Radioplayer vs iHeart: Broadcasters Ready to Duke It Out Over Mobile Apps

A consortium of 15 private broadcasters is backing proven and tested UK streaming platform Radioplayer and says the free app for it will be available in the next several months. The app platform will offer connectivity to as many as 500 national and regional radio stations.

The Radioplayer announcement yesterday was a stealth move by the consortium intended to disrupt Bell Media trumpeting its own robust iHeartRadio platform that is in beta mode, and has its official launch on Oct. 3. 

For half a decade, the nation’s broadcasters have thrown good money after bad with cumbersome apps designed to snare mobile listeners into buying into their brands.

Missing was a unified strategy that put all the brand apps into one, in effect handing control over to listeners to choose who and what they listened to on the digital platform of their choice.

Yesterday, the consortium that includes Rogers Radio, delivered its almost unified strategy--but without Bell, without the CBC--and without the myriad community and campus radio stations that satisfy niches cumulatively owning a measurable audience.

To some degree the strategy rings reminiscent of the bravado shown when Shomi and CraveTV announced they were going to put a stranglehold on Netflix in the market. Two years later, only one these Canadian contenders is left standing.

The battle for mobile listenership is going to be fierce. For the past five years, broadcasters have been aware of the Radioplayer platform after Canadian rights to it were acquired by Vancouver radio consultant Pat Bohn who, previously, had developed and branded the internationally successful Jack FM format.

Insiders suggest that there was no impetus to agree to agree within the broadcast community until recently, when Bell Media started aggressively promoting its Canadian version of the US iHeartRadio brand.

Whether it was complacency, competitive rivalry or a mixture of both, broadcasters had hummed and hawed over a singular strategy until Bell Media Broadcasting and Content President Randy Lennox came knocking at their door pitching his iHeartRadio vision wherein all the broadcasters could sit under one umbrella and enjoy the benefits of a multi-platform app that offered a panoply of features, including a tiered fee-based music streaming service that is to be launched in early 2017.

Shaken from indecision, rival broadcasters were forced to make a choice: Radioplayer or iHeartRadio?

Again, insider discussions shared with FYI over the past six months suggest that Rogers was adamantly against having anything to do with a Bell-led strategy. Whether this is true is speculation, but other concerns had to do with ownership of the metadata harvested from user streams, and the branding of the app itself.

Metadata is crucial in understanding who and where listeners are and, skillfully parsed, can provide rich incremental income when the data is sorted and packaged for presentation to sponsors and advertising agencies.  

Bell apparently offered to whiteboard the app, as iHeart has done for competitors in the US market, but the fix was in.

Six to eight weeks ago rival broadcasters decided they were throwing their lot in with Radioplayer, and third-partying the integrity of data collected to umbrella organization, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters.

Apparently Bell had made every effort to convince the competition that their data could be walled off, but the decision had been made and it became a mad rush to have the Radioplayer announcement trumpeted before Bell went public with its own plan today.

Yesterday’s announcement blind-sided Bell and now it’s going to be a turf war.

FYI: Early this morning Bell Media launched its iHeartRadio app in beta with its full complement of 105 radio stations on it, plus 110 "exclusive" digital music stations for a total of 215 choices. Available through the Apple and Google Play for everyone on Oct. 3.





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