NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- As competition from iPods, cable music networks, satellite radio and online music services intensifies, Clear Channel Radio is launching a weekly Web-based video program featuring live in-studio performances.
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Similar to MTV's Unplugged, Clear Channels will stream the program, called Stripped, to broadband users across the radio group's 1,200 Web sites.
Interactive ad platform
The first three episodes, which begin in May, feature John Legend, Gavin DeGraw and Jesse McCartney, respectively. The show is part of Clear Channel's effort to create a national interactive advertising platform using its online inventory. Offering broadband video allows the company to lure advertisers who want a video component as well.
"I think it's going to be the model the industry will follow," said Evan Harrison, Clear Channel Radio's executive vice president, who is spearheading the effort.
Mr. Harrison was hired away from America Online's AOL Music last fall to create Clear Channel's online strategy. By May 1 Clear Channel will have a streaming presence in the top 25 markets (it currently has 200 stations streaming on an independent basis), enabling it to sell in-stream advertising on a national basis.
The company also plans to take its first steps toward "podcasting," the phenomenon by which listeners turn content into MP3 files, which are easily downloadable on iPods or other MP3 players. It will offer five-minute, ad-supported downloads of popular morning-show comedy sketches and other on-air non-music programming. For the past month, Mr. Harrison has been jetting around to Clear Channel's markets to work with staff to ensure the synergy between the stations and the online content is seamless.
"We're really going to use the [radio] broadcast to bring people in to the complementary online experience," he said.
Clear Channel, like the rest of the radio industry, has been battling increased competition for its audience, especially among a younger demographic more apt to migrate toward new technologies, satellite services or online radio. A recent study by Arbitron and Edison Media Research found 27% of 12- to 17-year-olds own an iPod or other portable MP3 player, and that the weekly online video audience is nearly 20 million.
Internet is a no-brainer
"Entering the Internet is a no-brainer if you want to stay in the space," Mr. Harrison said, noting that Clear Channel already has 3.5 million unique weekly visitors to its Web sites.
Jason Helfstein, an analyst at CIBC World Markets, said he sees offering original programming on the Web as a potential precursor to offering a second broadcast over the air, something stations will be able to do with digital radio. Streaming isn't as interesting, he said, as "using online to increase brand awareness and try out new formats, which eventually they hope to monetize once they have the second band."