphasized the 2013 date of a consumer having a smartphone in their hand that can receive FM is a goal and a lot of things need to happen between now and launch.

Defining the market is one thing that needs to happen. The RAB, and radio groups like Hubbard and Cromwell, for example, are involved in getting stations to pledge ad inventory towards the effort. Emmis has estimated each station would need to contribute something like $10,000 each for three years to fulfill the $15 million contract with Sprint.

Between now and July, Emmis would like to get a list of stations “activated” in the FM network for launch. In a demo, Emmis showed how all stations in a market would be listed on the NextRadio app in the phone, even those not using Emmis TagStation or even the NextRadio app. Emmis is urging all stations to sign up for at least the free version of the app, so a station logo can be used. Emmis needs permission to use stations logos, otherwise, just a station’s calls would be visible.

Acknowledging there’s been pushback on the concept of listening to FM on a phone, Brenner said, “We have to build a road map that’s compelling — a pipeline that makes people want to tune into this.”

And that way, stations can, theoretically, make money by selling higher-priced mobile ads.