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Simulcasts aren't working

Posted on: 10/06/2010

One of the big insights about Internet radio in recent weeks — triggered by an analysis by Bridge Ratings last month and reinforced in sessions at RAIN Summit East last week — is that while Internet radio listening is growing at a fast pace, the audiences for streams that are simulcasts of terrestrial radio stations, according to Webcast Metrics, appear to be flat to declining.

This makes sense. As AccuRadio COO John Gehron points out, it’s exactly consistent with what we saw in the 1970s as FM took off.

Back in that era, as I dimly recall from my grade school days, there were quite a few AM broadcasters that owned FM licenses and did nothing with them except simulcast their AM stations (to the extent the FCC allowed). Generally speaking, these simulcasts did not do well.

As soon as other broadcasters used their FM signals for programming that was specifically designed to take advantage of the benefits of the FM band — e.g., the bandwidth to deliver new music formats, lower spot loads, higher fidelity, and stereo — those stations took off and the simulcasts floundered.

That seems to be what’s happening now with Internet radio. As webcasters offer products specifically designed to take advantage of the benefits of Internet delivery — e.g., the bandwidth to deliver new music formats, lower spot loads, deeper playlists, and most importantly personalization — those stations (e.g., Pandora) are taking off and the simulcasts appear to be floundering.

If you’re a broadcaster, of course you should continue to stream your terrestrial signal online, as it’s a customer service to those fans of yours that may have access to a PC or smartphone but not an AM/FM radio in a certain listening location.

But if you’re looking for growth, a straight simulcast of your AM/FM signal is probably not the answer you’re looking for.

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  1. You’re right! And this is especially true, since CBS and Clear Channel radio stations are barred from streaming online outside of the USA. The legacy radio stations are moving to FM to attract younger peoople. But they should also work on custom streams of music and news, as well.

    Richard Clifford · Oct 6, 10:17 AM · #

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