Op Ed by Bayard "Bud" H. Walters, founder and president of The Cromwell Group
Originally Written on July 20, 2014
A portable radio in every pocket…Until now this has never before been possible.
I believe that local “over the air” radio has a very bright future if broadcasters offer programming that is unique and if NextRadio is a part of smart devices and the dash board. We are now at a tipping point for that to happen with NextRadio. If it doesn’t, our programming efforts as a local medium will be less and less successful.
All of us are using our smart devices as an essential part of our lives. If local radio is available on our smart device, “over the air” broadcasters will have an equal shot for theattention of consumers that internet programming providers now enjoy. NextRadio is the key to that access that radio has historically had, but is no longer assured.
What is NextRadio? It is a FREE downloadable APP that activates the FM receiver that is in practically every smart phone. Sprint offers the NextRadio in about 20 models of phones. AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile offer it on the HTC ONE (M8) phone. We all have to work together to get consumers to demand that these carriers turn on the NextRadio app in the phones they sell. Not only does NextRadio offer the local stations “over the air”, it offers interactivity, album art, “buy music” options, and ways to communicate with favorite stations on a variety of topics.
If you are a station licensee or employee, your station(s) is already on the NextRadio APP. There is no investment. Your station is on the smart device of anyone who has a smart phone that can download the free APP. If you have sent in your logo to TagStation.COM, your logo appears next to your station on the station guides (lists stations by format and frequency). This is all FREE to you and the consumer. Then when your station is chosen, your logo takes over the screen of the smart device. It looks great. The logo comes to the phone via internet, but the audio is “over the air”. The listener has no data charges for audio, battery life is three times that of internet streaming, and there is no buffering. As you move from place to place, the phone geo-positions you about every six (6) miles and re-casts the stations that can be heard “over the air”. If you are in Chicago today and LA tomorrow, your phone will show you the local stations, logos, album art, what’s playing and artist(s), and the other interactivity features…with more to come.
If you want your station to have the album art and interactivity, there is a $35 per month cost, which is mostly a copyright cost for the album art. The major companies in large markets, as well as NPR, are doing this. Smaller markets may want to for their most successful or youth oriented stations. The whole thing is really cool.
By year-end there will be 10 million phones with NextRadio. By year-end 2015 my guess is 30 million phones plus a place on the dashboard of new cars. Think how long it took Sirus/XM to reach 30 million. They have not yet. I think satellite is now just 26 million after more than 10 years. NextRadio is also outdistancing HD. It is “over the air” radio with all the digital interactivity we want through the internet. The system is “in place”. Research says that consumers love it. Young people have never known a port-able radio and they love that idea. Everyone seems to understand the value of having a radio for an “emergency”. By the way, the radio in the smart phone works even if the cell system does not. That’s the beauty of an “over the air” radio in your pocket at all times.
The time is now. We need to help get more smart devices adopted by AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile. SPRINT is already “all in” and promoting. We need to help inform consumers so they’ll demand more phones from AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile. There is a web site “FreeRadioOnMyPhone.Org” that makes it easy. Take a look, please. NPR is promoting this site as are many of the major broadcast companies. Those of us in smaller markets should as well.
So… our future is staring us in the face. For those of us who are licensees or care about local, it is up to us to push things along. “Over the air” radio need not decline if consumers have an affordable, easy to use, NextRadio receiver in their pocket and on their dashboard. If our programming is creditable and locally important, consumers will continue to choose us and value what we do. If there are no radios, we don’t have a chance. Oh yes, consumer’s will also be able to get us and others on the stream, but it’ll cost them more on their data plan, the battery life will be shorter, and the stream won’t be there in an emergency. NextRadio is here. It is our opportunity for a brighter future. We just need to have more “over the air” radios in the pockets of consumers. That’s up to us.