Ford’s been pretty excited about SYNC – it’s branded and unique in-car communications system that enables the driver to use voice commands with some of the car’s functions. Drivers have been able to access 911 as well as traffic, directions and information using a bluetooth device paired with a mobile phone.
Now, having watched the success of mobile apps and the iPhone, Ford has begun taking steps to integrate SYNC with that larger playground. Searching for ways to adapt Smartphone mobile apps for in-car use through voice control of the SYNC(®) communications system, the company first turned to the nearby University of Michigan-Dearborn campus to spur innovative ideas around “what’s next” for the connected car experience.
There, Ford enlisted the help of six computer science students, working with their professors to devise an extracurricular project that would net the young programmers invaluable real-world experience. Not surprisingly, after reviewing roughly 100,000 apps in the iPhone App store, the students pinpointed Internet radio as one of two areas most relevant to in-car use. The resulting app, called SYNCcast, lets users enjoy Internet radio while driving. It will launch in 2010.
Presumably, Pandora is part of that development project. Pandora’s CTO Tom Conrad recently spoke about Pandora’s in-car development plans, saying that Pandora is working with car makers, including an existing deal with Ford, to put Pandora contols in the dashboard.
American Idol creator Simon Fuller is no stranger to successful television shows. For his new reality show production he’ll turn to an alternative multi-media platform that includes television video site Hulu, MySpace, and Clear Channel’s broadcast and online platforms. Hulu and Clear Channel will create a ground breaking distribution partnership with MySpace building an exclusive audition platform.
Fuller’s also no stranger to success. This new entertainment venture IF I CAN DREAM, which launches early 2010, will be distributed and marketed to a global audience through a number of integrated partnerships with blue chip brands. The show will document the story of five young people who dream of success in Hollywood and will allow fans to interact with them in real time.
Hulu will stream an IF I CAN DREAM TV episode each week exclusively via Hulu.com. Each programme will include highlights from the week, stringing together the storylines from the past seven days into an easy to follow episode. It will be the first recurring show to be available to select international audiences via Hulu.
Clear Channel’s local radio personalities and audience interaction will spur daily conversations, and through Clear Channel’s content creation and distribution platform, the IF I CAN DREAM cast member stories will come to life on-air, online, and on mobile devices. MySpace will provide the ability for other hopefuls to realize their own dreams. Through the audition process, essentially anyone will have the chance to take part in the show by uploading videos on MySpace explaining why they deserve to be featured.
The show is geared toward a younger audience – one that spends less time with television and conducts much of its life via social networking sites, mobile phones, tweets and text messages.
This is an exciting deal for Clear Channel, which takes on the main role of driving the buzz and traffic to the sites. I love the highly multi-media concept and the heavy role that Clear Channel’s integrated platform will play. According to Evan Harrison, EVP of Clear Channel Radio and president of the company’s digital group, “Our highly engaged on-air and online communities will be the engines that drive ongoing interest in the cast….We have the opportunity to completely change the paradigm and break new talent across multiple platforms simultaneously.”
AT&T, faced with complaints about its coverage area, is blaming it on users that stream audio and video on their smartphones, and indicating that they may move to restrain heavy users from unlimited streaming.
Last week, at UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York City, AT&T head of consumer services Ralph De La Vega told investors that 3 percent of smartphone users are consuming 40 percent of the network capacity, and that the most high-bandwidth activity is video and audio streaming.
AT&T has taken lots of criticism for the broadband coverage offered by their network, and is locked in an advertising war with Verizon over the same. Apparently, they think the solution is to penalize their heaviest users.
AT&T has sold many iPhones and data plans on the excitement of unlimited untethered streaming activity. I know my husband cancelled his subscription to satellite radio, upgraded to an iPhone and data plan, and started listening to Pandora in his car. Now, AT&T customers like him that bought the phone and the data plan, and are getting the most enjoyment out of it, may be limited.
My point is this. Internet radio and Pandora in particular have witnessed great audience growth as a result of smartphones and wireless broadband connectivity. AT&T built a customer base in part around that. People didn’t buy iPhones because they want to talk on them – they bought them to do all the other stuff…including streaming music.
The impact of streaming on AT&T’s network cannot be coming as a surprise to the company, which has been promoting Pandora and streaming radio to its customers since 2007 when they were using Pandora to sell MEdia Max bundles for $19.99 a month. There’s a name for this way of selling your products to consumers, it’s called Bait and Switch, and it’s a bad business strategy for AT&T…
One third of the UK population has ever listened to Internet radio, according to a new study just released by RAJAR, the official body in charge of measuring radio audiences in the UK. That translates to 17.4 million people 15+ who have listened, and it’s a number that grew by half a million in six months. 57% of those listeners are men, 47% are 15 to 34 years old.
More people are listening to personalized online radio services as well. Services like Spotify and Last.fm in the UK have seen rapid audience growth, increasing to 4.5 million, up 15.4% from 3.9 million in May and 55.2% from 2.9 million in October 2008. Pandora, a popular personalized online radio service here in the US is not available in the UK.
The survey looked at podcast listening as well and found that while the typical podcast listener downloads 5.9 podcasts per week, 76% of those listeners say they do not find time to listen to all the podcasts they download. 8.1 million people have ever listened to a podcast and 4.4 say they listen to at least one a week.
