Clear Channel Radio launches its first foray in mobile streaming today with a deal through Cingular Wireless. The first station streaming is Z100, its New York Top 40 station. Clear Channel expects to be streaming about 100 stations within a year.
"There are a lot of things out there and unfortunately a consumer is being hit with lots of different ways to get media," said Jeff Littlejohn, exec VP-distribution development, Clear Channel. "We're looking to find ways to deliver our content through each of those methods."
Clear Channel is already providing white label programming for Motorola's iRadio service, but that is more of a time-shifted radio model rather than a live-streaming one and it's not marketed under Clear Channel brands.
Cingular users who want to stream the broadcast sign up at Z100's website, enter their cellphone number and agree to a $2.99 monthly charge for downloads and an extra 99 cents for live streaming. They then get a link send to their cellphone and use it to download the streaming software. The programming will contain the same commercials as the on-air broadcast and there are some additional branded elements as well. The service is launching with DKNY Jeans as a sponsor of daily fashion tips. Users can also find out the title and artist of the last 10 songs played, request songs via their phone, get wallpaper and access traffic reports.
While not every handset accommodates streaming, Mr. Littlejohn said about 60% do. He claimed the sound on his Sony Ericson Walkman phone was "very good" and that he streamed about two hours without any significant effect on his battery.
Sprint and mSpot
Clear Channel is not the only streaming game in town either. In the U.S. Sprint uses mSpot to supply streaming radio and video to its customers, and about four months ago rebranded the service under the Sprint moniker. MSpot is a mobile technology company that strikes content licensing deals with companies such as Clear Channel and CBS Radio and then programs several audio channels, including sports channels. It is announcing two more deals with other carriers in the coming months.
So, should satellite radio be worried about advances in streaming radio?
Absolutely, said Daren Tsui, CEO of mSpot.
"I think this is just tip of the iceberg. One thing [mobile streaming] will be able to do better than satellite or terrestrial FM, Apple iPods and iRadio is live interactivity," he said. "When you have live connectivity to the network, one, content comes down live and two, you can interact, vote whether you like it, participate in community, ask for cover art and that's the secret sauce."
Of course, satellite insists it will have the same transactional abilities with upcoming phone models -- already it has a button listeners can click to bookmark a song for later purchase. And high-definition radio will have similar capabilities, radio executives say.
Clear Channel's advantage, said Mr. Littlejohn, will be some key on-air promotion. And mobile streaming will continue to be a big part of his company's distribution plan.
It makes sense, he said, "if you look at the percentage of people that use certain devices -- 94% listen to the radio, 85% have a cellphone."