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Smulyan Says Tenor of FM Chip Talks Changed

Emmis executive calls concept “game-changer” for the industry

The tenor of the industry’s talks with the cellphone carriers has changed.

So says Emmis Chair/CEO Jeff Smulyan.

Sounding a little more upbeat on the topic than he did at the recent Radio Show, he told investors today “the tone of the discussions has changed dramatically in the last 60 to 90 days.”

Smulyan, who’s been leading the industry effort to persuade carriers to include an FM chip or activate current chips in devices along with NAB, iBiquity and Intel for four years, calls the concept a “game-changer” for the radio industry.

The pitch to carriers is if the chip is turned on, consumers can listen to free, over-the-air content on the phone — freeing up the carrier’s increasingly squeezed bandwidth. “If you’re listening to Pandora [or other streamed audio services], you’re paying metered data charges for that,” Smulyan said.

“We’re not asking for a mandate. Let’s reach the best business interests we can through negotiation” he said.

At the show, he and Cumulus Media Chair/CEO Lew Dickey discussed, without specifics, “incentivizing” the carriers to make it worth their while, paired with an on-air education campaign for consumers to make them aware of the chips, so they can let their carriers know they want those turned on.