65% of podcast listeners are men, and 54% are 15 to 34 years old. 78% of podcast listeners said it had no impact on their listening to live radio.
These are interesting stats. RAJAR releases these studies twice a year – clearly they are taking a proactive approach to emerging new trends. Here in the US, Arbitron/Edison has been releasing their Infinite Dial study once a year. RAJAR is, by their own words, wholly owned by the RadioCentre (the trade body representing the Commercial Radio stations in the UK, formerly known as Commercial Radio Companies Association or CRCA) and by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). As an industry, they’re keeping an eye on emerging digital audio platforms, rather than leaving it up to independent, for profit companies. That’s a great idea…
Some 30% of mobile phones are smartphones now, and that’s been a boon to streaming music services like Pandora who developed great apps for iPhone and watched them soar to the top of the most downloaded apps list. But what about the 70% of the mobile phones that aren’t smartphones, and aren’t connected to a 3G network via a data plan?
UpSNAP is a mobile platform that offers streamed audio content to mobile phones via a “click to call” option which can easily connect any phone to an audio stream. Here’s how it works: the phone dials out and connects to any streaming channel on the Upsnap platform. The charges are based on the minutes used, so lots of the programming is short form, but can also be longer, especially at night when many phone plans offer unlimited free calling.
It’s basically an alternative mobile platform for stations who want to reach “feature” phone customers according to Tony Phillip, Founder of UpSNAP. The stations themselves promote the offering to their listeners and drive the traffic. The listener can text the name of the station to *xxx, for example, and they get a return text message with a link to click on to listen to the station. The more traffic a station gets, the more impressions they have available.
Upsnap has developed a nice revenue channel around this model as well – Phillip says UpSNAP is the largest direct response network on mobile phones, serving a quarter billion ad impressions a month – revenue that is shared with the station. Setup is free, it scales endlessly, and offers entry into an untapped mobile audience.
Vevo, the music video site powered by Youtube launches today. The site will feature videos from three of the four major record labels – Sony, Universal and EMI. Warner Music Group is the only one not working with Vevo, although they are working with YouTube.
Professionally produced music videos are the most popular content viewed on YouTube. Now Vevo will offer music fans music video content, along with an online music store offering music downloads, merchandise created by artists, concert tickets and more. In the future a music video subscription service, offering both short videos as well as streamed concerts is likely to be added.
Vevo has announced a pre-launch partnership with CBS Interactive and will offer extensive music programming from the vaults of the CBS Interactive Music Group’s properties including Last.fm and more than 90 CBS RADIO music stations beginning next year. “Last.fm and CBS RADIO’s stations are producing a tremendous amount of unique video content every day – from long form concerts such as the “Live on Letterman” webcast series and annual special events, to acoustic performances and one on one interviews,” says David Goodman, President of CBS Interactive Music Group. “We’re excited to be part of the next generation of music video services, and look forward to all the benefits that go along with Vevo’s massive audience and reach including increased awareness of our efforts in this space to new revenue generating opportunities.”
The combination of high quality video along with lyrics and access to lots of information on favorite artists is expected to appeal to advertisers and command top dollars. The site will launch with partnerships with AT&T, McDonalds and Mastercard.
Clear Channel will offer a special Verizon Wireless only version of iheartradio in a new release/upgrade of the software due out by Christmas. More than 4 million people have already downloaded the iheartradio mobile app which is available for iPhone. This new release will include an application for Android and Blackberry devices.
As part of the latest upgrade to the app, Clear Channel worked closely with Verizon Wireless to integrate V Cast Music and enable mobile purchases of full-track downloads, ringtones and ringback tones into a special Verizon Wireless-only version of iheartradio. V Cast is Verizon’s branded content platform. Ed Ruth, director, strategic business development and partner management at Verizon Wireless calls it “the ultimate in user choice and convenience”.
Clear Channel’s iheartradio platform has developed into a more than just a launching pad for broadcast station’s streams. It includes nearly 400 unique stations, including America’s most popular local radio stations and a growing number of digital-only channels such as Christina Aguilera Radio, Megadeth Radio, White House Brief and others. The company has also used the platform to build out interesting advertiser sponsored channels that integrate brands into the programming such as the recently launched Pirate Radio channel to promote the Focus Features film, and Red Star Radio sponsored by Macy’s. This new partnership with Verizon is an extension of that concept.
Late friday the New York Times reported that Apple had acquired online streaming music service Lala. Lala is a service that allows listeners to either buy and download songs for 79 and 89 cents, or stream the songs an unlimited number of times for 10 cents.
Apple obviously was not interested in the music download portion of Lala’s business, since they already have iTunes, the leader in that marketplace. What this acquisition gives them is a streaming platform, for listeners who prefer streaming music on demand rather than downloading and transferring music to personal devices.
Streaming music has become increasing popular with the growth of connected mobile devices. The growing popularity of streaming music from mobile devices has spurred interest in on-demand streaming from a music cloud that can be accessed anywhere from any device and is easier than downloading music and syncing with multiple devices. Some believe that cloud based streaming will eventually replace music downloading.
Apple appears to be at least hedging its bets with Lala – on the one hand, promoting cloud based streaming to replace downloads would hurt iTunes song sales, but give them a place in the on-demand streaming game.
Lala recently announced deals with Facebook and Google Music which promise to grow traffic and awareness of the service. The service had been reported to be in trouble financially. No word on the price that Apple paid on the deal.