You don't often see radio group heads milling around a press conference at a trade show, but when those group heads are as committed to HD technology as they have been for so many years that's exactly what you see when a new product is unveiled many of them have called a game changer. The radio industry wants FM chips in cell phones. For the wireless industry it's not really a priority. The radio industry says it's a safety issue, that local broadcasters deliver big-time when it comes to providing valuable information during times of an emergency. Smartphones are everywhere and the free content provided by FM radio should be easy to access. The wireless industry doesn't seem to really buy that one. What the consumer wants is the key and there haven't been any hard numbers on that yet.
Yesterday's press conference was held to unveil a brand new chip that broadcasters say the wireless industry will be more receptive to. Originally there were complaints about the size of the FM chips, battery drain and cost. Now, according to iBiquity COO Jeff Jury, "these are new state of the art chips, low powered and low cost." The chip was developed by Intel, Emmis Interactive, iBiquity and the NAB. The NAB funded the project to develop the chip about a year ago.
The presentation included an app which residents in a particular market will see on their phone that will pick up their local stations. That app will be simple to use for the consumer and for broadcasters it will include many of the advertising opportunities now being used by companies such as Pandora and Spotify. Ray Mena of Emmis Interactive says the software can create basic ads, coupon ads, full screen ads, texting capabilities and other revenue generating opportunities. It will also include a measurement tool so stations can provide advertisers with exact numbers on who;s listening by capturing listener information.
The next step is to sell the new product to the wireless industry. And, while broadcasters already have strong relationships with some carriers, they really need AT&T and Verizon to catapult the chip into the masses. Some consumers already have FM chips in their cell phones. How to activate them is a mystery to the consumer and, most likely, the salesperson that sold the phone. Currently there are approximately 2,100 radio stations broadcasting in HD.