A Well Timed Announcement: Sprint Will Put FM In Smartphones

English: Part of the Sprint Nextel logo

The big audio news out of CES yesterday wasn’t about streaming as Sprint announced that it will begin enabling FM chips on select Android and Windows smartphones during the next three years. This makes them the first US wireless carrier to make a deal with broadcasters to deliver FM radio on some of their phones. Broadcasts will be delivered through the NextRadio tuner, a receiver application for FM and HD smartphones developed by Emmis.

NextRadio accesses broadcasts of local FM stations and uses the phones data channel to integrate interactive elements from song and artists id, social tools to advertising info and messaging, creating a hybrid radio experience that is much more similar to an online radio experience – because it is partially online.

Fared Adib, senior vice president, product development and operations at Sprint, stated, “We look forward to bringing Sprint customers another entertainment choice through NextRadio. This new, easy-to-use service adds another dimension to the versatility of our wide array of smartphones and will deliver a new avenue for thousands of local radio stations across the country to reach our customers.”

With smartphones being used by more than 50% of consumers in the US and growing, this is big news for radio broadcasters. The NextRadio tuner, which provides an enhanced listening experience, has no doubt been a critical part of the strategy to get Sprint on board. Apparently, according to Inside Radio, the deal also includes a commercial spot bank for Sprint. There’s still work to be done – Apple, At&t and Verizon are not involved in this deal, but it’s a good day for FM radio, that should have a positive impact on HD as well. I’m looking forward to seeing that data on who listens.

Sprint’s announcement came out of CES yesterday. It’s interesting to note that broadcasters and NAB have been at odds with the Consumer Electronics Association, who produces CES, because CEA opposed broadcaster attempts to mandate FM chips in mobile devices.

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