Updated @ 12:04pm: It is early afternoon and Rogers Radio SVP Julie Adam is between meetings and scheduled to board a plane later in the day, but considerately has squeezed in time to take my phone call after the headlining Radioplayer announcement on Wednesday.
She has the sniffles but otherwise sounds relaxed and answers my questions calmly and openly.
Naturally, my first question is about the launch date, to which she replies “late this year or early 2017,” and to my next question about the absence of Bell Media, the CBC, and community and campus broadcasters, Adam freely admits that “there was only so much we could do before the announcement;" however, the Radio Council reached out to many constituencies in advance and continues to engage with them.
Separately, a CBC source has confirmed it has had discussions with the Radioplayer consortium but has yet to make a decision one way or the other about joining.
Asked what Radioplayer has to offer listeners and she is succinct in her explanation, saying it offers one easy place to listen to almost all of Canadian radio. And “yes” there will be data charges “but the amount of data audio uses is significantly smaller than other kinds of streaming, such as video” and she points out that a lot of people are using Wi-Fi to access media these days, which is free or part of a plan.
In Europe and the UK, interactivity is a big feature of the Radioplayer experience and it will be coming, but Adam says it is still early days so not all the “bells and whistles” are going to be rolled out at launch.
The cost to the broadcasters, she explains, is tiered. Those that are more profitable will be paying a bigger share of the cost, which means that Canada’s most profitable radio station, Rogers-owned CHFI, will be at the top of the paying scale. The fee structure, she explains, is designed to be affordable to all broadcasters, and this includes the campus and community radio stations that as yet are not part of the consortium.
Marketing the Radioplayer app initially is going to rest with the considerable 500+ radio stations that are on board at the launch. It is expected that over the air marketing will be incrementally added to as the broadcasters employ outside media and “yes” there is a Canadian Radioplayer logo and website.
Asked about confusion with the iHeartRadio app, Adam thinks consumers are smart enough to make their own choices.
Marketing and the iHeartRadio app
The marketing will largely rest with the 500+ radio stations on board at launch who will be promoting the Radioplayer app over the airwaves "and whatever incremental media they use to promote themselves with.
"We are looking at other external options that are there to be used and there will be more to come on that," she says.
And about the elephant in the room?
“I don’t know exactly what the iHeart proposition is yet as it hasn’t launched, and we’d love to have Bell as part of the Radioplayer app…but ultimately I think consumers are smart and they’ll figure it out for themselves… They will do what they want to do; whether they want to use one, none, both--or something else. There are many options.”
The big picture in having the majority of broadcasters aboard one app is to counter the consumer drift from traditional radio to mobile devices. “I think we are trying to do a few things here,” Adam explains. “First and foremost, we know people are gravitating to mobile and increasingly consuming content with a phone in front of them.
“We want to make sure that people can listen on their phone (and) we are treating phones, tablets and computers as today’s radios. That, really, is what our mission is. People generally aren’t buying desktop radios anymore, but we all have phones and so we are bringing all of our stations together to ensure that we can make it easy for the listener to listen to radio.
“Having the majority of Canadian radio on one app allows us to compete on content, so effectively Radioplayer is a digital dashboard. It will have all the choices there and people can pick and choose their stations and the content they want to hear.
“We are not going to be skipped over because we don’t have a technological solution. This is a proactive solution that addresses the needs of listeners today.”
She pauses, then drives her point home: “It’s not like you get in a Toyota and Toyota only has Rogers on the dashboard. Toyota has everybody, so as an industry we believe banding together we can be stronger and compete on our content.
And was it intentional to come out in front of Bell Media’s iHeartRadio announcement?
“We came to a decision about a month ago at the CEO Radio Council of Broadcasters (to go with Radioplayer), so the intention was to roll it out right away. Understand that this is something we have been discussing for years, so once we made the decision the intention was to get going. We would have loved to have announced the day after the meeting but as you can imagine it took a bit of time to get things set up.”
About the Consortium
As announced Wednesday, the broadcast groups representing as many as 500 radio stations nationally include the following: Central Ontario Broadcasting, Clear Sky Radio, Cogeco, Corus, Durham Radio, Golden West, Harvard Broadcasting, Larche Communications, Newcap Radio, Pattison, Rogers, Rawlco Radio, RNC Media, Saskatoon Media Group, and Vista Radio
Radioplayer is a technology platform, owned by UK radio broadcasters and operated under licence in some other European countries. It operates an internet radio web tuner, a set of mobile phone apps and an in-car adapter. The Radioplayer technology is licensed to a number of different territories including Ireland, Norway, Belgium and Germany.