Charlie Cook On Air: Good News For Broadcast Radio?

CCook-onair-sm11Do you know anyone who doesn’t carry a cell phone? Oh, yeah maybe your grandmother doesn’t have a cell phone but I mean someone who is active every day with media and social media. For many people, the smartphone has become their computer on the go.

I have a Droid DNA and I am comfortable to go out of town for a day or two without a laptop because it can do so much. I have it loaded with station apps and I can hear just about any of the stations that I work with if I need to. Obviously my calendar is on the phone along with my banking, e-mail, contact and Shazam. Who in radio can live without Shazam? What is not on most smart phones though is a radio tuner. Many broadcasters think that phones do have a radio chip buried somewhere in the technology. Without question having a radio tuner on phones would be a huge boom for radio. Knowing everyone with a phone would have immediate access to local stations would be incredible.

Apparently the cajoling is coming to an end. Emmis COO Jeff Smulyan has been the driving force behind convincing Sprint to unlock the radio chip in their phones. This is being done with a little jingle jangle on the side. The radio industry has committed $15M to Sprint in advertising the new hardware. This is a little like blackmail but it will benefit the radio folks. Is radio building a monster though? If I am Ford do I go to Mr. Smulyan and say they are considering removing AM/FM radios from their automobiles unless radio ponies up some dinero? Does Verizon take all of their money out of radio and move it to TV? And considering Sprint is pretty far down the list in number of customers, how much is this going to cost to convince Verizon and AT&T to play? Forget Apple and their hardware. Why would they provide something that conflicts with iTunes? You wanna hear “Better Dig Two” by The Band Perry? That will be $1.29.

This all came during a week filled with good news for broadcast radio, though. Not only may they get on cell phones but Wall Street is starting to smile on the industry. All of the bigger chains are getting attention from Wall Street and this interest could lead to some more mergers or maybe even some sell-offs. One of the savviest media guys, Les Moonves, has continued to be bullish on radio. He has such a big media empire that you might think radio would be insignificant. Not so, according to Mr. Moonves.

Cox Radio is divesting itself of its smaller radio properties. Two buyers were excited to take these choice properties off their hands. One of things those of us in radio know is Cox has been an exemplary operator of radio stations. The new owners know they are getting first class people and facilities with this sale.

We are soon going to see the first PPM number for Nash-FM in New York. I don’t believe they have started to market the station and it is not easy to move 14,000,000 listeners in the Tri-State area but we do know Jason Aldean went into Madison Square Garden this year and sold out in minutes. The interest is pent up and Nash-FM is ultimately going to do big numbers. This week though they are staging their first concerts across three nights and that should show Madison Avenue all about the talent in the format. Another bright light on Nashville.

(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of MusicRow.)

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