Competition is good

The CEO of Emmis Radio has been on a campaign for a long time to get cell phone makers to enable their capability to listen to FM radio stations (the Wifi connection is itself just an FM receiver, so this isn’t novel hardware, just tuning to the right frequency). Jeff Smulyan initially wanted the government to swing the hammer at the cell phone companies to force every cell phone to run his NextRadio software. Eventually, the NAB decided it liked the idea, and NPR joined in – probably because they haven’t thought about it enough, like who controls the patents for NextRadio and what they want for licensing it.

AT&T has announced that its new Android phones will have the chips enabled to get “over the air” FM radio on your cell phone. You’ll need to be wearing earbuds as the cord is where the FM antenna is located.

If consumers want this – Verizon and T-Mobile will have little choice but to go along. Sprint is already on the bandwagon. Apple will be a hard sell as people listening to the radio and buying music from the app undercuts the iTunes / Apple Radio business model. Is the inability of your cell phone to listen to FM radio enough to get you to switch from your iPhone/iPad to Android?

When you’re listening to the FM station on your phone, you’re not burning cell data. I’m thinking to use the FM radio, you have to disable Wifi since it shares the same hardware, but I don’t know that for a fact.

The “down side” of course is you’re using an FM radio and not a particularly good one – you are limited to just those stations that have a transmitter in your local area. If you’re in Florida, no listening to radio stations in Los Angeles. No AM, either (no big deal).

Let the battle of the ears begin.

By the way, SiriusXM expects to hit 30 million paying subscribers this year. Pay no attention to that.

The timing of this happening the same week that the government approved the AT&T/DirecTV merger is purely a coincidence.

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6 Responses to Competition is good

  1. RebelSansClue says:

    Most FM radio is crap. I get enough of it in the car. What I would really like is AM radio so I can listen to evil right wing talk when it’s not being pre-empted by sports.

    • Art Stone says:

      Increasingly AM radio is being simulcast on FM translators – the FCC officially blessed the idea 3 or 4 years ago. Because FM Translators are lower power, they can be wedged in between existing full power stations. This is one thing the FCC is hoping to use to “save” AM radio by killing it.

      From observation, what normally happens is that once the remaining AM audience switches from FM, the format changes from an AM mainstay like talk, Classic Country, Oldies, Mexican music – to contemporary music. All that was preserved was the monetary value of the license, not the programming. It probably is widely practice that once the audience is on FM, they power off the AM transmitter – that’s an FCC rules violation, but the FCC has bigger fish to fry

      • CC1s121LrBGT says:

        There are also a lot of “one station only” smart phone apps. Download the app for your favorite station and when you launch the app, your favorite station starts playing. iHeart is the extreme example where one corporation owns many many stations. Bloomberg Business Radio is another where the app includes stock charts that are being discussed on the radio.

        Why pay the power bills of a 50,000 watt AM transmitter?

        • Art Stone says:

          Why have an FCC license?

        • Art Stone says:

          The NAB and Homeland Security continue to push the idea that this would be helpful during a disaster when cell towers go down (because homeland security takes them over for government cell phones).

          I keep going back to the fact that the EBS system was not activated on 9/11. If that wasn’t enough, what scenario would justify keeping it around? Just set up an EBS official page on Facebook and Twitter and let go.

  2. Art Stone says:

    T-Mobile just announced its support for NextRadio. With Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile on board, I can’t imagine Verizon holding out. The odd man out is Apple. They have their own reasons to not allow competition for music content from local radio

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