iHeartRadio Makes First Foray Into Smartwatches

Digital Radio Service Will Be Available on Android Wear

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A sample screen from iHeartRadio's Android Wear app.
A sample screen from iHeartRadio's Android Wear app.

iHeartRadio is getting into wearables.

The digital radio service will become available on Android Wear smartwatches starting this month, the company planned to announce during an event in New York City Wednesday evening.

It's the service's first move into the nascent smartwatch marketplace, but wearables are a central part of the company's strategy over the next year, said Darren Davis, president of iHeartRadio and iHeartMedia Networks.

"Wearables aren't huge yet, but people are talking a lot about them, so it is a good place for us to be," he said.

IHeartRadio is also the first music partner for Android Wear. Rival Pandora is available on Pebble smartwatches, and Samsung uses Milk Music, its own streaming service, on its Gear smartwatches, along with Google Play. Google's Android Wear platform, which also runs Google Play, allows most streaming services to plug their apps into devices that use it.

Mr. Davis said the company decided to enter the smartwatch marketplace with Android Wear due to its long-standing relationship with Google, noting that iHeartRadio has been one of the first to integrate with previous Google products.

Apple is slated to release its smartwatch early next year. Apple has disclosed little on how users will be able to play music via the device and if it will include Beats Music.

Android Wear users will be able to use the watch as essentially a remote control. Consumers still need to plug headphones into their smartphone to listen to music, but the watch will let them create new stations using voice search, access favorites and gives thumbs up or thumbs down to songs that come on.

IHeartRadio will be promoted in Google's app store, Mr. Davis said. Other cross-marketing opportunities are being discussed, he added.

Moving iHeartRadio into smartwatches is part of the strategy at parent iHeartMedia, which changed its name from Clear Channel last month, to be "everywhere listeners are," Mr. Davis said. The company is open to working with other smartwatches and wearables, he said.

According to NPD research, half a million smartwatches were sold in the U.S. between October 2013 and June 2014, dominated by Samsung and Pebble. Revenue from U.S. smartwatch sales totaled $96 million in that period, NPD said.

iHeartRadio will be available on Android Wear devices starting Oct. 15.

Omnicom Media Group -- the network that houses media agencies OMD and PHD -- recently inked a deal in which it's committing hundreds of millions in ad spending to iHeartRadio.

Contributing: Mark Bergen.

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