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More Work Lies Ahead Now That Sprint Deal Is Public

App development, plus radio needs to prove to carriers there’s ROI for FM chips in devices

Emmis Communications SVP/CTO Paul Brenner says Sprint’s announcement that the wireless carrier intends to make putting FM analog chips in some of its phones a priority later this year is only the beginning of the work that lies ahead.

Now Emmis needs to develop its previously-announced NextRadio app. The goal is to make that app work in several iterations of Sprint Android and Windows phones, (not iPhone).

“We’ve turned a dirt road into a gravel road,” he told Radio World as he demoed the app in the iBiquity Digital booth at International CES, meaning now Emmis needs to build a network of stations that have consistent content and have their “look” on a device be consistent as well.

Serious negotiations on the FM chip took some six months to a year, involved radio executives told Radio World. Neither Emmis nor Sprint are discussing the financial details.

Readers will recall that Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan this fall proposed incentivizing the carriers in order to persuade them to either integrate and FM chip or activate existing chips in their mobile devices. Suffice to say a deal has been reached “that is acceptable to everyone,” said one knowledgeable source. Presumably that means the carriers get a slice of whatever advertising or other revenue a radio station would make on the app and prove to the handset makers and carriers in general there’s a market for that.

“We’re thrilled,” said iBiquity Digital President/CEO Bob Struble in response to the FM chip news, noting that if stations can demo the case for putting FM analog chips in phones “it makes our task easier,” meaning making the case to eventually step up to HD chips.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski was pleased, stating “the ability to receive FM broadcasts on mobile phones can give American consumers another way to access critical information during emergencies.”

Sprint Says Yes to FM Chip in Smartphones