It’s like getting coal in your stocking. That’s probably how 35 employees of NextRadio and TagStation feel right about now. Radio World has confirmed that’s the number of employees terminated from those businesses as operations begin to wind down.
We reported in October that the ambitious initiative to place FM chips inside smartphones, spearheaded by Emmis Communications, was coming to an end unless it received a large infusion of cash from the radio industry. Emmis Chairman and CEO Jeff Smulyan said on the company’s quarterly earnings call that month that Emmis was “unwilling and unable” to continue funding the NextRadio and TagStation businesses.
Now we know Smulyan was serious. He detailed the cuts in personnel and services in a press release on Wednesday: “After exploring several alternatives, we have made the difficult decision to dramatically reduce the scope and scale of our operations, which includes the termination of 35 employees of these businesses. NextRadio and TagStation employees that were separated were given generous severance packages.”
An Emmis spokesperson told Radio World that NextRadio President Paul Brenner remains with the company.
NextRadio, developed by TagStation LLC and owned by Emmis, has been a celebrated cause for Smulyan, but financial support from the other major radio broadcast groups has been dwindling, according to periodic Emmis financial disclosures. TagStation is a cloud-based software platform that allows stations to manage album art, metadata and enhanced advertising on various devices.
Smulyan continued, “NextRadio and TagStation are efforts that I and many others championed and spent enormous energy supporting. We believed in the success of these businesses. To come to this day is a difficult one, not just for the employees directly impacted, but for Emmis and the radio industry.
Today began that dramatic reduction to the scope and scale of operations of TagStation, according to a customer notification sent by email to radio stations on Wednesday.
“From now on TagStation will only support free logo services to NextRadio and certain other distribution points.
Station-specific content such as album art, on-air related images and other metadata that were previously used for PAD-related broadcasting will no longer be available through TagStation cloud services,’ the company said.
The email concluded, “We will provide certain product support and maintenance for the foreseeable future.”
Despite hopes to eventually monetize the “hybrid radio” app, Emmis disclosed in its most recent filing with the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission that operating losses from its related NextRadio businesses totaled $7.6 million over the past 12 months ending Aug. 31, 2018.
Radio World plans an extensive look at the failure of NextRadio with industry reaction to the news and the technical implications facing radio stations that participated in TagStation.